Imagine a place of cool, clear water . . .

Imagine a place where clear, cool water bubbles up from the ground, turtles of all shapes and sizes lumber slowly across the landscape, amazing native plants seldom seen in this region almost glow with vibrancy, the air is filled with a medley of birdsong, and a group of rare butterflies flutters its way back from extinction.

With your help, this will become the Portman Nature Preserve.

Mud Lake, South Shoreline by Richard Jordan. Oil on board, 2016.

Located near Mattawan, just minutes from Kalamazoo and Paw Paw, the Portman property boasts 188 acres of high-quality prairie fen, wetland, savanna and woodland habitats, and is blessed with water from 3 lakes, a creek, and hundreds of springs. It is home to an astounding number of rare, threatened, and endangered plant and animal species, including all the species of turtles found in southwest Michigan! As a result of its rich biodiversity, this property has been identified by the conservation community as a priority for conservation for over 10 years. 

In addition to its rare habitats and species, the Portman property forms part of the headwaters of the Paw Paw River, making it essential to maintaining clean, abundant water for the Paw Paw River watershed, the broader region, and Lake Michigan.




In an epic collaboration to save some of southwest Michigan’s rarest species and habitats, a number of local, state, and federal organizations have partnered together to protect this incredibly special piece of property. With assistance from Gerald and Julie Portman, The Conservation Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Enbridge, U.S. Forest Service, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and many others, we have nearly raised the $2.2 million we need to complete the project.

But, we need your help to raise the final $200,000.

This is SWMLC’s largest and most ambitious project to date. Ultimately, we envision a 188-acre nature preserve that protects and provides habitat for an incredible number of southwest Michigan’s rarest species, serves as an outdoor classroom for local students and a natural laboratory for local researchers, offers a natural space for the community to explore, exercise, discover, gather. . . to connect with nature and with each other.

We are excited to be so close to finally protecting this spectacular and important piece of property. With your help, the Portman property will become a SWMLC nature preserve where children, adults, and families can recreate, reflect, and grow in their knowledge and love of the natural world.

You can help create the Portman Nature Preserve.

Please consider a gift today to help us raise the last $200,000 and help to make the Portman Nature Preserve a reality.


Together we can create the Portman Nature Preserve for families, for community, for wildlife. . .  forever.

See the Portman video!












2016 marks SWMLC's Silver Anniversary
and it's hard to believe that so much time has passed!

There have been many changes but one constant remains: 14,000 acres of Southwest Michigan’s distinctive dunes, wetlands, forests, savannas, prairies, farms, and vineyards are now conserved and protected forever. In 2016, we're celebrating our anniversary with 25 special events that highlight our public preserves and offer fun, new activities for the whole family.
Please check our events page for the most up-to-date announcements and details.

Join us in celebrating what we’ve achieved together in 25 years of local conservation. With your help, we’re just getting started!


The Wednesday Workday Warriors

Lucky Season 13!
Anyone is welcome to pitch in to help keep our preserves up to snuff. It's a wonderful way to experience the preserves with the folks who know them best, plus get acquainted with other active people who share the conservation spirit. RSVPs are always nice; just call the office at 269-324-1600 or email

Catch the Wednesday Warriors in the news at SW Michigan Spark!

Wednesday, October 26: Warrior Field Trip!

In our tradition of patting ourselves on the backs and creating a lovely bookend to a season of workdays (24 so far by my count!), instead of a workday we will have an educational field trip during our regularly scheduled workday time slot.
As such, next Wednesday, October 26 @ 1:00 p.m. at the Black River Preserve, the original "fun-guy" himself Paul Olexia will be leading a mushroom walk!

Paul is one of the original Wednesday Warriors, Professor Emeritus of Kalamazoo College, a man of sharp wit, and all-around ecology whiz, so this will be a special opportunity! Similar to bird walks, we won't know exactly what type of fungi we'll find until we explore the preserve, but that's the fun of it! We will certainly have no problem entertaining ourselves exploring this freshly opened preserve with 3.5 miles of new trails, cool ravines, and spectacular floodplain.

Find more information about the preserve here.

We may seek out some local brews/refreshments after the trip so plan accordingly if you need to be on your own schedule rather than carpool. Hope to see you there!

WHERE: Black River Preserve, Geneva Twp., Van Buren Co.

WHEN: Carpool leaves at 12:15 pm, or meet at the preserve at 1 pm. Directions below.

BRING: Regular hiking boots should be sufficient footwear, but bring along a pack perhaps with a field guide or two, and some water. As we're entering the chilly fall of Michigan, make sure to check the weather and dress accordingly. If we get a light drizzle/sprinkle we will probably take a walk anyway, barring anything too major.

To carpool: meet in the southwest corner of the West Main Meijer parking lot (6660 W Main St, Kalamazoo, MI 49009).

To meet at the preserve: from M-43 and the traffic circle at Maple Grove Corners, take CR-689 north to the T-stop at 8th Ave. Turn right (east) on 8th Ave, and look for the preserve on the south side. If you get to 68th St, you’ve gone too far.


A Quick Peek at the Last Three Weeks

October 19
Teaming up with local preserve stewards Bob and Connie, seven Warriors blazed a trail into the core wetland that makes up the Bakertown Preserve. After taking some notes on the size and stature of our enemy (glossy buckthorn), we tucked in, began sawing, lopping, treating, and stacking these wetland invaders. After just a couple of hours we could appreciate the new light reaching the wetland understory, where sedges and wildflowers will surely pop up next spring. We admired McCoy Creek, and assured the buckthorn that we'd be back to finish them off over the coming years!

October 12
In the spirit of the harvest season, seven Warriors donned buckets tied around their waists with paper bags and markers in tow at Chipman Preserve to do some seed collecting. Harry Bird and newbie Kyle Martin took a side mission to plant "rough blazingstar" bulbs in the developing prairie area, while the rest of us traipsed through the golds, oranges, and browns and a fall savanna landscape. Species like wild bergamot, three-awned grass, stiff goldenrod, leadplant and more were tucked away in labeled bags to be cleaned and stored on another day. After looking at our pants at the end of the workday, we realized that we were all collecting seeds "hands free" the whole time with a mass of different tick trefoil seeds stubbornly sticking to us.

October 5
Nine Warriors blew leaves, nailed trail diamonds, pruned branches, lined trails, and generally spruced up a new and gorgeous sections of the "mainstem" trail at the Black River Preserve. We just skirted the rain, took time to admire what appeared to be forest sprites on beech trees (actually beech blight woolly aphids), and made the new preserve shine in anticipation of it's grand opening which took place with great success on October 15.

— Mitch