We all need to be guardians of Leelanau.
Recently our Executive Director, Tom Nelson, talked about how the Conservancy channels people’s love and passion for Leelanau into making good things happen. And that many people see the Conservancy as the “guardian” of Leelanau’s beauty and ecological integrity.
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about the concept, and our commitment to conserve and protect our forests and meadows, our streams and lakes and the very rural character of the peninsula itself.
Certainly, the Conservancy, through its great staff and many volunteers and supporters, has begun this process over the last 30 years. It has become the guardian of nearly 3,800 acres of the peninsula’s most iconic beautiful lands: the majestic forests of Palmer Woods, the trails through the sand dunes and woodlands of Houdek Dunes, the meadows of Chippewa Run, the DeYoung farmstead, the orchids found in the Soper Preserve, and the vital water resources and wetlands of Hatlem Creek and the Cedar River Preserve.
From its beginning, however, the Conservancy’s leadership understood its limitations. It could never, by itself, accomplish the task of protecting all of our peninsula’s land, water and scenic character. And, fortunately, the Conservancy has developed ways to expand its reach, to increase the number of “guardians.”
Most significantly, nearly 200 land owners have worked with the Conservancy to protect almost 10,000 acres of private lands over the last three decades. Each landowner has become a permanent guardian of important conservation values on their own land, protecting forever valuable farming acreage, the fresh water from seeps and streams, hardwood forests and wetlands, and crucial habitat for our peninsula’s wildlife. While these lands are not open to the public, we all benefit by their permanent preservation.
Examples of our ever-expanding guardians of Leelanau include the Parker family’s decision this past summer to protect 99 acres in Solon Township, lands which include 1,300 feet along a Type 1 trout stream, wetland shelter for bear and bobcat, deer and songbirds and prime and unique farmland. As it backs up to the Cedar River Preserve, the Parker acreage is truly a “highway for wildlife.”
Just before the holidays, Ralph and Nancy Kalchik donated 75% of the project cost to protect their 115 acres near Omena from development. Their land is covered by both conifer swamps and northern hardwood forests and is crisscrossed by streams and seeps whose pure water ultimately reaches Grand Traverse Bay.
The Conservancy’s volunteers are also guardians. These volunteers build and maintain our trails, keep invasive species in check, save and relocate native plants and wildflowers, and educate the Leelanau community on our lands and the importance of preserving them.
The Conservancy also collaborates with partners such as the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as well as the MSU Horticultural Research Station, assisting them in their roles as guardians for vital ecologically important portions of our peninsula. Personally, I would like to acknowledge the great work done by our lake associations, such as the Glen Lake Association and the Lake Leelanau Lake Association. Each understands the vital role that every riparian owner plays, encouraging their members to wisely use their land, to properly fertilize their lawns, to maintain their septic systems, and to be true guardians of their lake.
This is really the lasting message. To truly protect our beautiful peninsula, we need to understand the important role we each play in preserving our lands, water and the scenic character of our Peninsula. We all need to be guardians of Leelanau.
Leelanau Conservancy Chairman