Dechow Family Preserves Land in Bohemian Valley

Conservation Heroes Protect 105 Acres in Bohemian Valley

Paul Dechow’s ancestors were among the first Europeans to settle in Leelanau. His relatives bear the names of Shalda and Basch, Kelderhouse and Kessel, one of the founding families of North Unity. In fact his great-great grandfather, Friederich Dechow, in 1857 purchased the land known today as the iconic Dechow farm along M22. It is now part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Paul Dechow (left) with son Ian stand in front of 105 acres in the Bohemian Valley that they have forever preserved with a donated conservation easement.

His deep love for the county inspired Paul and his wife, Joanne Blum, to donate a conservation easement on 105 acres in the Bohemian Valley. Their conservation easement protects wildlife habitat, a scenic ridgeline, and wetlands that are important to Good Harbor Bay’s clean water. Paul says he regularly sees deer and turkey; bobcat, coyotes, grouse and bear on occasion.

The property was once farmed and Paul is researching what crops he might grow there again someday. “The land borders Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and, if not preserved would be a prime spot for development, which would impact the scenic values of the Bohemian Valley,” says Matt Heiman, Director of Land Programs for the Leelanau Conservancy.

The couple lives in Dallas where Paul is Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Texas A & M University College of Dentistry.  Joanne is an oncologist who specializes in breast cancer treatment and genetic counseling. They purchased the land, originally settled by Paul’s great-great uncle, Frank Shalda, back in 1985 at auction.  They spend as much time in Leelanau County as they can.

“It’s hard to put into words what it means for me to spend time here,” says Paul, gazing off toward the distant ridgeline. “This has always been home, and it was for my parents as well, who met at St. Paul’s church in Good Harbor.”

The couple has long wanted to protect the land, and now was the right time. “Our main motive was to keep the land in its original state, for future generations,” says Joanne.

A more in-depth story about this family will appear in the Spring 2018 Newsletter/2017 Annual Report

What is a Conservation Easement:

For more information about protecting your land, visit or contact Matt Heiman, Director of Land Programs at or 231-256-9665.

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