"A river seems a magic thing."

Celebrating the completion of the Vogtmann-Leet Conservation Easement.

Bob Leet and Donna Vogtmann had been looking for the perfect spot for a long time. When they finally found the 41-acre diamond-in-the-rough with frontage on the Paw Paw River, they knew they had found it. And after spending a few years bringing the rundown house and land back into shape, they knew they wanted to protect it forever with a conservation easement (CE) held by SWMLC.

Bob and Donna’s Van Buren County property includes tall planted pines, a forest of mixed native trees, and woody wetlands filled with moisture-loving plants with beastie names like green dragon, lizard’s tail, and skunk cabbage. Trails lead through the woods, past a pond patrolled by snapping turtles, and alongside nearly 1,565 feet of the Paw Paw River South Branch. Gorgeous, unspoiled views are everywhere. 

Vogtmann-Leet CE has frontage on the South Branch of the Paw Paw River.

The new Vogtmann-Leet CE is located within a conservation ‘hub’ (an area of critical focus) as determined by SWMLC’s Climate Resiliency Plan, Nature’s Network. Two more protected SWMLC properties, Dayton-Willard Wildlife Preserve and Sora Meadows (both ‘refuge preserves’ with limited public access due to the sensitivity of the habitats they protect) are within a five-mile radius, increasing the natural land connections in this area.

It is also uniquely sandwiched between the South and North Branches of the Paw Paw River. Directly across the street is SWMLC’s 258-acre Paw Paw River Preserve (limited public access), which protects frontage on the North Branch. When combined, the two properties help preserve water quality by preventing runoff pollution and soil erosion on nearly 300 acres of natural floodplain and low forest in the important Paw Paw River Watershed.

The thorny bark of a honey locust at Vogtmann-Leet CE.

Bob and Donna were both exposed to nature as kids during that critical time when experiences really stick, and neither has ever lost their love for the outdoors. Bob has raised bird dogs for decades and continues to participate in equestrian field trials. Donna is an avid gardener-farmer, beekeeper, and animal-lover. Both are passionate about clean water, restoring habitat, and conserving open space. 

Vogtmann-Leet CE is home to woody wetlands full of moisture-loving plants.

When asked why they protected their land, the couple’s thoughts echoed one another. Bob started, “I would hate to ever see this developed, it’s a special place here in southwest Michigan and should be preserved. Putting a conservation easement on it makes it worth even more to me.” Donna followed the thread, “I’m proud to do this. I feel a crucial responsibility to protect the land and water – the planet – and this is the way I can do that.” Bob added softly, “We’re so lucky,” and Donna nodded.

Thank you for your conservation spirit, Bob and Donna!

PLEASE NOTE: Though this property will be protected forever by a conservation easement held by SWMLC, it is private land and not open to the public. Please respect the landowners’ privacy. Thank you!
This is what we do. SWMLC helps families like this one explore their land protection options to see if conservation is right for them. As a community-supported organization, YOU make this possible. Your desire to conserve special, natural places in Michigan has protected over 18,500 acres since 1991. Together, we are making a difference.
Photos & story, Amelia Hansen     |    Title quote from The Rio Grande by Laura Gilpin