Efforts to conserve northern Michigan’s rural landscape just got a huge boost from the federal government. An $8-million dollar grant is headed to a coalition of local conservation groups.
The money will help preserve local farmland and restore waterways. It comes through a part of the federal farm bill authored by Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow.
“This is a really exciting new beginning," says Glen Chown of the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. "I think it will change the face of conservation going forward, for the better.”
Chown says the partnership formed with his group, the Leelanau Conservancy and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians is “unprecedented.”
D.J. Shook is a biologist who works for the Grand Traverse Band, which took the lead in lobbying for the federal grant. He says the money will be used to place conservation easements on farmland that borders Grand Traverse Bay.
“There’s water quality benefits to keeping land in a rural state, and a major portion of the economy of this region has been built around the agricultural landscape that we enjoy," says Shook.
Chown says rural conservation has become an issue that draws bipartisan support in Congress.
“It makes our work in our region a national priority," he says. "It puts a stamp that this is important to the entire nation.”