The Leelanau Conservancy is happy to announce that it has been awarded a $452,877 grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) that will help to keep Grand Traverse Bay clean and healthy.

The grant will be used to purchase conservation easements from willing landowners whose land is located within a 68-square-mile area along Grand Traverse Bay in Leelanau County, part of the “Grand Traverse Bay Watershed.” The Leelanau portion of the watershed takes in the myriad small streams and groundwater seeps flowing into West Bay from Leelanau County—as well as 47 miles of shoreline.

The goal of the MDEQ grant is to protect and maintain high water quality and to provide habitat for wildlife. The Conservancy anticipates that the funds will permanently protect about 98 acres. By preserving these natural resources, Matt Heiman, Director of Conservancy Land Programs, estimates that approximately 7.2 tons of sediment, 313 pounds of nitrogen and 31 pounds of phosphorus will be prevented from loading into the watershed annually.

“Large portions of the east side of Leelanau County along M-22 have been converted from farms and forest into subdivisions because of desirable bay views and proximity to Traverse City,” Heiman says. “The grant will help us to protect some of the remaining natural lands that are critical to clean water and wildlife habitat.”

Conservation easement properties remain in private hands and are not open to the public, but the permanent protection of life-giving wetlands, forested slopes and stream corridors will help maintain the water quality that draws both residents and visitors alike. Each conservation easement is customized to fit individual landowner’s desired uses for their land, provided that they are compatible with its preservation.

The grant funds awarded to this project will fund up to 50 percent of the cost to purchase permanent conservation easements over two priority parcels. Landowners in Leelanau who are interested in preserving their property within the Grand Traverse Bay Watershed should contact Matt Heiman, Director of Land Programs, at 231-256-9665 or

—Press Release provided by The Leelanau Conservancy

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Photo(s) by Eric Munson