Tom Nelson Annual Report Column - The Leelanau Conservancy

Tom Nelson Annual Report Column

The things that make us different are what make us beautiful. –Unknown 

I think of Leelanau’s forests, wetlands, and meadows teeming with a prolific array of wild plants and animals, the family farms that help to nourish us, and our lakes and streams that sustain both people and vast aquatic freshwater systems. The eminent biologist and author, E.O. Wilson who passed away at the close of 2021, spoke of this diversity. “The assembly of life that took a billion years to evolve. It has eaten the storms—folded them into its genes—and created the world that created us. It holds the world steady.”  

And the same can be said for humans—the two-legged creatures of our world. At the Leelanau Conservancy, we believe the outdoors is for everyone. We strive to honor and celebrate our community’s diversity by enabling public access to Leelanau’s special places. Our natural areas are free to everyone, welcoming people from all walks of life to connect with nature, each other, and enhance their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Our conservation efforts preserve the Peninsula’s farms, which are locally owned and are providing locally grown produce to our community. We conserve forest lands and shoreline that are helping to keep our high-functioning ecosystems intact and the waters that surround us drinkable, swimmable, and fishable. We manage our natural areas and preserves to promote climate resilience. 

When I consider the enormity of the diversity here in our little corner of the planet, I cannot help but feel a surge of emotion—of wonder and gratitude. Because of you, Leelanau—which by the way graces the cover of the latest edition of the Oxford World Atlas—remains a special place on Planet Earth. In 2021, you helped the Conservancy complete conservation projects permanently preserving no less than 11 amazing places in Leelanau County, including 4 family farms and 6 natural land projects in 6 different townships. Wow. 

Our gratitude to you knows no bounds. We are doing this together. Without a doubt, we could not achieve the success we have without you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. 

At the same time, we are facing threats like never before in the Peninsula’s history—climate volatility, agricultural pests and diseases, economic and social pressures. Also, the pandemic- and climate-influenced demographic shifts have created a searing-hot real estate and vacation-rental market that are simultaneously squeezing Leelanau’s year-round and seasonal workforce. These forces are accelerating the need to do more to wisely conserve lands that help keep our waters clean, our ecosystems high-functioning and local food on our tables while allowing for infill development in and near our existing villages. 

As we look to the future—both in the short and longer-term—your Conservancy vows to continue to step up to the challenges we face. We are saving Leelanau’s most special places at a record pace because we simply must. Failing to do so risks losing them forever. Already, we have more than 20 new projects in the works, with more to come. 

The time is now. Together we will continue to take great strides forward to save the best of the Peninsula. The combination of our driving passion for Leelanau, the use of innovative approaches and good old-fashioned can-do work ethic, and your moral and philanthropic support, is a force to be reckoned with. It is yet one more difference that sets this community apart from the rest of the world and makes Leelanau truly beautiful. 



Thomas Nelson 

Executive Director