2021 in Review
In 2021, we continued to be amazed by your outstanding support for the protection and care of West Michigan’s natural areas. Please join us in reflecting on an incredible year for land conservation!
The Land Conservancy is proud to have supported the permanent protection of 295 acres of natural land this year. We added to our inventory of nature preserves, community conservation projects, and conservation easements, working alongside diverse community partners to ensure these lands remain protected from development in perpetuity.
Celebrating the Huston-Rausch-Paprocki Reserve
The Land Conservancy closed on the 43 acres adjacent to Flower Creek Dunes Nature Preserve in March, an achievement only possible thanks to the generosity of the community. The addition of the land, characterized by steep, forested dune ridges and a rare patchwork of plants and wildlife, more than doubled the size of the preserve. Now that it is under Land Conservancy ownership, the once-private landscape is available for public exploration and will be cared for and monitored by the Land Conservancy’s stewardship team. Thank you to everyone who supported this project!
More milestones for the Dune Harbor Park project
December was a big month for Dune Harbor Park. On December 1, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund recommended another $5 million grant for Muskegon County to acquire the second half of the Nugent Sand property. On December 16, the County announced that it closed on the first half of the property, solidifying its future as Dune Harbor Park. The Land Conservancy has been working with Muskegon County all along the way. Finally, with your help, we successfully completed our campaign cover the costs of opening the southern portion of the park and provide match funds for future grants. Together, we are ensuring a strong foundation for this wonderful resource in the Muskegon community. Thank you!
The Perry Family protects their family land
The Land Conservancy added one more to its roster of conservation easements this year. The Perry Family worked with us to protect their 38 acres on the Flat River. The easement made possible with a 319 grant. The land boasts a diverse hardwood forest with mature red and white oak, red maple, black cherry, basswood and hickory trees. Many seeps and springs flow through the property unimpeded to the Flat River. It hosts a variety of spring ephemerals and provides important habitat for migrating birds, mammals and pollinators. Thanks to the Perry Family, it will always be protected from development.
This year, we continued to keep our promise to care for the natural areas we’ve protected. We worked alongside volunteers and community partners to support the health of these landscapes, whether that meant removing invasive species, addressing diseases like oak wilt, planting trees, or restoring wetlands.
With the help of volunteers, we maintained and improved the health of the nature preserves we own and manage. Here is what we accomplished, by the numbers:
- Planted 5,640 trees
- Planted 15 acres of native plants
- Removed invasive plants from 12 preserves
- Conducted 8 prescribed burns across 127 acres of fire-dependent habitat
- Restored hydrology to create or expand 3 wetlands
- Expanded or improved 5 trail systems to increase accessibility
- Monitored 812 acres over 17 nature preserves
Thank you to all who helped with this important work!
Conservation Easement Stewardship
When it comes to conservation easements, land protection does not end with a handshake and signature on a dotted line. Rather, this is where it begins. We are tasked with keeping our promise to the original easement donor, our supporters, and future generations. That means lacing up our hiking boots and getting out on the road to visit these protected areas, monitoring and completing current conditions reports for the properties we’ve worked with private landowners to protect. All of our conservation easements are monitored on an annual basis providing an opportunity to check in with each landowner, answer questions about the conservation agreement, discuss opportunities for ecological restoration and enhancement of natural features, and ensure that small threats to conservation values are identified and resolved before they become larger issues.
Through the spring and fall, 10,840 native trees and shrubs were planted to protect coldwater streams in collaboration with Trout Unlimited through funding from the US Forest Service and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. An astounding 31 easement landowners are taking some level of conservation action on their land from pursuing professional consultation for forest stewardship and conservation planning, implementing restoration or enhancement of fish and wildlife habitat, or controlling invasive plants and exotic forest pests on the landscape. None of this work would be possible without the love these landowners have for the land and our great network of partners on the landscape from the County Conservation Districts, National Wild Turkey Federation, Trout Unlimited, Michigan DNR Wildlife Division, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Staff and Board
For all we’ve accomplished together, members of our staff and board reached some important individual milestones this year as well. The year began with a transition in leadership: Joe Engel retired after five years as Executive Director, and former Development Director Kim Karn stepped into the position. Former board chair John Byl completed his term, and we welcomed Barbara Griffin to the board of directors. Jill Bannink-Albrecht joined our staff in a new role supporting the Land Conservancy’s development and administrative needs.
Land Protection Director April Scholtz and board member John Scholtz were recognized for their contributions to conservation and inducted into the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame. Conservation Easement Stewardship Specialist Nick Sanchez became a Certified Forester. Communications Manager Marie Orttenburger completed her masters degree.
We are so proud of our team members for all of the ways they have grown this year!
Supporters and Volunteers
Now that we’ve covered what was accomplished in 2021, let’s talk about the people who made it possible. Our supporters and volunteers continued to show up for West Michigan’s natural areas this year. Over 1,200 donors supported the Land Conservancy and its projects this year, and 180 of them were first-time supporters! Over 250 volunteers showed up to help with Second Saturday Workdays, mailings, prescribed burns, tabling, and more.
We hosted a number of events this year, including a series of monthly outings at our nature preserves. Guests learned about monarch butterflies, native plants in brewing and distilling, natural Halloween lore, and more. We celebrated our volunteers with a tree planting workday and lunch. We celebrated the Land Conservancy’s acquisition of the Huston-Rausch-Paprocki Reserve, as well as Pere Marquette Township’s acquisition of Pere Marquette Conservation Park.
Thank you for a great year. We are looking forward to having more to celebrate with you in 2022!