SAWYER — Chikaming Open Lands has launched a Protect Sugarwood Forest drive to preserve one of the last remaining old-growth forests in Southwest Michigan.

Chikaming Open Lands (COL) is seeking to acquire a 40-acre tract of forest on Elm Valley Road adjacent to Warren Woods State Park. Upon acquiring the property, COL will designate it as a nature preserve, permanently protecting the woodland in its natural state.

Some of the features listed by COL that make the property special include:

• A high-quality, mature beech-maple forest that is one of the last remaining old-growth forests in Southwest Michigan.

• Its location next to Warren Woods State Park, which will provide an open space corridor along with nearby protected properties like Chikaming Township Park & Preserve, and COL’s Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve, the Merritt Family Preserve, and Younger Family Preserve. According to COL such corridors, particularly ones that run adjacent to a river system, provide critical habitat for native plants and animals, promoting biodiversity and a healthy, balanced ecosystem.

• The opportunity to open the property to the public, building a trail system through the preserve and providing a new place where members of our community can enjoy the beauty of this rare virgin forest. There is also potential to connect the trail to the existing system in the State Park.

According to the COL website, the current landowner has offered to sell the property to COL for $240,000, a significant reduction from its market value. And the Sawyer-based land conservancy has been awarded a $80,000 challenge grant from The Carls Foundation. COL is seeking donations to fulfill the requirements of the grant that call for the organization to raise $160,000 to complete the purchase. For more information, go to www.chikamingopenlands.org or call (269) 405-1006.

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