Situated between Lake Michigan and Crystal Lake, the Betsie Dunes Nature Sanctuary boasts nearly 1,600 feet of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline and over 80 acres of healthy, forested dunes. Part of the largest freshwater dune system in the world, it encompasses a globally rare community where several species endemic to the Great Lakes region thrive.
One of the many unique species protected within this sanctuary is Pitcher’s thistle, a federally and state-listed plant that takes several years to bloom and produce seeds—and is particularly sensitive to disturbance. The property also safeguards a significant migration corridor for numerous bird species, including warblers and other migratory birds who use the forested habitat along the lakeshore for food, shelter and nesting.
GTRLC currently has an opportunity to expand the protection of this incredible property and preserve critical habitat for the flora and fauna that call this area home. A proposed addition could soon incorporate a nearly 2.5-acre inholding into the sanctuary, connecting a fragmented parcel that could otherwise be developed. The land’s protection would safeguard over 100 feet of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline and permanently preserve important habitats like northern mesic forest, open dunes and a globally rare wooded dune and swale complex—a freshwater dune system only found along the Great Lakes.
Protecting contiguous blocks of forest is crucial for maintaining biological and genetic diversity, as habitat loss and fragmentation often cause population declines in plants and animals. Protecting large parcels of land, as well as habitat corridors that connect these parcels is vital to maintaining viable populations of native species. By incorporating this property into the sanctuary, we can preserve this critical dune community, prevent habitat fragmentation and enhance the permanent ecological protection of this special place.