The Buffum Easement Protects the Family’s Hunting Lands
From our Fall 2003 Newsletter
Dennis Buffum’s 80-acre slice of tranquility lies out Cedar-way, past the dairy barns and the Centerville Township hall, just around the corner from the spire of Holy Rosary. It is here that Dennis, his brothers and his in-laws hunted with his dad on the land that Dennis‚ great-grandfather, John Strang, homesteaded.
“The cemetery at Holy Rosary is full of my relatives,” laughs Dennis, who grew up near Suttons Bay and owns the land with his wife, Misty. Dennis has spent 9 years in the armed services, where his army income helped him to acquire the land, piece by piece from his aging relatives.
The couple is moving from the Lake Odessa area to Ava, Missouri, to be near Misty’s family and because Dennis, an engineer, has a job opportunity there. They had originally put the property up for sale at $499,000, and had a serious buyer. “I didn’t really want to lose the land, but we need the money,” says Dennis.
Forester and longtime family friend Lynn Bakker, who had been managing the timber on Dennis‚ land and his brother Doug, suggested he contact the Conservancy. “To be honest, I thought the Conservancy was just a bunch of tree huggers who want to lock down the land where you can have no use for it. But the more I talked to Matt Heiman, (land protection specialist with the Leelanau Conservancy), I found out I can do what I want. I just can’t develop it.” In fact, the Buffums were paid the value of their development rights˜enough money for the house they want to buy in Ava. In exchange, they agreed to restrictions that call for just one house on the 80 acres, and a timber management plan that protects a fragile creek running through the property˜something Buffum and Bakker were already doing.
Best of all, the Buffums still own the land, can enjoy it when they come to Leelanau and are free to sell it to another buyer down the road if need be. “It works for me,” says Dennis. “I don’t know how many unimproved eighties there are in the county. I’m happy I can hang on to it and still use it. We‚ll just leave it alone, let the trees grow. If it’s well managed, and I’m confident that Lynn is leading me down the right path, my son and his children will be able to come out here and have as much fun as I did when I was a kid.”
It is a beautiful parcel, with an old-growth forest shading the headwaters of several small streams that flow into nearby Lake Leelanau. After his great-grandfather bought the property from the government in 1856, Strang kept cattle on it and planted a potato crop. An old barn and the original homestead’s fieldstone foundation speak to its earliest days. Denny’s uncle Boniface (Bonney) Strang established the one main trail and cut wood from the property.
Today, towering sugar maples, beech (see photo above!) and basswood with huge canopies spread out on steep hillsides. Other portions of the land have grassy wet meadows of jewelweed and Joe Pye weed on stands of pine that the Boy Scouts helped to plant in 1975. “Personally, I would have been sick if there had been 40 houses put on this land,” says Dennis. “There’s a beautiful hillside on the north end where I like to plant myself on and watch the world go by. Because of my arrangement with the Conservancy, I’ll still be able to do that.”