The Leelanau Conservancy is a 501 (c) 3 organization founded in 1988. We opened our doors with a big dream and a small group of individuals dedicated to the idea that the Leelanau Peninsula is a place that deserves our best efforts to protect its unique landscapes.
We believed that with commitment and hard work, we could be successful in harnessing the love that people have for Leelanau to protect her forever.
Thus the Leelanau Conservancy was born.
Since then, the Leelanau Conservancy has been devoted to protecting the land and water that make the Leelanau Peninsula one of the most unique and beautiful areas in the U.S. We have preserved nearly 14,000 acres and created 26 Natural Areas for public enjoyment with more than 20 miles of hiking trails. We have also worked with over 180 landowners to protect family farms and cherished private lands with legal agreements called conservation easements. These agreements restrict development and protect the land’s most important natural features. Our priorities include:
Protecting Leelanau’s natural lands and water quality: Spectacular sand dunes rising from Lake Michigan, pristine inland lakes, towering hardwood forests and landscapes shaped by the glaciers all contribute to Leelanau’s unique beauty. Leelanau’s assets provide many benefits to its people and wildlife. Wetlands filter water to help to preserve our lakes and streams and are home to vast ecosystems, including habitat where the endangered Michigan Monkey Flower thrives. Forests are a haven for eagles and otters, deer and bear, showy lady slippers. All manner of birds gather at the tip of the peninsula to feed and rest before making their way across Lake Michigan during their bi-annual migrations. We must protect these special natural assets for future generations.
Preserving Leelanau’s family farms: Leelanau’s farms provide both an abundance of fresh and nutritious local foods, as well as commercial crops of cherries, wine grapes, apples and other fruit. CSA’s (community-supported agriculture) thrive here and small-scale, value-added agriculture fuels our local economy. Productive farmland, uniquely suited to growing cherries and other fruit, add to the features that make the Leelanau Peninsula a treasured place. We must ensure that farmland is available to future generations and that our agricultural heritage is preserved. To date, over 5,000 acres of working family farms have forever been preserved.
Caring for the lands we have protected: Stewardship of Conservancy natural areas includes regular maintenance like clearing new trails and monitoring for invasive species. We must also work with private landowners on an ongoing basis to ensure that conservation agreements are upheld, and that the natural features are forever protected.
Residents and visitors alike find Leelanau a place to call home, taking pride in our charming small towns and tight-knit communities. Each person cherishes this area in his or her own personal way. But the common feature is the land and water, which gives us beauty, serenity, inspiration, recreation, employment and a sense of community. The Leelanau Conservancy works to understand those landscapes that are essential to the uniqueness and way of life of the Leelanau Peninsula, and to permanently protect them.
Leelanau Conservancy at a glance:
- Since our formation in 1988, we have permanently preserved nearly 14,000 acres and over 50 miles of streams, rivers and shoreline, established 26 natural areas and preserves with over 20 miles of trails, and worked with over 180 landowners to protect their private property.
- We are among the first group of land trusts in the country to become accredited through the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.
- In 2009, our first-of-its kind FarmAbility program received national attention for its innovative approach to farmland protection.
- For every $1 of private donations we receive, we protect $3 worth of land.
- We are supported by over 3,500 donors and 250 volunteers annually.
- Of our annual expenses, 91% supports programs, 6.5% covers administration costs and 2.5% aids fundraising.
- In 2012 the Leelanau Conservancy and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy were selected by the Land Trust Alliance out of more than 1,700 land trusts across the nation to receive its National Land Trust Excellence Award.