View of the creek that flows north through the Big Marsh Farm property into the Big Marsh. Photo by Emily Wilke.

We’re excited to announce the completion of the purchased conservation easement (CE) on Larry & Jerrilyn Holcomb’s 476-acre Big Marsh Farm property, which is located at the southern end of Michigan Audubon Society’s (MAS) Baker Sanctuary in Calhoun County, several miles north of Marshall. The conservation easement is the sole focus of our funded MDEQ Battle Creek watershed project that we began earlier this year and largely possible because of our Kalamazoo River Watershed Conservation Plan.

A mix of wetland, former agricultural land restored to grassland, and oak hickory forest, this area is an important stopover site for migrating sandhill cranes, with 3,000 to 6,000 cranes foraging in the nearby agricultural fields during the day and resting in the the large open wetland at night.

The new CE is the sole focus of the funded MDEQ Battle Creek watershed project that we began earlier this year and was largely possible because of our Kalamazoo River Watershed Conservation Plan. The Battle Creek Watershed is a catchall for several smaller watersheds, including Ackley Creek Watershed. Ackley Creek flows out of the Big Marsh and through the 300-acre Holden property that we conserved with a CE in 2014. And last year MAS purchased the 80-acre Isham property — adjacent to the site of the annual MAS Cranefest — with US Fish & Wildlife Service NAWCA funds. All of these properties are located in Convis Township.

Photo of Larry Holcomb by Emily Wilke.

In 2004, we protected the Holcombs’ 248-acre residential property that is near the Big Marsh. Larry Holcomb, a retired DNR wildlife biologist, was involved in numerous resource management projects during his career. He is currently working on a variety of habitat & wildlife management projects on the Big Marsh site, including work to protect the soon-to-be federally-listed Eastern massasauga rattlesnake.