Michigan Natural Features Inventory long ago identified Bete Grise as the highest quality dune swale wetland system remaining in the Upper Great Lakes, with diverse flora and fauna including prime nesting habitat for various migratory waterfowl, migratory neotropical song birds, eagles and four species of threatened and endangered plants. While ecologically significant, the area known as Bete Grise South is also very beautiful.
By the late 1990s the buildable beach area was targeted for an upscale residential development by International Paper (IP). To accommodate this development, a road was required to reach the buildable area. This road would have run through and destroyed a key part of the valuable wetlands. The road and development were challenged in court.
During this time TNC initiated an effort to purchase the property from IP and conducted negotiations for several years. Eventually, the suit was ruled in IP’s favor. Thankfully, IP was then willing to sell the land for preservation, rather than for development.
The next challenge was to raise funds. By 2002-2003, several organizations had begun raising funds and writing grants to buy Bete Grise. Many organizations and individuals donated time, skills and funds toward this effort. Unfortunately, several grants fell through and the purchase began to look doubtful.
In 2004, HKCD, KLT, SSA and TNC worked together on two major grant opportunities:
1. Coastal Management Grant through the DEQ and National Oceanic and NOAA. In 2004, $450,000 was awarded to HKCD to purchase 1045 acres of the Bete Grise Preserve. KLT has a conservation easement on this property.
2. Coastal Wetlands Grant through the DNR and US Fish & Wildlife. In December, 2004, TNC was awarded $1 million for the buildable beach area (60 acres) of Bete Grise South and additional wetland acreage.
TNC purchased these properties from IP in advance of the grant funds and also provided the 25% match. Contributions from many individuals and organizations such as SSA, helped make this match possible.