- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

DELTON, Mich. (AP) - A Delton couple has protected 300 acres of land in Barry County by selling their developmental rights to the state.

Karl and Dana Smith own the sprawling parcel of land that’s now permanently preserved through the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. The land has remained undeveloped for nearly 70 years and contains two lakes, swampland, forests and creeks.

“(The land) is beautiful,” Karl Smith said. “It has the lakes, the swamp and woods, a lot of rare birds, turkey and deer.”

The Smith property is the fifth-largest to be preserved in the region, said Emily Wilke, the organization’s conservation projects manager.

“The property is 1/3 wetland or lake and contains 100 acres of open water and a pristine creek system,” Wilke said. “Any block of land like this with significant wetlands is going to be a high priority (for conservation).”

In order to preserve the land, the couple sold its developmental rights to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, she said. The department will mandate how much of the land can be developed in order to maintain the quality of the region’s stream system, the Kalamazoo Gazette (https://bit.ly/1v94dyh ) reported.

The department will fund a conservation easement of the property to determine where and how the land can be developed for years to come, Wilke said.

“There will only be one house on the 300 acres,” Wilke said. “There are other (conservation) rules in place to ensure the property doesn’t degrade over time. For example, if anyone wanted to go cut down some trees they’d have to follow forestry guidelines and do it in a way that’s sustainable.”

Wilke said the Smiths are true conservationists for giving up three-fourths of the value of their development rights.

The conservancy is dedicated to preserving land throughout nine counties in the southwestern part of the state. Wilke says the organization has protected nearly 13,000 acres of land since 1991.

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Information from: Kalamazoo Gazette, https://www.mlive.com/kalamazoo


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