“A Personal Conservation Ethic:” Chairman’s Column, April 2018

A Personal Conservation Ethic

Like you, I love Leelanau. We’ve traveled a good bit, but Linda and I chose Leelanau for our part-time residence over 30 years ago, and it’s where we have lived full time since 2010. It simply feels great to be here, and it still seems new.

But why Leelanau? What, exactly, are the sources of our feelings and our dedication to conserving this place?

I got some insight into the sources of my love for Leelanau and my conservation ethic through an exercise during an educational session at the 2017 Land Trust Alliance Rally in Denver. We were asked to turn to the person sitting next to us and in 60 seconds describe why we were committed to conservation. It was easy to do, and I immediately offered a number of logical, science-based reasons, such as preserving biodiversity, protecting important watersheds, etc. Then, we were asked to do it again, but this time make it personal—dig deeper, for the things that were unique to each of us. This took a few moments of reflection, and it’s where the exercise paid off. Here are the first two things that came to mind.

I grew up in a small town on the shore of Lake Erie, west of Cleveland. We lived near the edge of town, and it was easy to get to a wooded area just outside the city limits. I have no idea who owned it, but that’s where my friends and I spent a lot of our free time. I can still remember doing “civil engineering” projects trying to dam the small creek, tracking animals, and watching birds that weren’t seen in the city. These woods were our default location for fun, year-round.

For probably ten years running, my parents would take our family up to a lodge on a small lake about 100 miles north of Toronto for our summer vacation. This covered the period from when I was probably 5 years old until I was 15. It was an old, wooden lodge, that was accessible only by a two-track over some rugged terrain. Our heavily loaded car often bottomed out getting there and, once there, we stayed put. I have many vivid memories of the place, including the “Kodachrome” air, the dark skies, the clear and very cool water of the lake, and the coniferous forest. That’s where I first encountered the wonderful scent of pine straw in the woods on a warm, sunny day.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I now know that the north, in a very pure sense, was being imprinted in me by these youthful experiences. That’s why I need to be up here, and why it’s important to me to preserve Leelanau for future generations. Southern Michigan is wonderful, but it isn’t Leelanau.

Dig deep, and make it personal—what’s your reason for being up here, and being involved? I’d love to hear your story the next time we meet.–Ed Ketterer, Leelanau Conservancy Chairman of the Board. April, 2018


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