Community forest to provide public natural area in Van Buren County

Habitat for rare and endangered species and a recreation area for people living in Kalamazoo, Mattawan, and Paw Paw soon will be the benefits of a community forest in Van Buren County.

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy has been awarded $150,000 from a U.S. Forest Service program to acquire the property for the Lime Lake Community Forest by 2017. At that point the forest will be open to the public. A parking lot and other amenities will be added at a later date.

The forest also will be managed to improve and maintain habitat for rare and endangered species, such as Mitchell’s satyr – one of the world’s rarest butterflies, found only in Michigan and Indiana.

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy is working with the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Conservation Fund, and Michigan Department of Natural Resources to acquire 189-acre community forest.

The application for funds from the U.S. Forest Service to preserve the forest was submitted by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. To qualify for a grant, projects had to ensure public access to the protected lands, and the communities had to be involved in the process of developing a forest plan.

The proposed plans for the area will ensure that sustainable forest practices are implemented and long-term management goals for the forest are met, says Bill O’Neill, Michigan’s state forester.

“This project protects phenomenal resources for wildlife and will allow us to create permanent public access to nature in an underserved area of southwest Michigan and share forest stewardship and restoration information with our visitors,” says Peter Ter Louw, executive director for the land conservancy.

Sources: The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy
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