$270,499 Grant Awarded to Conserve Water Quality of Glass Creek and Thornapple River

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC), in partnership with the Barry Conservation District, Michigan Audubon Society, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, and Tyden Ventures, has been awarded a $270,499 matching grant by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to permanently conserve land in the Glass Creek Watershed. The MDEQ recently ranked Glass Creek as one of the most important water bodies in the state to conserve because it is so pristine.

“Glass Creek ranks highest for protection in both the lower Grand River watershed plan and the draft Thornapple River watershed plan,” said Joanne Barnard, executive director of the Barry Conservation District. “Most streams are candidates for restoration not protection, with water quality on the decline due to years of nutrient and sediment loading. However, the water quality in Glass Creek benefits greatly from the natural forests and wetlands of the Barry State Game Area, which limit polluted runoff and maintain cool temperatures to support the trout fishery.”  

One of the things that makes Glass Creek so pristine is that most of the water springs from and winds through already conserved natural land.

“Purchasing land and development rights adjacent to the BSGA provides additional protection of Barry County’s natural resources for wildlife and associated recreation,” said Sara Schaefer, MDNR wildlife biologist.“The Glass Creek watershed provides unique habitat for a variety of common as well as uncommon wildlife and plant species. Protecting additional acres of the Glass Creek watershed will benefit wildlife as well as individuals who enjoy wildlife-associated recreation.”

Tom Funke, director of conservation for the Michigan Audubon Society, added, “The Glass Creek subbasin is home to 23 state and federally listed species, including one species birders come from all over the country to see, the cerulean warbler. These warblers are the fastest declining songbird in North America because they can prosper only in mature, contiguous forests over 8,000 acres in size. Conserving more forested land around the BSGA where these birds can be found is imperative to their future.”

The Glass Creek area is of prime regional and local importance, and concern over its sustainability fostered the development of the Barry State Game Area (BSGA) conservation project. Local and regional agencies and organizations, working together since 2005, have developed the BSGA Conservation Plan (available at swmlc.org) and have begun to implement measures to protect resources on private lands within and surrounding the BSGA and the Glass Creek subbasin. This MDEQ grant will help SWMLC fulfill the BSGA conservation plan by providing funding to conserve some of the highest priority parcels along the creek. SWMLC’s goal is to conserve an additional 1,000 acres in and around the BSGA within the next 10 years. 

“Our plan is to work with landowners during the next two years to protect critical water resource-related land, such as forested floodplains and wetlands, through conservation easements, to help ensure Glass Creek is pristine forever” stated Emily Wilke, SWMLC director of land protection.

The MDEQ announced the awarding of 13 water quality grants totaling $3 million to support watershed planning efforts and to permanently protect and restore rivers and wetlands statewide. The funding is available from Section 319 of the federal Clean Water Act.