Be sure to visit our Property Rules & Hunting Regulations page for answers to many common questions about what is or isn’t permitted on GTRLC preserves.

What is a land conservancy?

Land conservancies, also known as land trusts, are community-based nonprofit organizations dedicated to the permanent protection and care of land. The Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy covers Grand Traverse, Benzie, Kalkaska, Manistee and Antrim Counties and is one of more than a thousand land trusts working to protect land across the country. Our mission is protecting scenic, natural and farm lands – and advancing stewardship – now and for future generations.

How is land protected?

Like other land trusts, GTRLC uses a variety of tools to permanently protect land. Sometimes we purchase land or receive it as a gift, and these lands are usually managed by GTRLC as public nature preserves. We also help municipalities create parks and natural areas by providing expertise in fund acquisition and land purchases. Many of the parcels we have protected remain in private ownership and are protected by conservation easements.

What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a private landowner and GTRLC that permanently restricts the way land is used in order to protect its conservation values. Easements take into account a landowner’s wishes while permanently protecting water and land quality, natural features and other conservation-minded elements. While every easement is different, some rights commonly restricted under a conservation easement are the rights to build additional buildings or alter significant natural features. GTRLC either purchases these easements from the landowner (development rights have a cash value) or receives them as a donation. Easement restrictions remain on the land in perpetuity, regardless of who owns the land. GTRLC is responsible for periodically monitoring the land to ensure the easement terms are upheld. In addition to GTRLC, government agencies or other groups can work to secure such easements on private land.

Are lands with a conservation easement open to the public?

Usually not.  A landowner is not required to open his or her land to the public when a conservation easement is placed on the property. Most other lands protected by GTRLC are open to the public.

How does GTRLC decide what land should be protected?

Land must meet a series of criteria in order to be considered for protection by the GTRLC. These criteria focus on the land’s conservation value, size and proximity to other protected areas, among other items.  Sometimes landowners contact us to inquire about protecting their land, and sometimes we reach out to landowners to discuss protection if we feel the land has significant conservation value. GTRLC can do nothing, however, without the willing participation of landowners, and all of our projects are completed with complete landowner cooperation.

What is the difference between a nature preserve, nature sanctuary, recreation area, state game area and a natural area?

In terms of properties connected with GTRLC, these terms mean specific things. A nature preserve is owned and managed by GTRLC and has infrastructure, including trails and parking areas. A nature sanctuary is also owned by GTRLC and is open to the public, but access is strongly discouraged because of sensitive species or difficult terrain. A natural area is protected by GTRLC but owned by another entity (usually a local unit of government), and is sometimes managed by GTRLC, or other entity. A state game area is owned by the State of Michigan. Visit each property on our preserves page for details.

Is GTRLC anti-development?

Absolutely not. We know that continued development is important to the growth of our vibrant region, and we believe there is plenty of land suitable for development in the area. We simply want to ensure that lands with the highest conservation values are preserved for all future generations to enjoy.

How is GTRLC funded?

We are a 501c3 nonprofit organization that receives funding almost entirely through private donations and donations from foundations and other charitable organizations. We also seek local, state and federal grants for certain projects.

How is GTRLC managed?

We have a staff of more than 20 full-time specialists who work in the areas of land protection, land stewardship, fundraising, communications and more. Our staff works with a 20-member governing board comprised of community members passionate about land protection.  Read more about our staff here and our board here.

How can I protect my land?

For more information, call (231) 929-7911 and ask to speak with a member of our land team. You can also view our landowner guide here.

Is GTRLC connected to the Grand Traverse Conservation District?

While we partner with the Conservation District on many initiatives, we are entirely separate organizations with different missions. The Conservation District has a heavy focus on outdoor and conservation education, and the district also contracts with municipalities to care for and manage land. GTRLC focuses nearly all of its efforts on permanently protecting land and caring for protected land.

Is GTRLC connected to The Nature Conservancy?

The Nature Conservancy is an entirely separate organization. It is a land trust like GTRLC, but it works to protect land around the world and also engages in other conservation efforts. GTRLC partnered with The Nature Conservancy to protect land on Point Betsie.

Why don’t you work in Leelanau County?

Leelanau County is home to the Leelanau Conservancy, a land trust that existed before the formation of GTRLC.

Can I have a wedding or reception on a Conservancy preserve?

Unfortunately, by policy, we are unable to accommodate any kind of private events on protected properties owned by GTRLC. Photography on our nature preserves is allowed so long as all other property rules are adhered to. Please know, however, that the properties are open to everyone (cannot be closed for private use), so others may be present. Also, please make sure any flowers carried or worn do not contain baby’s breath, which is highly invasive on sandy dunes. For parks and natural areas listed on our website but not owned by GTRLC, please contact the respective land owner directly.

Do you rehabilitate birds or other injured wildlife?

No. Please visit the DNR website for a list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators.

Can you help me with landscaping or native plant selection on my property?

GTRLC’s restoration and ecological efforts are restricted to our preserves and natural areas, and privately owned lands protected with conservation easements.

Please contact our friends at the Invasive Species Network or CAKE CISMA for guidance about your property.

What goes on at GTRLC-owned farms?

GTRLC owns two farm properties – Maple Bay and Misty Acres. These properties are primarily used to showcase sustainable agriculture practices, and are also used for events and other activities. For any questions specific to these farms, contact GTRLC at (231) 929-7911.

Can I place objects on a Conservancy property?

For the enjoyment of all users and the preservation of natural spaces, we ask that visitors take only memories and leave only footprints. Placement of memorial items, painted rocks, fairy houses or construction of benches, bridges, teepees, geocaches or other man-made items using natural materials is not allowed, as these items could impact the land we have worked to protect.

We understand the desire to tribute a loved one in a place where you have shared special memories and offer a limited number of naming opportunities on the land. If you have questions about these opportunities, please reach out to Director of Development Marissa Duque at

How do I request a speaker for my event?

GTRLC has limited opportunities to provide speakers or presentations.

Requests are reviewed quarterly, beginning in January of each year. Please make your request as early as possible to allow adequate time for review of all requests.

Please submit your request using the form on the Request A Speaker / Presentation page.