Family donates land for Clare County’s newest nature preserve

Clare County is home to a new 80-acre nature preserve, the first for the Chippewa Watershed Conservancy in the rural county.

What’s happening: In 2022, the Weting family signed a conservation easement with the Chippewa Watershed Conservancy to protect their land in perpetuity before eventually making the decision to donate the property to the organization. The property had been in the same family for nearly 100 years. The preserve will be known as the Howard and Hazel Weting Preserve and is open to the public. A two-track runs through the property from northwest to southeast before exiting onto private land.  There are no other trails on the property.

Why we care: The preserve, located on West Monroe Road in Freeman Township, is covered with pine, oak, maple, and aspen, providing habitat for wildlife such as deer, turkey, grouse, porcupine, and many species of resident and migratory birds. “One of the best things about this property is that it has been consistently managed in a way that is beneficial to wildlife and native plants for nearly 100 years,” says Mike LeValley, executive director of the Chippewa Watershed Conservancy. 

The Weting family planted thousands of native red pines over the decades and recently had developed a forest management plan for the property that focused on a limited harvest of trees to promote the regeneration of certain species and to create a mixed-age forest that provides habitat for a variety of wildlife species.  “These efforts have paid off,” LeValley says. “We've already found evidence of many common wildlife species including deer, coyote, raccoon, skunk, wild turkey, and ruffed grouse, plus numerous resident and migratory songbirds.  Recently, we placed a trail camera on the property and we were pleased to see a bobcat (among other species).”

This preserve is the watershed conservancy’s first in Clare County but its 26th overall. The Conservancy has one preserve each in Gratiot and Montcalm counties, two in Mecosta County, and 21 in Isabella County. 

The back story: On August 15, 2023, John Weting of Mount Hood Parkdale, Oregon signed a deed transferring the property from Weting Land and Building, LLC to the Chippewa Watershed Conservancy. Weting said that the entire family lives on the West Coast now. “If we still lived in Marquette and could still easily visit several times a year, it might be a different story,” he said, “but I think we’re making the right decision in donating the land.”

Originally purchased in 1929 by Weting’s grandparents, Howard and Hazel Weting, the property remained in the family for the ensuing 94 years. During that time, the Weting family always managed the land as a habitat for wildlife and native plants.  

What’s next: The intent is that the property will remain primarily as a wildlife habitat.  “We have no plans to build trails or other improvements at this time,” LeValley says. “The property will remain open to the public although we expect limited use due to its location and lack of trails.”

About the Conservancy: The Chippewa Watershed Conservancy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit conservation group, is a nationally accredited land conservancy. Its mission is to protect and restore Central Michigan’s land, water, and wildlife resources to improve the quality of life for all. The conservancy’s service area is Clare, Gratiot, Isabella, Mecosta and Montcalm counties.

Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years. She is a regular contributor to Rural Innovation Exchange and other Issue Media Group publications. 
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