Providing a Place to "Be"

Butler Conservation Easement Completed

Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy recently completed our 104th conservation easement, protecting 175 acres in St. Joseph County – thanks to the generosity of Ron and Sharron Butler.

Henslow's sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii), state-endangered in Michigan, has established territory at Hidden Pond Preserve for nearly every year since. Photo by Delmar Bachert.

Ron and Sharron Butler have a soft spot for injured animals. Sharron is a state-licensed wildlife rehabber who specializes in raptors and has the training, mental toughness, skills, wisdom, and facilities needed to nurse injured hawks back to health. She and Ron also know that, without wild places, there is nowhere in which to release them. So they took action to protect their 175 acres of woods, fields, and wetlands by placing a conservation easement on them through Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy.

Ron grew up on the property, which has been in his family for about 45 years. Some of it is prime agricultural land that is still farmed. A full 20 acres of it has been planted with pollinator-friendly native grasses and flowers. About 30 acres of it are forested wetland, the kind of place that’s too wet and buggy for most humans – and perfect for many kinds of animals. And in the center, there is a magnificent woods, 70 contiguous acres of mature oak-hickory forest. The Butlers know that high-quality, unbroken habitat like that is important for wildlife, and that it’s becoming increasingly rare.

The butler CE includes a large, mature forest dominated by oaks and hickories.
The Butler CE contains wet forest habitat as well as semi-permanent ponds like this one.

Ron and Sharron were concerned about development, having seen other properties near their St. Joseph County land get bought and then cut up into small pieces. They didn’t want that to happen to their property, so they very generously donated the conservation easement to SWMLC. Meeting with SWMLC Land Protection Specialist Bruce Howe last Thursday, they signed the papers to make it official: now, no matter who owns the property in the future, the land and habitat will be protected forever.

People with giving spirits like the Butlers are as important as those big woods on their property – and we’re very grateful to them.


Photos by Pete Ter Louw and Bruce Howe.

Butler CE includes prime agricultural land that is still farmed.

This is what we do. SWMLC helps families like the Butlers 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 17,000 acres in the last 29 years. Together, we are making a difference. Learn how you can help.

Are you curious about land protection options? Find out more here, then contact one of our Land Protection Specialists, Justin Gish or Kaleigh Winkler.