With limited funds, and so much to do, how does the Leelanau Conservancy prioritize what lands are most important to protect? While many factors enter into the decision, science and connectivity play two big roles. Our new Mebert Creek Preserve is an ecological powerhouse AND links already-protected lands. “It had long been on our wish list, but only recently did the land become available at a reasonable price,” says Matt Heiman, Director of Land Programs. Here’s why it scores big on our criteria list for protection:
- The Preserve is sandwiched between two important public resources: the 100-acre Veronica Valley Park and the massive wetland complex known as the 140-Acre Mebert Creek Natural Area. (Mebert Creek NA was one of our earliest projects, and it takes in 4,000 feet of frontage on Lake Leelanau. It features a rare lowland floating mat fen and was acquired with help from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. Today it is owned and managed by Bingham Township.)
- The new Preserve protects 3,000 additional feet along Mebert Creek–an alkaline, cold-water trout stream that is an important tributary flowing into Lake Leelanau. Also present on the land are several seeps and springs that trickle in to Mebert Creek, as well as groundwater recharge areas that help to filter water entering the lake.
- The land and other protected properties nearby serve as an important corridor for wildlife. Red-shouldered hawks nest here and a plethora of warblers sing from the property’s northern shrub thicket and hardwood conifer swamp. Bobcat, deer, beavers and osprey are just a few of the species spotted in the area. Two privately owned conservation easement properties are located nearby, adding to the richness of this green corridor.
In addition to its environmental qualities, the new Preserve will provide important dryland access to birders and hunters in the future. “There was almost no feasible way to access much of Bingham Township’s Mebert Creek Natural Area before—it was largely landlocked due to the extremely thick wetland along the lakeshore,” says Matt Heiman, Director of Land Programs. “This will provide the missing link in years to come so that avid birders, hunters and naturalists will have access to the north part of the Mebert Creek Natural Area walking directly west from the Veronica Valley parking lot.” Since the Conservancy only recently acquired this parcel and still needs to clearly delineate the property boundaries and establish management rules we will not be opening it to deer hunting in 2015; however we look forward to offering this opportunity to hunters in 2016.
“Anyone who visits will need to do some bush-whacking,” says Heiman. No trails or parking areas are planned. “The property is thick and wild and will be kept that way.”