About Us

Our mission: Conserving the land, water and scenic character of Leelanau County

The Leelanau Conservancy is a 501 (c) 3 organization founded in 1988. We opened our doors in 1988 with a big dream and a small group of individuals dedicated to the idea that the Leelanau Peninsula is a place that deserved our best efforts to protect its unique landscapes. We believed that with commitment and hard work, we could be successful in harnessing the love that people have for Leelanau into finding ways to protect land forever. Thus the Leelanau Conservancy was born.

Since then, the Leelanau Conservancy has been devoted to protecting the land and water that make the Leelanau Peninsula one of the most unique and beautiful areas in the U.S. We have preserved over 13,000 acres and created 25 Natural Areas for public enjoyment with more than 15 miles of hiking trails. Our latest project? The spectacular 721-acre Palmer Woods Forest Reserve near Glen Arbor, which opened in February, 2016. Eventually, Palmer Woods will have miles and miles of hiking and ski trails. We have also worked with over 200 landowners to protect family farms and cherished private lands with legal agreements called conservation easements. These agreements restrict development and protect the land’s most important natural features. Our priorities include:

Protecting Leelanau’s natural lands and water quality:  Spectacular sand dunes rising from Lake Michigan, pristine inland lakes, towering hardwood forests and landscapes shaped by the glaciers all contribute to Leelanau’s unique beauty. Leelanau’s assets provide many benefits to its people and wildlife. Wetlands filter water to help to preserve our lakes and streams and are home to vast ecosystems, including habitat where the endangered Michigan Monkey Flower thrives. Forests are a haven for eagles and otters, deer and bear, showy lady slippers. All manner of birds gather at the tip of the peninsula to feed and rest before making their way across Lake Michigan during their bi-annual migrations. We must protect these special natural assets for future generations.

Preserving Leelanau’s family farms: Leelanau’s farms provide both an abundance of fresh and nutritious local foods, as well as commercial crops of cherries, wine grapes, apples and other fruit.  CSA’s thrive here and small-scale, value-added agriculture fuels our local economy. Productive farmland, uniquely suited to growing cherries and other fruit, add to the features that make the Leelanau Peninsula a treasured place. We must ensure that farmland is available to future generations and that our agricultural heritage is preserved. To date, over 5,000 acres of working family farms have forever been preserved.

Caring for the lands we have protected: Stewardship of Conservancy natural areas includes regular maintenance like clearing new trails and monitoring for invasive species. We must also work with private landowners on an ongoing basis to ensure that conservation agreements are upheld, and that the natural features are forever protected.

Residents and visitors alike find Leelanau a place to call home, taking pride in our charming small towns and tight-knit communities. Each person cherishes this area in his or her own personal way.  But the common feature is the land and water, which gives us beauty, serenity, inspiration, recreation, employment and a sense of community.  The Leelanau Conservancy works to understand those landscapes that are essential to the uniqueness and way of life of the Leelanau Peninsula, and to permanently protect them.

But we can’t do it without the help of our members and volunteers. How can you help? Become a member today!  Join here.

Leelanau Conservancy at a glance:

In a column he wrote for our 20th Anniversary in 2008, our founding Executive Director, Brian Price tells our story.

Meet our Board

Currently, 20 people in addition to our founders and honorary chairman bring their hearts, minds and resources together around the table to preserve the best of Leelanau.

View our board members

Meet our Director

View our director’s page

Tom Nelson, Executive Director, took the helm as the Leelanau Conservancy’s executive director in January 2015.

Meet our Founders

Ed and Bobbie Collins’ vision over two decades ago was an incredible gift to everyone who loves Leelanau.

View our founders

Meet our Staff

The Leelanau Conservancy staff and board is committed to protecting and preserving fragile and sensitive lands in Leelanau County.

View our staff