2018 Year in Review
As 2018 comes to a close, we look back on another whirlwind year. We added conservation agreements, helped with a major public acquisition, said goodbye to a few of our longtime staff and welcomed new staff, and we continue to be driven by a growing membership and volunteer base. If you have kept up with our blog and newsletters, you will be familiar with most of the projects outlined below, but here at LWCM we think it is important to zoom out every once in a while to reflect on our body of work. We hope that you, our members, supporters, volunteers and followers can do the same and take the time to reflect on how your generous gifts of time, talent and treasure have helped LCWM provide opportunities for immersion in West Michigan’s vibrant natural spaces.
Here are a few of 2018’s highlights:
We added three conservation agreements and assisted in one community conservation project, protecting 712 acres from future development and bringing our total protected acreage to 11,881.
Vartian Conservation Easement
We helped Bruce and Ellen Vartian protect their 84-acre hardwood forest, which they have been caring for for almost 40 years. The winding streams and hardwood swamp on the property are headwaters to the south branch of the Pentwater River. Check out our feature on the Vartian Conservation Easement from earlier this year.
Gary Conservation Easement
The Gary property, location of the famed “Green Cottage,” has nearly a mile of frontage on the “flies only” stretch of the Pere Marquette River, bringing us within 25 percent of the goal for the Pere Marquette Wild campaign. The upland oak forest, hillside seeps and conifer swamp contribute to the property’s rich ecological diversity. Kim and Pam Gary have successfully protected the peacefulness and beauty of the river for future generations of Garys, salmon and brook trout!
Rednalis Conservation Easement
The 209-acre Rednalis Property is our first conservation agreement on Hamlin Lake and our most northerly project to date. It has been in the Silander family for over 100 years and has a rich history as a Native American trading post. The 1100 feet of frontage on Hamlin Lake looks out at Ludington State Park across the lake.
We partnered with Ottawa County to purchase the 345-acre former sand mine with a grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. Pending final approval by the state legislature, the Trust Fund has recommended full funding for acquisition. This property has an 80-acre man-made lake, frontage on the Grand River and 219 acres of designated critical dunes habitat. With the addition of Ottawa Sands, there is now a six mile, 2000-acre corridor of public land stretching from PJ Hoffmaster State Park to the northern pier at Grand Haven.
We took on a number of large projects this year to improve the habitat quality and accessibility of our nature preserves. Here are a few of the highlights:
Wege Natural Area forest thinning
After discovering oak wilt, an invasive forest pest, at Wege in 2017, we made the most of the situation by wrapping several forestry projects together and initiating a major thinning in the dry oak forest. We hope this effort with stop the spread of oak wilt and increase the overall health and resiliency of the forest, all while pushing the forest from a closed canopy to an oak woodland.
The Highlands wetland and prairie creation
Thanks to generous funding from USFWS Partners Program, we were able to complete the first major ecological recreation project at The Highlands. With strategic drain tile removal and surprisingly nimble excavator work, a one-acre wetland was created over the former golf course driving range. The 10 acres surrounding the wetland was seeded with a native prairie seed mix. It didn’t take long for the birds, frogs and turtles to find the new wetland!
We relied on our dedicated and growing volunteer base to assist us with much of the stewardship work we accomplished this year. In total, we had 1135 volunteer hours for stewardship projects on our nature preserves. In our second year of our volunteer powered prescribed burn crew, we completed six burns on four properties. Thank you volunteers!
We are deeply grateful to our members, who empower us to do the work we do. Without them, many of the 147 properties we have protected over the past 40 years would be left unprotected. In 2018, we added 483 new faces eager to preserve our west Michigan natural treasures, and as our work touches more and more people, we hope this number continues to grow.
In the new year, we hope you can spend some time enjoying the spaces you have asked and helped us to protect. Take a hike or ski through the Wege Natural Area or Highlands to check out the changes. Explore Ottawa Sands and try to spot the nesting pair of eagles on the north side of the lake. However you engage with nature, we hope you will help us keep it nearby, and protected, forever.
We look forward to hearing from you in 2019! Happy New Year and thank you from LCWM!