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Seney National Wildlife Refuge records

Identifier: MSS-108

Scope and Contents Note

This collection documents the administration of the Seney Wildlife Refuge. The collection mainly contains annual narrative reports. The reports describe, among other things, weather and climate conditions, resource management, fire control, species inventories and conditions, land use planning, pesticide studies, water management practices, and habitat management. The collection also contains information on Depression era Works Progress Administration (WPA) activities and World War II concientious objector camps. Also included are field notes, photographs, and personal accounts of early Seney conditions at the turn of the century by Harvey C. Saunders, including histories of Germfask and Grand Marais, logging and early logging drives. The collection's materials date from 1938 to 1982.


  • 1938-1982


Conditions Governing Access note

No restrictions. Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use note

Permission to publish material from the Seney National Wildlife Refuge records, MSS-108, must be obtained from the University Archivist. The University Archivist may be reached by phone at 906-227-1225, or e-mail, The University Archivist may also be reached in Room 126 of the Learning Resource Center, Northern Michigan University, Marquette, MI.

Historical Note

Seney National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1935 for the protection and production of migratory birds and other wildlife. Today the refuge is a rich mosaic of marsh, swamp, bog, grassland, and forest; with nearly two-thirds as wetlands.

Over a century ago, lumbering operations forever altered the landscape of the Upper Peninsula’s great pine forests. The ring of the lumberman’s axe echoed through the forests as local mills depleted the region’s valuable supply of red and white pine. After the pine forests were cut, mill owners turned their axes and saws to the refuge’s northern hardwood and swamp conifer species. Following the lumbering operations, fires were often set to clear away the debris. These fires burned deep into the organic soil, damaging its quality and killing the seeds that would have produced a new forest. On many areas of the refuge, the scars from these lumbering operations remain visible to this day.

After the fires, a land development company dug many miles of drainage ditches throughout Seney. This drained acreage was then sold using extravagant promises of agricultural productivity, but the new owners quickly learned that these promises were unfounded. One by one, the farms were abandoned, and the land reverted to state ownership.

In 1934, the Michigan Conservation Department recommended to the Federal Government that the Seney area be developed for wildlife. This proposal was accepted and Seney National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1935. Physical development and restoration of the refuge land began soon after establishment. With the aid of the Civilian Conservation Corps, an intricate system of dikes, water control structures, ditches, and roads was built. This system now impounds over 7,000 acres of open water in 26 major pools.

This history was taken from the official informational brochure of the Seney Wildlife Refuge and can be found at


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Language of Materials


Arrangement note

The collection is arranged into three series: I. Annual narrative reports, II. Harvey C. Saunders memoirs, and III. Photographs.

Seney National Wildlife Refuge records
Robin Kennedy and Marcus C. Robyns
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives Repository

Harden Learning Resources Center 126
1401 Presque Isle Ave
Marquette 49855 United States
906-227-1333 (Fax)


This collection guide includes collections from member organizations of UPLINK (the Upper Peninsula Digital Network) as well as the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives. UPLINK collections document the history of the Upper Peninsula broadly, while the Central UP & NMU Archives focuses on such topics as Northern Michigan University history, the local iron mining industry, and the politics, economics, religion, environment, and culture of the Central Upper Peninsula region.

These finding aids will give you an overview of the contents and context of each collection. Finding aids only exist for collections that each organization has shared with UPLINK or (in the case of the NMU Archives) for processed collections. For a more comprehensive list of collections that might help with your research, please contact the relevant heritage organization(s) directly.

Northern Michigan University
1401 Presque Isle Ave. • Marquette, MI 49855-5301 • 906–227–1000
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