YOU Can Help Create the Portman Nature Preserve

♦ Imagine a public nature preserve — just minutes from Paw Paw, Mattawan, and Kalamazoo  that will be open to everyone with no admission fee, 365 days a year from dawn to dusk.

♦ Envision habitat that protects a large number of southwest Michigan’s rarest species.

♦ Picture an outdoor classroom for local students, and a natural laboratory for local researchers.

♦ Imagine a natural space where the community can exercise, explore, gather, and connect with nature and each other.

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

SWMLC has already raised nearly the entire $2.2 million that is needed to complete the project . . . but we still have $200,000 to go.

We're very pleased to announce that we've been awarded an extremely generous challenge grant from The Carl's Foundation for the acquisition, stewardship and public use infrastructure of the 188- acre Portman propertyFor every dollar that is pledged or contributed by the public, The Carl's Foundation will match it 1-to-1, up to $75,000 — doubling the value of public contributions. Fulfilling the potential value that this grant offers will make a substantial step forward toward the remaining $200,000 we need for this project

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

To see and hear the passion behind this project, watch the Portman Nature Preserve Video!

To learn more about this wonderful property and this exciting public project, please continue reading . . . 

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

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.


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 already raised almost the entire $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.












Photo credits: Nate Fuller, Ivan LaBianca, Paul Speedy

Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy will acquire the Portman Property with funding made available as mitigation for habitat loss or forest fragmentation caused by the construction and maintenance of the Enbridge Energy, Limited Partnership, 6B Pipeline. The Conservation Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have partnered to manage these voluntary mitigation funds and provide grants to implement local conservation measures in Indiana and Michigan to protect and restore critical habitat for migratory birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Additional funding was provided by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service through the Community Forest Program and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund Grant. The purpose of the Awards is to provide funding to acquire the Property for the conservation of critical wildlife habitat and to effect the U.S. Forest Service Community Forest Program authorized by Section 8003 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (16 U.S.C. 2103d) for the purposes of establishing community forests that provide community benefits by acquiring and protecting private forestlands.

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

Congratulations to all who pitched in this year on our 25 workdays!

It added up to an impressive impact on the places we love.

High praises to Mitch for all the planning, preparation, leadership, and all-around botanical/entomological knowledge he bestowed upon us to keep us on track, even on our most random days. I put together a short summary for the Stewardship Committee, and figured I would include it below for your information as well.

So what to do with your free time now that we've sung kumbaya to summer of 2016?

Wellllll.... how about joining one of the Saturday workdays? Another opportunity is to join the Stewardship Committee. We meet first Wednesday evening of the month, and Nate gives us lots and lots of news about preserves in the works, and the bigger picture of all the stewardship activities. Contact Nate at if you want to join the team. It's a chance to share your insights and ideas for what needs to happen next.  I also know that there is a whole barn full of seeds waiting to be sifted and cleaned. It's kind of like a quilting bee where you gather together and socialize while you're working. The more people, the better.

For me, I'll soon be wearing a non-Warrior-like long black dress for the Bach Christmas concert, and getting re-acquainted with my dusty weaving loom upstairs.  And working down my life-threatening stack of books to read.

Thanks to all for a great season! 

— Kristi, WWCheerleader

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