Conservancy group protects 240 acres in Hersey Township

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Osceola County has an abundance of natural beauty, which includes rolling hills, vast farm fields, woodlands and marshes, and more than 240 acres of such countryside has been protected to forever remain unchanged.

Property owners Doug and Barb Miller chose to place a conservation easement on their Hersey Township property through The Cadillac Area Land Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the land in Osceola, Wexford, Missaukee and northern Lake and Mason counties.

The Miller's property is vast, complete with wetlands, forests and farmland that sustains a variety of plant and animal life. The couple wanted it to stay that way.

"We wanted it to stay wild and beautiful," said Barb. "It's a beautiful piece of land and we're lucky to live here. We don't want it developed."

The land was purchased by Doug's father in the 1960s and handed down to Doug and Barb after almost two decades. The couple built a house on the property, raised their family and still live there today. Their love of the acreage drove them to the Chippewa Watershed Conservancy, which directed them to CALC.

A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement through which a landowner limits the type or amount of development on their property, Copley said. In this case, it is a binding agreement between the landowner and the Cadillac Area Land Conservancy. The agreement is recorded with the Register of Deeds in the county where the property is located and will be identified in future title searches. The property is still considered private.

"It's an important thing to do because future generations will have less of those areas to call their own if the land is not protected," said CALC Chairman, Larry Copley. "The process does have some costs associated with it, but there are possible tax advantages to it."

The cost can vary by acreage and securing an easement can take between two months to a year, depending on paperwork and other factors concerning the property.

Even under the easement, the Miller's land can be used for agreed upon agricultural practices, recreation, timber harvesting, hunting and trapping. The property is checked on an annual basis to ensure the easement isn't being violated, Copley added.

CALC has about 1,700 acres protected within the area it serves and about 400 in Osceola County alone through three easements. As word spreads about such opportunities, more residents are jumping at the chance to save the property they love.

"If they want to protect their land, this may be the answer for them," said Margo Copley, who also is involved with CALC.

After a four-year process, the easement is in effect and the Millers continue to be happy with their decision.

"We feel really great about it," Barb said. "It feels good to know the land will be here even when we're not."

For more information about the Cadillac Area Land Conservancy, visit calc-landtrust.org, call (231) 755-3631 or email calc@core.com.