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

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"I've Always Felt This Way"

Protecting Nature in Barry County

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

Do something good for nature and donate to SWMLC today!

"I've Always Felt This Way"

Protecting Nature in Barry County

Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy recently protected another 76 acres near the Barry State Game Area  – thanks to the conservation spirit of its owner and generosity of Tyden Ventures.

Like so many of us, Rebecca Young is happiest when she’s doing stuff outdoors. She stays busy with outdoor projects and keeps a daily date with her property, walking the trails round the seasons with her pack of sweet German short-haired pointers and strengthening ties to her land.

That land is certainly special. Picturesque old oaks, hickories, beeches, tulip poplars, and white pines grow on the high, rolling ridges. From these wooded hills, tree branches frame calendar-caliber views of neighboring pastures and farms. The main walking trail dips down to a forested wetland where a tributary to Glass Creek is fed by clean groundwater, and gently flows among blue beeches and yellow birches. It’s a beautiful place. 

But what makes it truly unique is an odd arrangement of geology and hydrology that results in the surprisingly close proximity of a bog and a fen, two very different and highly sensitive wetland habitats, separated only by a low ridge.

Settled into a low area, the bog is a classic example of its kind, with characteristic humps of sphagnum moss surrounded by a moat of open water. Because it is cut off from the life-giving minerals and oxygen of ground water sources by some quirk of geology, the bog is fed only by surface runoff and its water has turned acidic over time. This acidity slows the decomposition of the sphagnum moss, resulting in distinctive, thick layers “peat.” Only a few bog-specific plant species can tolerate this environment, such as the uncommon Virginia chain fern.

NWS Young | Purple-stem Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea),photo by Ryan Hodnett, under Creative Commons ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) license.

But just over the ridge, there’s the fen, which is fed by mineral-rich groundwater and is a hotbed of plant diversity. Many species grow here, including the uncommon purple-stem angelica, which can grow to 10 feet tall in just one summer! 

“In my line of work, I’ve observed that bogs and fens are very uncommon in southern Michigan and rarely occur in such proximity to each other anywhere in Michigan,” remarked Keto Gyekis, SWMLC Board member and Wetland Identification Program Coordinator with Michigan EGLE. “Preservation is especially important, as these ecological systems cannot be effectively restored if they become severely degraded.”

Though Rebecca admits to not knowing a lot about bogs and fens, she still knew from the start that her Barry County property was special. With an eye toward preservation, she slowly expanded her original 12-acre purchase to 76 acres by buying the beautiful property behind it in pieces over time.

Knowing that she wanted to conserve her property, a mutual friend introduced Rebecca to Emily Wilke, Conservation Projects  Manager at Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. Emily was pleased to learn that Rebecca’s land was located directly across the road from another protected property, a small separate part of Michigan Audubon’s Otis Lake Sanctuary. “We set a goal back in 2009 with our conservation partners to conserve 20% more land – or 2,000 acres – in and around the Barry State Game Area in 10 years’ time. It may take a little longer than we expected but we’re still inching our way there and, collectively, we’ve conserved about 1,300 acres so far. Rebecca’s 76 acres will push us that much closer towards our goal.”

But even with the best of intentions, land purchases are costly and Rebecca found that she wasn’t in the financial position to easily transfer the property. It looked tricky until Tyden Ventures learned of the predicament. Passionate about protecting nature locally, Tyden generously provided funding that enabled SWMLC to buy the property from Rebecca. And in this particular win-win deal, technically called a ‘life estate’, Rebecca will be able to live on this private property for as long as she wishes, and rest easy knowing that it will be protected forever.

When asked why she cares so much about protecting her land, Rebecca reflects that she has been a naturalist since she was a girl, from before she even knew the word. Then her voice grows firm, “I hate to see humans ransack the land for short term profit and then just throw it away. Humans should not destroy the natural world. I’ve always felt this way.”

Becky & Thunder, photo by White Photography, Hastings | NWS-Young-FI

Rebecca and her dog, Thunder

Thank you for your generosity and conservation spirit, Rebecca and Tyden Ventures!


Photos by Amelia Hansen and White Photography of Hastings.

This is what we do. SWMLC helps people like Rebecca Young explore their land protection options to see if conservation is right for them and, 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 30 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, Hilary Hunt or Emily Wilke for a confidential conversation.

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