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Posted on Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 9:35 a.m.

Ann Arbor couple donates 168 acres of family property for endangered bat habitat in Jackson County

By Amy Biolchini

Editor's note: This story was edited at 4:40 p.m. to reflect the Black Rat Snake and Blandings Turtle were animals seen on the Trachet's property.

Nearly 168 acres in Jackson County’s Norvell Township on the western edge of Washtenaw County are now protected as a part of the newest addition to the Legacy Land Conservancy of Ann Arbor.

The addition comes as a donation from Ron and Susan Trachet of Ann Arbor. The parcel has been in the Trachet family since 1978, and was used for family hunting trips. A solar-powered vineyard also has been built on the property.


A wetland on the Trachet property in Norvell Township, which will be protected indefinitely as a result of the Trachets' donation to the Legacy Land Conservancy.

Courtesy of the Legacy Land Conservancy

The 168 acres, which was conserved in two separate agreements of 80 acres and 88 acres, sits at the headwaters of the River Raisin next to the River Raisin Recreation Area.

About 38 acres of the property is in the floodplain for the Manchester Drain.

Protecting the land was prioritized because it serves as a habitat for the endangered Indiana bat.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, about 400,000 bats remain in the U.S. About 85 percent of them spend their winters at seven locations.

The Massausauga Rattlesnake, Black Rat Snake, Blandings Turtle, as well as deer and pheasants have been seen frequenting the property.

The Legacy Land Conservancy was founded in 1971 and has worked to protect more than 4,800 acres of land throughout southern Michigan. Property owners who choose to protect their land are eligible for tax incentives.

Part of the conservancy’s goal for the next 100 years are to protect land near Waterloo, Pinckney and Sharonville; farmland in southwest Washtenaw County, groundwater recharge areas, wetlands and areas adjacent to streams.


The Weidmayer farm in Freedom Township.

Courtesy of the Legacy Land Conservancy

The Legacy Land Conservancy also recently added a 90-acre farm in Freedom Township to its portfolio.

The farm belongs to Neil Weidmayer, of Freedom Township, who decided to protect the farm from any future development. Weidmayer Farms is Weidmayer’s business, which grows corn and hay, as well as a dairy operation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Conservation Service have classified the areas as “prime farmland” and “farmland of local importance.”

In addition to being productive land, the Weidmayer farm also contains wetlands and native wooded areas that serve as habitat for songbirds, deer, coyotes and red tail hawks.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


Ann English

Sat, Feb 2, 2013 : 1:59 a.m.

I am trusting that you and other readers got the spelling of a snake's species correct. I'm more familiar with Mississauga, Ontario, just southwest of Toronto, near Lake Ontario. Three of my first cousins once removed lived there for a few years. Massausauga is spelled differently enough.

Ann English

Sat, Feb 2, 2013 : 1:53 a.m.

Until this article, I thought coyotes were rare in Washtenaw County. Most of them know enough to stay at the Weidmayer farm. If they leave, they get hit and killed on the freeways, and we read about them here.

Ann English

Sat, Feb 2, 2013 : 1:36 a.m.

No wonder the Indiana bat is endangered; it's so picky about its habitat, preferring caves and abandoned mines, temperatures between 38 and 43 degrees Fahrenheit, and high humidity. Sounds like conditions best maintained by humans, not by nature.


Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

Thank you, Trachet's AND Weidmayer's!! I love bats, they are fascinating creatures. I used to live with West Park in my backyard, which, to anyone living in this stretch of Miller, knows that w.p. is a major bat summer evening, a bat managed to squeeze himself(herself?)under the back door; he(she?) then proceeded to fly in loops between the living room and the kitchen, never hitting one of the many items that could have easily been knocked over. after a futile attempt to catch the bat, I simply opened the back door and waited. he(she?) eventually got the hint and flew out the door into the night. the cat was highly irritated with me that I wouldn't let him go after the bat, spent the rest of the night sulking, sorry kitty!

Steve Hendel

Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 1:09 p.m.

Amy: It is still unclear to me if any actual money changed hands here. Typically in such transactions, the landowner is paid an amount equal to the decrease in market value of the land resulting from the granting of the easement; on occasion, that amount is reduced and the land owner records a "donation" in the amount of the reduction. That residual amount is the only thing that can legitimately be called a donation; otherwise, it's just another business transaction. So, can you tell us how it all went in this case? Thanks

Christopher Hamm

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 10:15 p.m.

Great news here. Ron and Susie Trachet are two of the nicest, and most generous people you will ever meet. I'll try and find out the specifics of the agreement and get back to everyone. You two rock!

Jeff Renner

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 9:40 p.m.

How nice to see only positive comments on this story!

Steve Hendel

Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

Yes, all things being equal, positive comments are better than negative ones; but the story does not answer one crucial question: did any money change hands during this transaction? Were the development rights SOLD for (all or part of) their market value? If I buy a loaf of bread from Meijer, and pay the market price, would anyone say Meijer had "donated" all or part of that loaf to me? I think not.


Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 3 a.m.

Why do the bells keep chiming? O those bells..........

Ricardo Queso

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 9:53 p.m.

You do realize you are baiting those with bats in their belfry.

Chunksof Tofu

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 9:02 p.m.

Well, they certainly are not blind as a bat to the importance of land conservation.! More power to them! Thanks Ron and Susan Trachet.

Soft Paw

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 7:51 p.m.

There the bats will be safe from wind turbines.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 7:20 p.m.

How does a "solar-powered vineyard" work?


Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 2:59 a.m.

Why does Don Quixote come to mind on this one?

Christopher Hamm

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 10:27 p.m.

That must be some kind of a misprint. Ron is in Hawaii right now so we can't ask him. But, having been there numerous times, the solar power bit pertains to his home on the property, not the vineyard. THAT would be interesting.

Chunksof Tofu

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 9:04 p.m.

My guess is sun shines on the vines making grapes. A solar powerd vineyard.....


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:49 p.m.

After reading this I am reminded of the Count from Sesame Street. Very batty indeed. Good to hear the bats have a safe haven.


Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 2:43 p.m.



Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:32 p.m.

I love the nature conservancy--this is so important.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:31 p.m.

Fantastic. I have to imagine that in 50 to 60 years people will look back on this area of Michigan and this period of time and applaud the critical thinking that is leading to this preservation of natural and open space.

Chunksof Tofu

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 9:05 p.m.

The waterloo recreation area is so beautiful, so worthy of protection.

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 5:29 p.m.

This is good news, and thanks to the landowners who are donating their development rights. We should also give a big round of applause to the Legacy Land Conservancy. Susan Lackey and her staff have built this into a robust, highly effective organization that is active on many levels to achieve the goals of land preservation in this area. I'd also like to note another local land conservancy, the Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy. The territory they are working in seems to be mostly east of Ann Arbor, notably the Superior Township area. They have many preserves in Wayne County and eastward. Legacy appears to be concentrating on the western side of our county, plus Jackson County (I don't know whether the Livingston County area is a possibility, as a commenter asked). I've been watching land preservation efforts since serving on the Agricultural Lands and Open Space Task Force (1997-98) as a county commissioner. We have achieved much more than I could have dreamed. Clearly the Ann Arbor Greenbelt initiative and the various township matching funds are also much to be thanked. Congratulations all around.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:30 p.m.



Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 5:14 p.m.

>> If it was an easement, the land did not become public property. They put a development restriction on the property from future development in exchange for money. Nothing wrong with that, but it's not really a donation. << It is a donation at least of the future development rights, meriting a Federal tax deduction (in the amount of the reduction in value) and a reduction in local property taxes. Thanks to the Trachet family for this generous gift. Question for Amy, or anyone: I don't know the current state of things, but at some time (over a decade back) some of the conservation easements were criticized because the granting landowners could (allegedly) later revoke them, pay the back local taxes, and sell the land to developers at whatever the market price had risen to. Is this possible under current law?

Amy Biolchini

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 8:56 p.m.

Sal's right, rm1.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 5:29 p.m.

These conservation easements are permanent.

Ricardo Queso

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 5 p.m.

To the Batcave Robin!


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

At least no one said, "They must be batty!" which I was expecting! Thanks to them for such a kind gesture.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 4:42 p.m.

Good news, good people.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 4:39 p.m.

Good catch 'grs.' These properties are, in fact, conservation easements. The public benefits greatly from the water quality, farmland and habitat they protect, but they are not open to the public. Thank you!


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 5:01 p.m.

Thanks for the clarification sal.

Ben Freed

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 4:16 p.m.

This is great news. In Austin you could go and watch the bats come out from under the bridges over the river downtown during the fall and spring... one of the coolest parts about living there. Good to hear they'll be protected here as well!

Ann English

Sat, Feb 2, 2013 : 1:48 a.m.

I was too young to remember the bats during the three years I lived in Jackson itself, but I heard from an older relative that bats slept in the open, under eaves of homes there.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:50 p.m.

That my dear Ben, is on my bucket list. Otherwise, I may take a field trip over to see the bats at dusk.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 4:04 p.m.

"The Massausauga Rattlesnake, Black Rattlesnake, Bladings Turtle, as well as deer and pheasants have been seen frequenting the property. ' I believe the turtle is a Blanding Turtle not a " Bladings Turtle". Also I question the Black Rattlesnake. I always thought, and the DNR currently agrees the only venomous snake in Michigan is the Massausauga . So if someone has actually seen some rattlesnake other than a Massausauga they should probably contact the DNR.

Amy Biolchini

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 8:55 p.m.

Craig, an update: It's the Black Rat Snake, according to the Legacy Land Conservancy.

Amy Biolchini

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 8:34 p.m.

There was a typo on my part -- it is the Blandings Turtle that has been seen on the property. According to the Legacy Land Conservancy, Black Rattlesnakes were sighted -- I'll check in with them to see if that's accurate.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 8:27 p.m.

It should be "Blanding's Turtle" (named for William Blanding, an early 19th century naturalist). The University's Museum of Zoology agrees with you, the eastern massasauga is the only rattlesnake in Michigan. I'm sure that should be Black Rat Snake. Rat snakes are one of our biggest snakes, totally non-venomous, and they live up to their name, eating rodents. Uncommon now, thanks to habitat destruction.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 5:23 p.m.

Possibly it was supposed to read "Black Rat Snake". The DNR lists that as a native snake here in Michigan. I agree that's one big typo. The Eastern Black Rattlesnake can have quite a bite although it is said to be docile and give a good warning. But, it's not listed as a Michigan snake. See:,4570,7-153-10370_12145_12201-61209--,00.html


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:51 p.m.

Very thoughtful. A few questions. Does the property have to be in Washtenaw county to be included in the Ann Arbor Trust? I have some property in Livingston county and would like to know if it could be joined into this Land Trust, too. It has many of the features and habitat of this donation and a neighbor with another large chunk of wooded land could perhaps also be included. I know there are several land conservancy agencies in the state, but which one has the most activity and likelyhood of success ?

Amy Biolchini

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

Epengar is spot on; the Legacy Land Conservancy works in Washtenaw and Jackson counties. For Livingston County, the Livingston Land Conservancy would be the way to go.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 8:39 p.m.

There is a Livingston Land Conservancy based in the county that might be a good group to talk to: The Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy is another group that does this kind of work, and they cover 7 counties in southeast Michigan, including Livingston: Also the Legacy Land Conservancy has worked mainly in Washtenaw County, but do have some easements outside the County. There's a link to their site in the story.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:34 p.m.

This story needs clarification of whether the land was actually donated or if the owners put a conservation agreement/easement on the property. If it was an easement, the land did not become public property. They put a development restriction on the property from future development in exchange for money. Nothing wrong with that, but it's not really a donation.

Unusual Suspect

Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

Then it's not donated, right?

Amy Biolchini

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 8:53 p.m.

Both properties are now protected through a conservation easement.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:32 p.m.

Bravo! A very big thank you to the Trachets for being so generous and conservation-minded! Also congratulations to Legacy Land Conservancy for their good work. By the way, "less than 400,000" may seem like a lot of bats to be endangered, but that's less than half the population that existed a few decades ago. The species was only discovered in 1928. Also, more than half the existing population hibernates in a just a few caves in southern Indiana (hence the name). They are very vulnerable there. In the summer they spread out across the Midwest, including Michigan, and roost and have their babies in forests. They haven't yet been affected much by the epidemic white-nose disease that is decimating bat populations further east, but that will happen sooner or later. Providing more habit at least gives the bats a better chance to reproduce, and the more there are, the better chance there is that at least a few will be resistant and survive the epidemic.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 8:30 p.m.

Oh, I overlooked the Weidmayer donation on my first read. Thanks to you too!

Stan Hyne

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 4:51 p.m.

Thanks for the info.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:28 p.m.

Thanks to both the Trachet's and the Weidmayers. They are ensuring that future generations will still see beautiful natural places in our county.

Linda Peck

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

I add my thanks to the Trachets for their generous gift.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:13 p.m.

Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Trachet.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

That's wonderful. Bats are great!