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Protecting a Legacy
Strategic Conservation at Work
Folks don’t necessarily do things in the same way that they used to. People are adapting many social customs, from gender reveals to outdoor weddings, to better reflect their own personal choices or situations. Such was the case when a man recently left his land to Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy in his will – with the stipulation that his friend be allowed to live or hunt on the property for as long as he wants to, a condition called a “life estate”. Though the request is a little out of the ordinary, it’s perfectly legitimate, and we are very happy to abide by it!
Back in the day, Paul Mrozek and a buddy built a custom-designed house out of salvaged brick on his 80-acre property in Cass County. With nearly perfect white-tailed deer habitat (28 acres of farm fields, 48 acres of wetland, and 4 acres of mature oak forest), the two enjoyed hunting the property together for many years after. Paul didn’t want his ecologically diverse property to ever be developed, so he left it to SWMLC, knowing that we will protect it forever. And he watches out for his friend even in passing, by making sure that he can continue to enjoy the property for as long as he lives.
The property is located within the “Jones Conservation Area Hub”, a 38,000-acre area described in SWMLC’s Strategic Conservation Plan as a critical place for us to focus our conservation work. Straddling the pretty farm fields of eastern Cass County and the hilly, ‘wild’ country of western St. Joseph County, the Jones Hub includes several large natural areas that are already protected, including SWMLC’s Spirit Springs Sanctuary and Tamarack Swamp preserves, and the Crane Pond State Game Area. Its sandy hills filter the plentiful ground water before it surfaces, creating spring fed lakes that provide habitat for threatened fish species like lake cisco. Protecting the areas that buffer the lakes and the land that recharges this groundwater is crucial for the region’s water quality, making it especially important that Paul’s 48 acres of wetland are conserved.
“It’s exciting to see our new Strategic Conservation Plan at work! We built the plan after extensive research and with careful consideration, so it’s very satisfying to see it being put into action. I’m pleased to see our work continue in the Jones Hub and glad that Paul Mrozek’s land, which has such regional importance, is now in our care,” said Hilary Hunt, SWMLC’s Director of Land Protection.
SWMLC is honored to be entrusted with Paul’s gift, and grateful to him for his far-sighted conservation outlook. The property, which is now called Mrozek Nature Preserve, is not open to the public but will instead be enjoyed by Paul’s friend and the wildlife that call it home.
– text, Amelia Hansen, SWMLC Communications Specialist
– photos, Hilary Hunt, SWMLC Director of Land Protection
– map, Bruce Howe, former SWMLC Land Protection Specialist, based on data compiled by the W.E. UpjohnCenter for Geographic Change at Western Michigan University