Conserving Michigan’s Natural Land

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NonProfitBy Shireen Moyhi | Photo by J. Kindel

One of the many highlights of Michigan is the vast amount of natural, rural land which is present in many counties across the state. The Mid-Michigan Land Conservancy (MMLC), founded in 2002 and under its current name since 2003, aims to protect natural, scenic, recreational and agricultural lands across seven counties in the mid-Michigan area. Natural and agricultural lands are the primary focus of the conservancy because those areas face the most turmoil. Before the MMLC began, there was no place for land owners in Ionia, Clinton, Shiawassee, Ingham, Jackson, Eaton and Hillsdale counties to turn to for help protecting their land.

“The purpose of protecting these lands is from inappropriate development, some people will call that sprawl development,” said MMLC President Paul Kindel, who has been in this position since 2003. “[The lands] are being protected from residential, commercial and industrial developments that aren’t appropriate for those lands.”

The protected lands range from 26 to 423 acres, varying in farmland, grassland and wetlands. The properties are a result of the board members of the organization, who have selected the areas based off of resident referral. The process is to have the concerned resident fill out an application requesting land protection, and the board members discuss whether or not the land is appropriate to protect. As of recently, the Conservancy has been holding presentations in the seven mid-Michigan regions to notify the public that they are here to help land owners conserve their properties.

“We give presentations telling them that if they would like to protect their land, there is a conservancy available for them to help them do that,” said Kindel. “We will contact land owners in the area and tell them this presentation is available and open to the public. We are focusing particularly on natural areas in these seven regions. They are defined by a conservation plan that one of the board members developed.”

The board of directors is what keeps the organization moving. The majority of the board is from the greater Lansing area, and many are working professionals with environmental backgrounds and involved in conservancy in some way. Kindel, a retired Michigan State University faculty member, said he hopes to get more board members from other counties outside of Ingham and Clinton in the future.

If you care about local land conservation, Kindel believes now is the time to take action, because these rural landscapes are being lost at a dramatic rate. Those interested should start by joining an organization with a focus on conservation and support them through membership of the organization and volunteer efforts.

“We keep the dues low to encourage people to participate as members, but as members they will be informed of what’s going on locally, and even in the state,” said Kindel. “I think right now we have a serious problem with land use, not only in Michigan, but the United States; there’s a lot of sprawl development occurring. There are not enough efforts to support natural land and farmland.”

MMLC is one of 30 regional land conservancies in Michigan. To learn more about their conservancy plan and how to get involved as a member, visit midmilandcons.org.


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