Land conservancies valuable in protecting natural treasures

Land conservancies serve an extremely important purpose in Michigan. They acquire land donated by property owners, or bought through grants and fundraising projects.

Even though most people don’t live on those lands nor can they always visit them easily, they benefit indirectly from the improved wildlife habitat.

The Harvey-based Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy is working toward acquiring the Dead River Community Forest in Negaunee Township. Being a community forest means the public would have access to the scenic area.

While the UPLC would own the 190 acres or so, the land’s resources and management decisions that affect the land will be based around what brings the community the most benefit.

The Dead River Community Forest also will be a demonstration area for various types of sustainable forestry, and carefully planned harvests are expected to provide positive local economic impact — and protect rare plants and a sensitive watershed at the same time.

The UPLC, in fact, protects many areas in the U.P., working in partnership with other conservation-minded people. Thanks to The Nature Conservancy, the UPLC now owns a small parcel of land at Coast Guard Point and the lighthouse in Grand Marais. This area is home to the rare Lake Huron tansy, pitcher’s thistle and piping plover.

The Heart of the Lakes is a statewide organization representing most of Michigan’s 26 land conservancies, with a 2017 member survey showing its members control 638,317 acres.

That number of acres is growing, even though no new land conservancies have been created in Michigan. However, established lands have been increasing by at least 10,000 acres every year since 2013.

That’s an exciting trend. Homeowners with valuable natural land are concerned about what could happen to that land upon their passing, and land conservancies are experienced in managing that land in perpetuity.

Land conservancies manage land in several ways, including nature preserves or sanctuaries, and conservation easements.

However, these organizations still need money to manage those properties. So, not only should people with valuable land consider donating it to a land conservancy, the public in general should make financial donations to support them.

Even if you don’t have a chance to visit an easement, preserve or sanctuary every year, it’s gratifying to know others will have the chance. And who knows? Perhaps you’ll be driving on a busy highway sometime and see a bald eagle fly overhead. That eagle might have been born in a nest on a piece of land protected by a land conservancy.

That’s a wonderful reward.