Burns Prairie

Posted on August 8, 2022

by Isaac Smith

Michigan’s lower peninsula used to contain tens of thousands of acres of mesic (moist) prairie. Now only 2% remains. The Michigan Natural Features Inventory even advises those looking for mesic prairies to look “along railroad tracks and adjacent to cemeteries” because “no remaining sites occur on lands accessible to the public”. Instead of wandering around train tracks or braving a paranormal experience to enjoy a mesic prairie, one could visit Burns Prairie Preserve. Unfortunately the prairie is not naturally occurring, but it has been restored to mimic the original mesic prairies in this area. The 12 acre property was originally donated to Chikaming Open Lands in 2012 by Lloyd and Pat Burns. It expanded in 2019 and 2020 when Chikaming Open Lands purchased an additional 26 acres. Since then the prairie has had time to develop and mature. Burns Prairie is a small but important step in the quest to restore Michigan prairies. 

Ryan Postema named new Executive Director

Posted on November 4, 2016

We are pleased to announce that Ryan Postema has been appointed Executive Director of Chikaming Open Lands.

Following the sudden passing of Chris Thompson in June of this year, a Search Committee was appointed by the Board to conduct a nationwide search to fill the position.  After a comprehensive process that spanned three months and resulted in applications from around the country, the Committee recommended, and the Board of Directors unanimously approved, the selection of Ryan.

As many of you know, Ryan Postema has been the Land Protection Specialist at Chikaming Open Lands for the past three years. In that capacity he has had primary responsibility for land protection and stewardship projects. He has also participated in a variety of other aspects of the organization, from education projects to development and marketing activities. Prior to joining Chikaming Open Lands, Ryan spent eight years working for Cardno, an international environmental consulting firm, where he managed and implemented large-scale ecosystem restoration and native landscaping projects. 

I hope you will join us in welcoming Ryan to his new position as Executive Director. His transition into this leadership role is extremely positive for Chikaming Open Lands and for the community as a whole. 

With Ryan's leadership and the support of our dedicated members and friends, we look forward to continuing our conservation work in Southwest Michigan.

Village of Michiana and Chikaming Open Lands partner to protect 11 acres of critical dune and beach

Posted on November 4, 2016

On August 15, 2016 Chikaming Open Lands and the Village of Michiana completed a project which placed a conservation easement on approximately 11 acres of Village-owned property on the Lake Michigan shore. The easement, which was donated to Chikaming Open Lands by the Village, protects this very valuable beach and critical dune area in its natural state forever. 

This project marks the first lakefront property that we have protected, and it is also the first conservation easement agreement between the conservancy and a municipality in the area. The easement extinguishes the residential development rights on the 11 acres, while ensuring the dunes and beach remain Village-owned and open to the community for recreational use.

“The easement area includes a nice stretch of critical dune and beach”, said Land Protection Specialist Ryan Postema. “The lakefront in our area has become highly developed with a large portion of the land privately-owned, so not only are we protecting a unique dune ecosystem and important wildlife habitat, we are also helping to preserve the scenic view and public access to Lake Michigan, one of our greatest natural resources.”  While the conservation easement was a full donation by the Village of Michiana, project costs like surveys, an environmental assessment, legal fees and closing costs were funded in part by The Pokagon Fund through a $17,000 grant to the Village, as well as 14 donors residing in the Village who contributed $6,200 to the project.  The project came to the attention of Chikaming Open Lands' late executive director Chris Thompson three years ago. While attending a Pokagon Fund service event, Village of Michiana Council President Tim Iverson met Thompson, who introduced him to the concept of what a conservation easement could mean for the Village of Michiana. “With the strong support from our Village residents, we were able to complete this ambitious project to place conservation easements on more than 40 parcels of open land along the lakefront”, said Iverson. “By partnering with COL to protect its lakefront, the Village has created a living legacy to the Village of Michiana and its residents while preserving the natural beauty of Lake Michigan's shores for generations to come.” 

Getting our school kids outside and immersed in nature with the Mighty Acorns program

Posted on November 4, 2016

Not only do we protect and restore natural open spaces in our community, Chikaming Open Lands is inspiring the next generation of nature enthusiasts and conservationists. 

We are taking on a wonderful new initiative to get our local elementary school children excited about nature and the environment around them. The Mighty Acorns program is an environmental education curriculum that engages students and teachers in field studies and hands-on learning opportunities in one of the greatest classrooms in the world: nature! It's a great way to develop smart and happy kids who appreciate the natural world. 

Starting this fall, we have launched the Mighty Acorns right here in this area with the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades at River Valley Elementary School. The kids will be doing fall, winter and spring field studies tied to the Mighty Acorns curriculum in our very own Robinson Woods Preserve. We are so excited and enthusiastic about the program, and the teachers are too! We will post updates and photos after our first round of fall field trips this November, so stay tuned!

304 Acres in Berrien Township: Our Largest Conservation Easement Ever!

Posted on March 12, 2015

In late December, we received a donation of a conservation easement on 304 acres consisting of high-quality wetlands, woods, lakes and prime farmland in Berrien Township. The property is one of the few undivided and undeveloped parcels of its size remaining in Berrien County, making it a significant acquisition for us!

"With acres of rolling agricultural fields, two lakes, mature woodlands of beech-maple, oak-hickory and sycamore, sedge meadows and extensive wetlands, this property is really something special," says COL executive director Chris Thompson. "Berrien County has lost almost 60 percent of its original wetlands, which are critical to improving water quality, protecting wildlife habitat and minimizing potential flooding. This conservation easement protects more than 100 acres of high quality wetlands, and that alone makes this a very important project for us."

The conservation easement, which extinguishes the development rights on the 304 acres in perpetuity, was a full donation by the landowners, Kevin and Michelle Mize. "Rare pieces of property like this will continue to get more scarce as the population grows," says Kevin. "This easement will protect the land from development and preserve (natural) habitat for fish, birds, mammals, plants and trees…for generations to come." Kevin says his family enjoys spending time on the two lakes on the property. He is also creating trails through the property so that he and his children can enjoy the hardwood forest and the unusual flowers that bloom in the wetland areas.

Aside from being the largest land protection project we've ever completed,its the largest donation we've ever had the privilege to accept. And, of course, it's a stunning tract of land... we couldn't be more excited!