Answers to frequently asked questions about Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy.



land protection

wild animals


public preserve rules and FAQ’s


Dogs on 6-foot leashes

Dog poop removed from preserve

Take your trash
with you

No . . .

Bikes on trails

Motorized vehicles




Removal of plants, animals, or large quantities of rocks




Hunting or trapping without permission from SWMLC


Shore fishing

 How much does it cost to get into your preserves?

SWMLC’s public nature preserves have no admission fee and are open to everyone. But as a local nonprofit organization that relies on public support, donations are greatly appreciated. Your support helps create and maintain welcoming public preserves for the whole community to love. You can feel good in knowing that by giving, you’re protecting the habitats where endangered plants and animals thrive, saving acres of land from being developed, ensuring that there will always be healthy ponds where kids can hear frogs and see fish, restoring native plants that sustain wildlife, and protecting water quality for millions of Michiganders.

  When are your preserves open?

SWMLC’s public nature preserves are open every day from dawn to dusk. Please note that access to some preserve parking areas may be limited during heavy snow events.

  Are dogs allowed on your public preserves?

Dogs are welcome at SWMLC’s public preserves but must be kept on a 6-foot leash at all times and dog waste must be packed out. Ground-nesting animals are upset by loose dogs and may abandon their eggs or babies if disturbed. In addition, children, adults, and leashed dogs may feel threatened when approached by a loose dog. Please help keep our nature preserves a haven for people and wildlife – even chipmunks deserve a safe place to call home!

It takes a long time for dog waste to degrade and our preserves have many canine visitors, so the poop can really pile up alongside the trails – which is especially gross once the snow thaws and a winter’s worth is unveiled. This creates a very unpleasant experience for trail users. In addition, dog waste can pose a water quality issue in areas where the natural flow will take it into a wetland, stream, or lake. This is why dog owners must take their pet’s waste with them when they leave the preserve.

  Why don’t you provide trash cans?

Because our non-profit land conservancy serves such a large area (the nine-county corner of southwest Michigan) and our staff is small in number, we are not able to maintain trash cans at our public preserves. Please be responsible and pack out your trash – including dog waste.

  Are restrooms available?

Most SWMLC public nature preserves do not have restrooms. The exception is Pilgrim Haven Natural Area near South Haven.

  Where can I get a trailmap?

Links to trail maps may be found on individual preserve pages. Trailhead maps and “You are Here” maps that are posted trailside are slowly being added to many of our public preserves.

  Can I reserve a preserve for a special occasion such as a family reunion or wedding?

Sorry, SWMLC public nature preserves may not be reserved for private functions.

  Is rock collecting allowed?

Rocks may not be taken in large quantities (ie. buckets or other containers), but a small number may be collected for study or souvenirs.

  May I fly a drone at one of your preserves?

Drones may not be flown at SWMLC preserves without permission or invitation. We try to make our nature preserves into safe refuges for wildlife, and some birds (notably eagles, hawks, and owls) may feel threatened by drones, especially during nesting season.

  Stay on trails

This helps prevent erosion problems and protects delicate wildflowers and other plants from being trampled.


  Do you have something to report?

If you find something that isn’t right – such as vandalism, dumping or a trail blocked by a fallen tree – please contact us via email. You will be helping us and your community! For emergencies, please call 911.


land protection

I would like to protect my land, how do I get started?

Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy protects land forever. One of our main tools for doing this is through conservation easements, which protect a property’s development rights in perpetuity, no matter who owns it in the future. Creating a conservation easement is a lengthy legal process that involves many steps and often includes significant financial costs. And no matter how much we wish we could protect it all, the time and financial barriers involved in protecting land forever make that impossible and force us to choose which properties to protect based on a variety of factors. Please see our page “How to Protect Your Land” for more information.

wild animals

Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy does not accept wild animals nor provide advice about their removal or care.

Please click this link for a list of licensed Michigan wildlife rehabbers.


Can I hunt on a SWMLC preserve?

Hunting and/or trapping are not allowed on SWMLC preserves without permission from SWMLC staff. Hunters that have been given permission to hunt at a SWMLC preserve as part of our ecological management plans are required to post their presence at the preserve entrance and remove signage when they leave. PLEASE NOTE: All of our hunting slots are currently filled and turnover is very infrequent. You may add your name to the waiting list, but please understand that the list is very long and it is unlikely that you will be contacted in the near future.

Nature has our backs. Let’s return the favor.

Our public preserves remain free and open from dawn to dusk – and your support helps keep them that way!