2013-04-18 / Life in Leelanau

Conservancy celebrates 25 years with environmental impact series

By Amy Hubbell Of The Enterprise staff

THE WHALEBACK Natural Area near Leland is one of more than 20 natural areas and preserves established by the Leelanau Conservancy in its first 25 years. 
Photo by Keith Burnham THE WHALEBACK Natural Area near Leland is one of more than 20 natural areas and preserves established by the Leelanau Conservancy in its first 25 years. Photo by Keith Burnham In its first 25 years, the Leelanau Conservancy has played a lead role in preserving the natural beauty and ecological integrity of the Leelanau Peninsula.

As the Conservancy enters its second quarter-century, it plans to expand its focus to encourage discussion and examination of issues that impact the county.

The Conservancy will host the first of a four-part Speaker Series from 3 to 5:30 p.m., Saturday, May 4 at Suttons Bay School.

“Water and the Future of the Great Lakes” is the topic of the event which will feature two keynote speakers, a panel discussion with local experts, children’s activities and an informal reception.

“We are constantly looking ahead, seeking to learn more about the environmental topics that impact our conservation work,” Conservancy director Brian Price said. “Like so many people who live in Leelanau County, we are eager to learn about ecological trends — regional and global in nature — that impact our unique peninsula.”

As part of the Conservancy’s 25th anniversary celebration, the organization will bring in national speakers over the next two years to engage members and the public on topics important to Leelanau County.

“We hope to lay out a vision for the future that recognizes the unprecedented challenges facing us, while at the same time fostering a sense of optimism about our ability as a community to face these challenges,” Price said.

Water is an integral component of life on the Leelanau Peninsula, which divides West Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan.

Water and the Future of the Great Lakes, the focus of the first program on May 4, will feature speakers who address factors stressing the Great Lakes, and local panelists who will focus discussion on current county trends.

Patrick J. Doran, director of conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan is the first featured speaker. Doran will address the effects of a changing climate and the conservation of “natural capital” in the Great Lakes region.

He will be joined by Thomas F. Nalepa, research scientist with the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan; scientist emeritus with the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory and the NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) will address the role of invasive species in changing the Great Lakes food web.

The second half of the event, which will begin at 4:15 p.m., will include Doran and Nalepa and local experts who will field questions in a panel discussion. Moderator will be Carl Ganter, director of Circle of Blue, a Traverse City-based international network of journalists, scholars and citizens that connects humanity to the global freshwater crisis. Local experts participating are: Andy Knott, director of the Watershed Center; Tom Kelly, director of the ISEA and Price.

Speakers and panelists will discuss not only large environmental changes but also positive steps that can be taken to meet current challenges.

From 3 to 5 p.m., the ISEA will provide educational activities for children age 5-12 in the school cafeteria — or outside — depending on the weather.

The event will conclude with a reception and an opportunity to talk with speakers while enjoying refreshments.

The second program in the series, scheduled for Oct. 19 at Suttons Bay School, will focus on farming and food: major trends in crops and climate and the response of farmers.

In 2014, program topics will include changes in the landscape: shifts in forest species and climate and community: understanding our relationship to land and building stronger communities.

“When you drive along the road and see the damage done by the emerald ash borer, it makes you think about what will replace them,” Price said. “The changing landscape discussion will explore that and other issues.”

All the speaker events will be free of charge. However, advanced registration is suggested and can be completed at www.leelanauconservancy.org.

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