ACRES Michigan site

ACRES Land Trust will protect this site in Hillsdale County, Michigan, as its first site in Michigan.

HUDSON, Michigan — ACRES Land Trust recently acquired 78 acres of rolling Hillsdale County land for permanent protection, the organization said.

Kauffman Nature Sanctuary became ACRES’ first Michigan property, bringing its total of permanently protected land to 7,230 acres in the tri-state area. ACRES will open trails on the preserve this fall.

“We’re excited to respond to people’s desire to protect local land,” said Jason Kissel, executive director of the nonprofit ACRES, founded in 1960. “After 60 years of success in Indiana and Ohio, with Kauffman Nature Sanctuary, ACRES is able to demonstrate our work in Michigan, ensuring a local living legacy for generations. We’re eager to engage Michigan folks who want to help.”

Once ACRES Land Trust protects a property, the nonprofit will never sell or transfer the deed. In addition to nature preserves, ACRES Land Trust also protects working lands such as farms or timber stands. Land donors typically give land to the nonprofit by donation or bargain sale, though occasionally ACRES will purchase property at market value to protect unique places, as funding is available.

Janet Kauffman purchased the Kauffman Nature Sanctuary land with an adjoining farmhouse in 1977, raising two boys there and farming the former front hayfields for more than a decade.

“It’s a place that’s been transformed through those years from rectangular farm fields and a straight-line lane to the present meandering footpaths, wetlands and grasslands,” Kauffman said.

In 1998, through the USDA’s Wetland Reserve Program, Kauffman had several farm drainage tiles broken on the land, restoring five pre-settlement wetlands. Sedges, willows and cattails moved in, restoring habitat where green heron and sandhill cranes have nested.

At the back of the property, one of Michigan’s headwater streams of Lake Erie winds through a forest with several large pawpaw patches and a rich floodplain. Thirteen species of freshwater mussels have been documented in the stream, including the slippershell mussel, which is threatened in Michigan.

When transferring her property, Kauffman marveled at the reassurance of handing the complete property abstract to its final owner, ACRES said.

“After changing hands so many times since the early 1800s, it’s wonderful to know that ACRES holds it now, in perpetuity. There’s peace and real joy in that. The amazing life of this place will go on as itself, season after season after season,” Kauffman said in a news release from ACRES.

The former Kauffman farmhouse, barn and two acres are not protected and will be sold, with proceeds to benefit ACRES Land Trust. In addition to protecting land, the nonprofit also receives land from donors as investments to be sold to support the nonprofit’s mission.

ACRES will open Kauffman Nature Sanctuary trails in the fall with a grand-opening event.

On some of its protected lands, the nonprofit offers trails open daily, dawn to dusk, to demonstrate the value of relatively undisturbed natural places.

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