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Smart Growth: Expanding Protected Properties

Posted on April 30, 2019

Find Article HERE.

Ever wondered what kinds of things we look for when we are considering acquiring a new piece of land to protect? You’d be correct if you are thinking of ecological value, important plant and/or animal habitat, or potential for outdoor recreation. Those are all very important elements. One factor you may not have thought about is: is it next to an existing protected property? 

If the answer is yes, the potential acquisition jumps up on our priority list. Why? Because adding adjacent land to properties already under protection allows larger contiguous areas for wildlife to call home, provides additional space for native flora to flourish, increases public access, and can even bridge a gap between protected lands, creating what we call a “greenway” that we can potentially expand even further in the future.


A great example of this is our recent acquisition of 12 acres next to Burns Prairie Preserve, allowing us to double the size of the existing preserve. Located on Mount Zion Road in Galien Township, Burns Prairie Preserve features prairie, wetlands and woodland. After a successful restoration undertaken in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serve, the prairie boasts native grasses, and in the summer, an abundance of wildflowers in bloom.

And now there’s potential to expand Burns Prairie even further, by acquiring up to 30 acres just to the north of the new addition. This would create a 55-acre protected natural area, providing expanded habitat for wildlife like grassland birds, and the opportunity to improve public access for outdoor recreation. We are currently seeking funding to help us further increase the size of Burns Prairie Preserve. If you’d like to help, contact our office at col@chikamingopenlands.org or (269) 405-1006.  

​Conservation Partners: Transferring Protected Properties from One Land

Posted on April 12, 2019

Conservation Partners: Transferring Protected Properties from One Land 

Conservancy to Another

Chikaming Open Lands (COL) received two new nature preserves this past December, Harbert Woods Preserve in Harbert and Merganser Point Preserve in New Buffalo. While these two preserves are new to COL, they were originally protected by Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, which is based in Galesburg, MI. Though relatively small, the 5-acre Harbert Woods Preserve and 10-acre Merganser Point Preserve each boast high- quality natural ecosystems.


Harbert Woods Preserve is located to the east of a high lakeshore dune only a few hundred feet from Lake Michigan. The southern and western edges are mature woods with large red maple, tulip poplar and yellow birch trees. The bountiful wetlands found on the preserve, along with an abundance of spring wildflowers and towering trees, give the area a unique oasis for the local wildlife. It is also in close vicinity to two other properties we have protected, Critter Haven Preserve and The Woods Preserve.

Merganser Point Preserve is located just adjacent to where the Galien River meets the New Buffalo Marina. It is best viewed from the river itself, but it can also be seen from the Whittaker Street bridge looking to the northeast. Consisting mostly of wetland, Merganser Point provides essential habitat for a diverse array of plants and wildlife of the Great Lakes Coastal Marsh ecosystem in which it is situated. It is also adjacent to COL's Louis J. Sima Marsh Preserve.

So why would one land conservancy transfer protected property to another? If it is already protected, isn’t that enough? Land conservancies are all pursuing a common goal--to facilitate conservation in their communities. So we are always eager to work together towards that end, and to help each other out wherever we can. Land transfers are one way we do that. It works for everyone, allowing land conservancies to share and manage resources efficiently with local knowledge to provide the best care of our properties, and to ensure the most benefit to our communities.

Did you know? 

Robinson Woods PreserveGrand Beach Marsh Preserve and Dayton Wet Prairie Preserve were land transfers from The Nature Conservancyto COL. The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization that is actively protecting land in over 72 countries, and they frequently transfer protected properties to established land trusts to ensure proper care, conservation, and restoration work is accomplished at a local level.

Interested in helping protect our local land? Become a COL volunteer! Contact the COL office for volunteer opportunities or attend one of stewardship workdays.

Boiling Down the Sweet Taste of Spring at Covenant Farm

Posted on March 20, 2019

Find Article HERE.

SAWYER — Making maple syrup the old-fashioned way is a sure sign that spring is near at Covenant Farm near Sawyer.

Chikaming Open Lands sponsored a Saturday, March 16, outing to the cooperatively owned property to see the step-by-step process of converting maple tree sap into a sweet treat up-close and personal (with plenty of hiking through the late-winter mud accompanied by resident dog “Buddy”).

“Native peoples have been making maple syrup for millennium. It’s not a new process, we just have technology that makes it a little easier to do it,” said Daniel Dale, one of the founders of the 70-acre farm owned by members of seven families. He led the tour on a a beautiful, if a bit chilly, day.

The property includes a creek, frontage on the Galien River and an oxbow pond that was part of the Galien until it became separated in the 1920s when the river changed course.

The “sugar bush” area (a group of sugar maples) where Dale said sap is being collected via taps and plastic milk jugs is located on a slope with southern exposure near the scenic oxbow pond that helps the sap flow more quickly once the trees are warmed by the sun. He said the best time to tap into a tree is this time of year when its gets below freezing at night and warms above that level during the day.

Dale said a tap doesn’t remove enough sap to hurt the tree, but it can add up pretty quickly if you’re looking to make syrup.

And you’ll need a lot.

To get the five gallons of maple syrup that Covenant Farm plans to use, about 50 gallons of sap must be collected.

As of midday on March 16, about 40 gallons had already been collected. And the jugs were about a third full again early in the afternoon.

All of that sap is poured into a large blue bucket attached to a Kubota tractor that hauls in back to the “sugar shack” where most of the lengthy process of boiling the liquid down to syrup takes place (a process that includes straining out sediments via “one of my old T-shirts”).

Dale said the wood-fired warming pan and three evaporators are tended until they reach the point where they are poured in a pot two gallons at a time to go inside the farmhouse and be finished atop the kitchen stove with the help of a candy thermometer.

“You want it to be 219 degrees — that gives you the maximum sugar before it starts to crystalize,” he noted.

Prior to setting out for the sugar bush area, Dale talked about the history of Covenant Farm in front of a property map painted on the side of a garage.

“We got the place in 1978, and we were all students (at the University of Chicago) or living in Hyde Park and we wanted a place to get out of the city,” he said.

Dale said the main farm house was burned down and gutted (it took 15 years to restore it), the property had been abandoned for four years and the fields were played out.

“We’ve always done gardening and planted some orchards,” he said.

For the first two years a small cinder block outbuilding was the only useable structure. A restored chicken coop was eventually converted into the main building with a dining area (French toast and fresh maple syrup were served inside on March 16).

Carol Baker said the syrup was “delicious” while Janet Blake said it reminds her of what her dad used to do up in Maine.

In 1985 the process of planting trees (a mixture of white pines and varieties of native hardwoods such as oaks, maples cherry, walnut and tulip poplars) was begun on the 40 acres of old farm fields.

Juanita Burris, another original member of the Covenant Farm cooperate, said the Department of Agriculture helped with the plantings when it became apparent the land could no longer support growing corn or soybeans.

Dale said the pine trees help the hardwoods grow straighter and higher, speeding the creation of a mature forest canopy filled with tall, straight trees at the 60-foot level.

As time goes on Dale said the pines are slowly being thinned to be used to make furniture or to build buildings such as the nearly completed Meadow House dormitory that hikers passed on the way to the sugar bush grove.

The property also is home to other structures including a 100-year-old Tower Hill Camp cabin that was moved there several years ago when it was slated to be demolished.

Dale said Covenant Farm is one of the original properties in this area to arrange a conservation easement through Chikaming Open Lands to protect its natural state in perpetuity (COL is now involved in 35 easements).

“What we did was work with COL to ensure that this property will always be woodlands with the goal that we will restore it to being an indigenous hardwood forest,” he said, adding that it will take about 80 years to achieve that goal.

Dale addd that tow of the farm’s neighbors also have signed up for conservation easements.

“We want to make sure that the greenway along the Galien River is as complete as possible …  and that we can be a part of restoring the Galien,” he said.


New Nature Preserve Planned in Southwestern Michigan-US NEWS

Posted on January 9, 2019

Find Article HERE.

A new 108-acre nature preserve is planned in southwestern Michigan that will be open to the public.

CHIKAMING TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A new 108-acre (44-hectare) nature preserve is planned in southwestern Michigan that will be open to the public.

The Herald-Palladium reports Elizabeth Leonard Rould recently donated the property in Berrien County's Chikaming Township to Chikaming Open Lands .

The land will be named The Edward and Elizabeth Leonard Wildlife Preserve. It consists of mature woodland, wetlands and agricultural land. Rould and her late husband, Ed Leonard, lived on the property for more than 30 years. She says she spent much of her time there walking the woods with her dogs, observing the wildlife.

She says it's "very important to me to know that other people, young and old, will be able to walk through it and really enjoy it just as I did."

The new preserve is near other protected properties.

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Information from: The Herald-Palladium, http://www.heraldpalladium.com

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

New nature preserve planned in southwestern Michigan

Posted on January 9, 2019

Find Article HERE.

CHIKAMING TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A new 108-acre (44-hectare) nature preserve is planned in southwestern Michigan that will be open to the public.

The Herald-Palladium reports Elizabeth Leonard Rould recently donated the property in Berrien County's Chikaming Township to Chikaming Open Lands .

The land will be named The Edward and Elizabeth Leonard Wildlife Preserve. It consists of mature woodland, wetlands and agricultural land. Rould and her late husband, Ed Leonard, lived on the property for more than 30 years. She says she spent much of her time there walking the woods with her dogs, observing the wildlife.

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She says it's "very important to me to know that other people, young and old, will be able to walk through it and really enjoy it just as I did."

The new preserve is near other protected properties.