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Conservancy Celebrates 20 Years and 10,000 Acres

February 29, 2012 | Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy | Portage, MI
Conservancy Celebrates 20 Years and 10,000 Acres

The conservation of Pilgrim Haven, the former Michigan United Church of Christ summer camp in South Haven Township, is one of many projects SWMLC completed in 2011. Photo by Peter D. Ter Louw


Contact: Peter Ter Louw
Executive Director
269-324-1600 |



Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy
Reaches Milestones


PORTAGE, MI -- The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC), completed its 20th year of operation by protecting more than 1,500 acres and, cumulatively, more than 10,000 total acres. This landmark year demonstrates the commitment to conservation by the people of southwest Michigan and sets a new benchmark for SWMLC’s success.

During 2011, SWMLC protected 1,571 acres in five counties, including three preserves and 12 conservation easements. Four of the easement properties were purchased with federal and state funding to protect Great Lakes water quality. The three new preserves are the KL Avenue Nature Preserve in Kalamazoo County and the Black River Preserve and Pilgrim Haven Natural Area, both located in Van Buren County.

"This was SWMLC’s most successful year ever in the number of acres protected and in the conservation value and financial value of the land protected," said Peter Ter Louw, SWMLC executive director. "This success is primarily the result of our conservation planning to protect wildlife and water resources as well as the commitment by landowners to protect their land."

The crown jewel of SWMLC’s conservation work is the Pilgrim Haven Natural Area, a generous gift from the estate of Suzanne Upjohn DeLano Parish. The property has a long history of camping, originating as a Camp Fire Girl camp followed by ownership by the Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ. It is a place long treasured by many families who spent time there every summer.

This scenic, 26-acre property, with 800 feet of beach frontage along Lake Michigan, contains a mixture of open fields, forest, and a small creek that flows into Lake Michigan just south of South Haven. SWMLC is currently working on plans — developed during public visioning sessions this past September — to identify the appropriate public use for the creation of this natural area.

The KL Avenue Nature Preserve in Oshtemo Township is a 70-acre property that will be open to the public once some initial work and site assessments are done. This rolling oak woodland has a diversity of topographical features that will provide interest for people who enjoy passive recreation. The property was a gift from Dr. Richard Malott, a professor at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

The Black River Preserve, located just southeast of South Haven, is a 121-acre natural area that will eventually offer canoe/kayak access as part of the Black River Water Trail. Three tributaries of the Black River are also protected along with lowland forests and marshes of the river’s floodplain. Former owner Dan Garvey and partners accepted a bargain sale, and SWMLC purchased the property with funds from the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
The 12 conservation easements completed by SWMLC during 2011 protect a total of 1,355 acres which include wetlands and forested floodplains on the Paw Paw and Portage Rivers, conservation land adjacent to the Barry State Game Area, and four sites within the Gull Lake watershed. Conservation of the 342-acre Eureka property in Waverly Township, Van Buren County, protects what is described as the best southern floodplain forest in the state of Michigan.

SWMLC could not have accomplished this magnitude of success without the support of donors, landowners, volunteers, foundations, businesses and government agencies.

"We are incredibly grateful for the support of the communities we work in and would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support in assisting us with the work we do in southwest Michigan," said Ter Louw. "And we are excited to embark on the next 20 years of SWMLC’s conservation work."


About Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy serves the nine counties of southwest Michigan, and has protected over 10,400 acres since its inception as an all-volunteer organization in 1991. The Conservancy currently has seven full-time and one part-time staff and 150 active volunteers and is supported by over 1,100 household memberships.

SWMLC is partnering with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on the Barry State Game Area conservation project and with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on watershed management planning projects for the Rocky River, Paw Paw River, Black River, Gull Lake watershed and Augusta Creek. SWMLC is working on waterfowl conservation, endangered species habitat acquisition and stewardship projects in collaboration with other land conservancies and nonprofit conservation partners through funding from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. SWMLC is also working on watershed planning and management with the Two Rivers Coalition, Van Buren Conservation District, and Friends of the St. Joseph River. In addition, SWMLC works with county and municipal governments to protect natural areas and open space along Lake Michigan as well as land that provides significant public benefit.

To learn more about the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, call (269) 324-1600, visit their web site at, or like them on Facebook.

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