Land Conservancy invites community to learn about Portman Nature Preserve near Mattawan

 Do you have a vision for the Portman Nature Preserve in Almena and Antwerp townships?

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC) invites residents to a meeting where they can learn about the forthcoming Portman Nature Preserve and share ideas about the property. 

The meeting takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 11 at Mattawan Middle School.

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy purchased the property earlier this year, but there still is a lot to do before it can be opened for the public, says Pete Ter Louw, SWMLC President and Executive Director. 
 
“This initial public meeting is an opportunity for the community to tell us about some of the ways they envision the Portman Nature Preserve becoming part of their community, and help us to plan for its future use,” Ter Louw says.
 
With assistance from a U.S. Forest Service grant, the Portman Nature Preserve will also be designated a “community forest” in which significant natural resources are protected. The designation also provides public access and recreational benefits to the community. There will be learning opportunities based in the forest and it will serve as a model for effective and sustainable forest stewardship.
 
As part of creating the community forest, SWMLC is reaching out to the community for feedback on the draft community forest plan. The plan will be available for review at the meeting. The meeting also will be a chance for the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy to learn the ways in which the Portman Nature Preserve can add to the quality of life for people in the region and how it can help to create healthier and more livable neighborhoods.
 
SWMLC is working to create spaces for the public to enjoy in the forest without adversely impacting the natural area's rarest and most threatened species. SWMLC aims to provide access for outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, bird-watching, snowshoeing, trail-running, plein air painting, and more at the preserve.

So far, the nature preserve has not been to the public, but SWMLC has begun working with the Mattawan Schools to develop the preserve as an outdoor classroom for Mattawan’s K-12 students. Former Mattawan Middle School Principal Bill McNulty has been very involved in helping to introduce teachers and students to the preserve, and to show them the many possibilities for student enrichment in subjects such as science, art, math, and language arts.
 
“We are so excited to share this amazing natural area with the public, and we look forward to talking with folks about their hopes and dreams for the property,” says SWMLC Conservation and Stewardship Director Nate Fuller. “We want to create a nature preserve that not only protects the incredible biodiversity and natural features of this property, but also serves as an outdoor classroom for local students, and a natural space for the community to connect with nature and each other.”
 
On Saturday, May 20 SWMLC will have a Saturday “Sneak Peek” event for the public to visit the new Portman Nature Preserve for the first time, and to learn more about the property’s rare biodiversity, water resources, and how SWMLC will care for the property and help restore it.

The project came about through a massive collaboration of local, state, and federal organizations. It was made possible by Gerald and Julie Portman, The Conservation Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Enbridge Energy Limited Partnership, the U.S. Forest Service, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and The Carls Foundation. Further,  200 individual donors and friends of SWMLC met The Carls Foundation’s $75,000 matching grant challenge issued in late autumn of 2016, to raise $150,000 to go toward the project.
 
SWMLC identified the 188-acre property as a high priority site for conservation almost a decade ago. The Portman Nature Preserve part of a critical headwater region in the Paw Paw River Watershed and also helps provide clean and abundant water to the region, and ultimately to Lake Michigan. It is also home to an incredible diversity of plants and animals.
 
If SWMLC is able raises the final $75,000 it needs to complete the public access infrastructure to build a safe parking area and entry trail system, SWMLC hopes that the preserve will open to the public in early fall.
 
To learn more about the Portman Nature Preserve and how you can help the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy complete this project, please visit www.swmlc.org.

Source: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy
           
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