The Fisher family has been long time Conservancy supporters and champions for land protection in Leelanau for generations. A recent donation has provided both support and land protection in one fell swoop. The land we protect must meet specific conservation criteria. Much of these criteria revolve around biodiversity, ecological and aesthetic value. Sometimes, this is land that we seek out; other times, landowners contact us. The Fisher (Ball) family has been in Leelanau for decades. When they reached out in 2019 to Farm Protection Director Kim Hayes to look at a parcel they owned, the family was looking for advice. Located on a ridge overlooking Good Harbor, the steep hill up wouldn’t be ideal for building a driveway. “The majority of the property continues to go up and up, and at the top, has an incredible view of Lake Michigan. We have a conservation obligation to protect Good Harbor Ridge, which you can see from M-22 and from some parts of Lake Michigan. Ridgeline protection is an important part of our work, and this property is adjacent to land we’ve already protected,” Kim said. A decision was made soon after; the property would be donated to the Conservancy.
When folks think of our properties, our natural areas usually come to mind. However, our land transactions typically need to be a certain size, and at 18 acres, this particular property wasn’t large enough to justify public access. Regardless of size, the land was worthy of protection due to its location and breathtaking view. A conservation easement (CE) was drafted to permanently protect the land and it was placed on the market with the sale subject to the CE. Multiple offers were received. The property then sold on Earth Day 2022.
Most of the property is wooded ridgeline. The CE gives the new landowner option to build a home and two outbuildings on the acre at the bottom of the ridge. However, the ridgeline portion will remain unchanged, even if the property is sold. With the Fisher’s full support, the net proceeds made from the sale of their donated land was used to match federal farmland protection funds. We are so grateful for their generosity and continued commitment to Leelanau.
Speaking for him and siblings Jeff Fisher, Mike Fisher, Judy Fisher Oetinger, John (Jay) Fisher, Jerry Fisher, and Joan Woods, Jim Fisher said, “The lakes and woods of Leelanau County have always held a special place in our family’s hearts. Fourth and fifth generations of Fishers continue to enjoy the beauty of the lakes and forests as summer residents, some now living in the area full-time. Protecting and preserving this unique environment, especially the views and vistas from the hilltops and beaches-even views from the lake-is important in preserving all of this for future generations to cherish and protect. The professionals at the Conservancy helped us create a win-win solution with this property. The forested ridgeline above South Manitou Trail, now combined with several property parcels from our cousins and other local residents, will be protected from further development, giving wildlife and vegetation a place to thrive.