Profile: Protecting the great outdoors has become Barry Lonik’s way of life

 

Barry Lonik’s long list of interests – hiking, swimming, windsurfing, cross country skiing, running, lake and river canoeing, bicycling – all have one thing in common. They all happen outdoors so it’s only natural that Lonik has spent a good part of his life preserving and saving the great outdoors.

“I visited a gorgeous property during a summer internship while in grad school, researched ownership and sought the means to protect it,” says Lonik. “It’s still there and I’m still chasing it.”

He’s still chasing it but he’s caught plenty of great projects that help make this community a better place to live, work and breathe. Lonik recently passed two personal conservation milestones – 100 projects completed and 7,000 acres protected from his direct involvement – including plenty of acreage in and around Ann Arbor.

“Ann Arbor is my adopted community,” says Lonik. “I was displeased with rampant development and sought to have a positive impact on protecting local natural and agricultural land.”

Lonik, a native of Oak Park, graduated from Berkley HS and then earned a BA from Albion College in self-designed environmental studies and an MS from the U-M School of Natural Resources in resource policy.

Now a “land preservation consultant,” Lonik was the first executive director of Legacy Land Conservancy, based in Ann Arbor.  He built the organization into a viable entity during his six and a half years in the position, following three and a half years volunteering on its board of trustees.  The Conservancy’s first 14 land preservation projects were completed during his tenure.

“I joined the board of trustees for a nascent group called Potawatomi Community Land Trust in 1991,” he says. “It had an annual budget of $1,500. I served as board member and board chair for 3.5 years, raised enough funds to pay me part time and eventually full time, 10 years of involvement overall.”

Lonik, who is obviously proud of what he and his group accomplished, closed the first 14 projects before leaving to raise his son and start his consulting business. After a couple mergers, the organization is now called Legacy Land Conservancy and has a staff of seven.

Among the highlights: Founding a successful nonprofit organization dedicated to land preservation; helping transfer six properties to ownership by organic vegetable and meat producers; being the catalyst of over $150 million of public funding for farmland and natural area preservation in Washtenaw County.

One of the many rewarding projects was protecting the 500 acre centennial farm of Howard and Kelven Braun bordering the City of Saline on two sides.

“They saw me speak about land conservation at the Saline library, came up after and said that’s what they want to do,” he said. “They loved their land and were innovative farmers going way back.

“I’m also pleased to have facilitated the purchase of land on the Huron and Raisin rivers as preserves.”

Lonik has been president of Treemore Ecology and Land Services, Inc., since 2002. The business’ primary focus has been staffing locally-funded land preservation programs in Webster, Scio and Ann Arbor townships as a consultant. He has attracted nearly $13 million in federal grants and over $4 million from the State of Michigan to support farmland preservation projects across Washtenaw County.

“Treemore Ecology and Land Services, Inc., is my consulting business that consists of me, mostly staffing the locally funded land preservation programs in Scio, Webster and Ann Arbor Townships but also working with private landowners, nonprofits, conservation buyers and unfunded townships toward the identification and protection of natural and agricultural lands,” he said.

Lonik said getting funding proposals on local ballots and passed by voters was initially challenging because the notion of public funding for land preservation was new and unfamiliar.

“Now that so much has been accomplished, renewals are easier to ‘sell’ as we can point to our successes (and have signs marking protected properties scattered around),” he says. “Of the three programs I staff, 87-89 percent of program revenues are spent on acquisitions of land and conservation easements, with only 11-13 percent used for due diligence (surveys, appraisals, environmental assessments, legal review) and program staff (5 percent of the 11-13 percent).

Lonik now lives on a farm west of Dexter where he grows much of his own food and maintains a prairie on half of his two acre property.  He hosts musical events in his 130-year old barn in the summer and house concerts in cooler months.

While he’s outdoors hiking or swimming or sailing or running he has time to look around at the beautiful scenery and reflect on what he’s accomplished. And he likes what he sees.

“So many days I reflect on so many successes and that I’ve built a career in land conservation out of nothing and thank the universe for the opportunity and the ability to take advantage of it,” he says.“We’re very fortunate to live in a community that supports land conservation through local taxes so there will be farmland and natural areas on the fringe of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, some of which is now growing food for direct human consumption, others protecting water quality and wildlife habitat, and to have a vibrant local music scene. Glad to be a part of all of it.”

For more information on the Legacy Land Conservancy, log onto https://legacylandconservancy.org

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