53 acres of western Washtenaw County wildlife habitat to be permanently preserved

Fifty-three acres of agricultural land and wildlife habitat in western Washtenaw County's Sharon Short Hills area is now permanently protected from development. Although it's not open to the public, the newly secured land in Sharon Township expands an existing 187-acre natural greenway in the area.

The acquisition is the result of a conservation easement between a private land owner and Legacy Land Conservancy (Legacy), a nonprofit conservation organization that offers permanent protection to privately owned land. Legacy Executive Director Diana Kern says the land's owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, was partly moved to sign the legal agreement because he recognized the property's value to the region, now and in the future.

"Even though the property is not open to the public, this land is very significant to everyone," Kern says. "It creates a wildlife habitat and corridor between two Washtenaw County preserves, it sequesters carbon because we won't be moving vegetation and cutting down trees, and it impacts water quality by filtering groundwater."

The land, which is located within the Huron River watershed near a public preserve, consists of emergent marsh, riverine and shrub wetlands, and forested uplands. As such, it provides a  valuable and contiguous habitat for a variety of wildlife and migratory birds such as Henslow’s sparrows, marsh wrens, black-crowned night herons, and hooded warblers.

"When people do these conservation easements on something like 53 acres, they're preserving a really interesting habitat for a mix of wetlands, grasslands, and prairie birds," Kern says. "I'm particularly excited because there's great data about how many songbirds we're losing, and what it essentially comes down to is the loss of habitat." 

Expanding on the benefits, she adds that the conservation easement means the area will be a stable stop for migrating birds, as well as a desirable spot for birds to forage and have babies and fledglings. 

While Legacy is celebrating the new conservation easement, the organization will also make a push to let residents know there are still plenty of opportunities available for conservation easements across Washtenaw County. 

"For residents that own land who don't have future plans for it, they can donate it to land trusts or municipalities. There's still lots of land that can be preserved and protected for the benefit of both wildlife and humans," Kern says. 

Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at jaishreeedit@gmail.com.

Photos courtesy of Legacy Land Conservancy.