Public Invited to Review Plan for Connecting "Wildlands"

A public meeting will be held on Tuesday evening, January 27, in Klinger Hall at the YMCA’s Camp Eberhart to discuss the creation of a conservation plan for the wild and natural areas surrounding the Crane Pond and Three Rivers State Game Areas. Together, these areas are known as the Jones State Game Area, after the nearby village of Jones. A team of regional stakeholders, including landowners and natural resource professionals, led by SWMLC is steering the conservation plan to “connect and protect” the steeply rolling terrain of “wildlands” that give the eastern Cass County/western St. Joseph region its character.  

“The greater Jones area and its associated state game areas are a special regional asset for wildlife and recreation,” stated Geoffrey Cripe, director of land protection. “The purpose of developing a conservation plan is to better understand local conservation priorities in the region, look for opportunities to increase wildlife habitat by expanding the State Game Areas and creating connections, and doing so in a manner that recognizes regional agricultural productivity with many growing opportunities for outdoor recreation.”

The Jones State Game Area covers approximately 6,300 undeveloped acres, protecting important places for sport-hunting and fishing. More recently, passive outdoor recreation such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, bird-watching, mushroom-picking, hiking, and mountain biking have also become popular, bringing more visitors to the region, and creating the potential for an agri-tourism/eco-tourism industry.

“The region contains dozens of lakes and headwater streams that recharge the regional aquifer and support wildlife, area farmers, and other human and natural needs. SWMLC recognizes the importance of a strategic plan to ensure this area remains a reliable resource over time,” added Cripe. “In large part, this plan will explore opportunities to connect the scattered game areas where possible or protect surrounding areas through compatible private conservation agreements or programs.”

The meeting will include a brief history and other information about the Crane Pond and Three Rivers State Game Areas, a discussion of opportunities and threats identified by the project team, the results of a geographic prioritization exercise, and opportunities for private landowners to get involved. “The meeting will be informational but with opportunities for input from people who live in and care about the region,” stated Cripe. “In addition to direct wildlife benefits, we believe the creation of a conservation plan will benefit the communities of people and businesses that call this region home.”

The meeting will be held in Klinger Hall at the YMCA’s Camp Eberhart on Corey Lake, 10841 Camp Eberhart Road, Three Rivers, on Tuesday, January 27, from 7-8:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.

For directions to Camp Eberhart from their website, click here.

For a Google map to Camp Eberhart, click here.

For a printable pdf of the camp compound, click here.

[Photo of Mill Creek in the Jones State Game Area by Peter Ter Louw.]


Winter Tike Hikes

Join us for this new activity — family hikes on our nature preserves!

Weekly hikes will last about 1 hour at typical toddler pace:  lots of stops, wandering in the wrong direction, pausing to eat snow, etc.

All hikes are on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. and will depend on weather conditions for that day. (Please check our Facebook page for updates the morning of the hike.)  Click on the preserve name below for directions and additional preserve information.

January 25 at Chipman Preserve

February 1 at Chipman Preserve

February 8 at Chipman Preserve

February 15 at Chipman Preserve

February 22 at Chipman Preserve

If you have any questions, call our office at (269) 324-1600.

Save a Savanna February 21

With all the leaves off of the trees creating long sight-lines, winter is the perfect time to appreciate the rolling topography and bowl-like kettles and hills at KL Avenue Nature Preserve.

KL is a fairly new preserve for us but, boy, have we been busy!  Our oak savanna restoration is in full swing, so here's your opportunity to come out, take a look, and give us a hand at cutting back invasive shrubs and fast-growing trees to open up the light for oak seedlings and wildflowers that will pop up in the spring.

Saturday, February 21, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.  Email Mitch at to let him know you're coming.

Painted Sanctuary 2015

Painted Sanctuary 2015 is chock full of beautiful reproductions of original paintings by the Plein Air Artists of West Michigan.

Purchase this 13-month calendar — a work of art in its own right — for only $10 at the SWMLC office or at any one of the following locations:

Anne's Health Foods in Hastings
At Last in Glenn
Frames Unlimited (3 locations)
Kazoo Books (both locations)
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Gallery Shop
Love Your Mother in Three Rivers
Nature Connection, downtown Kalamazoo
Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings