Celebration honors committed conservationist at Bonamego Woods

In 2013, Louis Bonamego protected his 170-acre property through conservation easements with Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy.

The conservation easements ensure that the Bonamego Woods and Bonamego Farms properties will remain protected in their natural or agricultural state. They will forever provide undisturbed habitat for native wildlife and a local resource for agriculture.

Protecting his property, which includes an expansive wetland complex, means that Bonamego is also helping to protect the quality of water in the Paw Paw River Watershed, its surface waters, and the groundwater that supplies local drinking water for people in the area.  

His holistic management of his farm further safeguards water quality in the region and creates quality habitat for local plants and animals.

Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy officials say crop rotation, complementary planting, and environmentally-friendly management practices are all approaches that Bonamego uses to maximize his properties’ local food output, while also contributing to the health of the landscape, and providing area residents with healthy local food to eat.

The Land Conservancy is hosting a celebration Sunday, May 31, in honor of Bonamego's commitment to conservation. The day will include a morning bird walk (optional), a dedication ceremony, local food and refreshments.

There will be a nature and foraging hike led by Wild Ones and Bonamego Farms' Chom Tok "Nabe" Bowerman, “Queen of the Weeds” as she is known to local farmers market patrons.

The celebration will take place at the Bonamego Woods property, 1 mile west of the I-94 Decatur/Dowagiac exit and 1.5 miles east of the Lawrence exit on Red Arrow Highway from 10 a.m.-noon, Sunday, May 31. The bird walk begins at 9 a.m.

Bonamego credits his knowledge of the native plants growing on his land to Tom and Nancy Small who started the Kalamazoo chapter of Wild Ones to promote the use of native plants, and to Emma Pitcher.  With their help, and that of some regional botanists, he catalogued more than 300 species on the farm, a good portion of them native to the area.

“For many years, I used to walk these lanes, right by all these so-called weeds and not give them a second look,” says Bonamego. “My appreciation for these native plants has grown tremendously now that I understand all the value they have to our local wildlife."

The SWMLC partnered with the Van Buren Conservation District to seek funds through the Paw Paw/Black River Wetland Partnership Project and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to purchase the development rights and establish the easements that now protect the Bonamego property.

Source: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy