Grant to protect Barry County's High Bank Creek Property goes to Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

A 140-acre property with 4,000 feet of frontage on High Bank Creek, a tributary of the Thornapple River in Barry County, will be protected by the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy after it has received a $116,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (DEGLE). 

The grant will be used to purchase a permanent conservation easement on the property to ensure that the land remains in its natural state in perpetuity. 

“Conserving this land is important to preventing erosion issues that occur with residential or other types of development,” says Barry Conservation District Executive Director Sarah Nelson. “As the name indicates, the banks on this portion of the creek are extremely high and therefore especially vulnerable to erosion. 

“Keeping this property undeveloped helps to safeguard against the possibility of excessive stormwater runoff that can cause soil from the banks to fall into the creek, damaging the ecology as well as the water quality of the creek and the Thornapple River system,” Nelson says. 

The High Bank Creek subwatershed is a high priority for reducing sediment and temperature in the Thornapple River Watershed Management Plan.

In addition to the High Bank Creek, which meanders through the property’s high-quality oak-hickory forest, the property’s diverse topography also includes wetlands and restored prairie, both of which provide important habitat for native and migrating wildlife, including migratory songbirds. 

Conserving the forest through which the High Bank Creek flows also means protecting the trees whose shade helps keep the river temperature down, and therefore more viable as habitat for native aquatic species.

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC) has been working with the landowner for several years to conserve this land which has been identified as a high priority for conservation. The landowner was intent on conserving her land from the beginning, also recognizing the value of the property for protecting the quality of the High Bank Creek and the Thornapple River, as well as assisting groundwater recharge and providing habitat for native wildlife.

“SWMLC is grateful to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy for providing the grant funds to make conservation of this important property possible,” says Emily Wilke, Conservation Projects Manager for the land conservancy. “And we are encouraged and inspired by the landowner’s patience and perseverance as we worked together to conserve her land through a permanent conservation easement, ensuring that this land will be protected for future generations.”

Under a conservation easement, the parcel of land stays in private ownership, and protects the conservation values of the property by prohibiting certain types of development and other activities that would harm them. 

Besides ensuring that the property will be conserved in perpetuity, placing a conservation easement on a property often makes the landowner eligible for substantial tax benefits. 

This conservation easement reflects work that SWMLC has been doing in the region for decades. Over the last two years, SWMLC has helped conserve over 5,107 acres in Barry County. This brings the total amount of land SWMLC has conserved to 15,769 acres, or over 24 ½ square miles.

To find out how you can conserve your land, or to learn more about Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, please visit the SWMLC website at or SWML’s Facebook page.

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy serves the nine counties of southwest Michigan, and has worked with regional landowners to protect over 15,000 acres since its inception as an all-volunteer organization in 1991. The Conservancy currently has nine staff and 150 active volunteers and is supported by over 1,250 household memberships.

Source: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy