Legacy’s mission is to secure for current and future generations a land base for nature, agriculture, fresh water and recreation in Washtenaw, Jackson, and Lenawee Counties and beyond.


Founded in 1971 as Michigan’s first local land trust, Legacy is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works with individuals, landowners, organizations, and local government to protect forests, prairies, farms, wetlands, and waters. Legacy enjoys a nearly 50-year record of protecting the beautiful places and unique character of southern Michigan. To view a video of Legacy’s First 50 Years, click here.

In 1971, faced with growing concerns about the potential for development of land along the Huron River, a group of Ann Arbor leaders banded together as the Washtenaw Land Conservancy to acquire land along the river and keep it in public trust. In 1989, the Potawatomi Land Trust was formed to focus on the protection of farmland. In 1999, Washtenaw Land Conservancy and Potawatomi Land Trust merged to form Washtenaw Land Trust. In 2008, the Land Trust took steps to formally extend its service area throughout Jackson County. This action was a response to increased landowner interest, and represented a recognition that Jackson County possesses some of the world’s rarest natural areas, worthy of a concentrated land-protection effort. The organization acted to reflect this new reality by changing its name to Legacy Land Conservancy. Shortly thereafter, Legacy became one of the first accredited land trusts in the nation. This accreditation is a testament to nearly 50 years of voluntary conservation, supported by our extended community, and adhering to a set of standards designed to help guarantee that our work will endure forever. In late 2014, Legacy was reaccredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.

Legacy has led successful initiatives to secure funding to protect over 9,000 acres of conserved lands that provide safe drinking water, places to play, and vibrant local farms in Washtenaw and Jackson Counties. Landowners who want to protect the natural qualities of their land by restricting development, and who want to continue to own their land, can enter into a conservation agreement with Legacy. Legacy becomes a partner to help watch over the land, ensuring conservation, no matter who owns it. Conservation agreements are tailored to each landowner and property, incorporating the landowner’s needs and desires while giving significant protection to important natural features. Restrictions of the easement apply to the current and all future owners of the land. Landowners accept the responsibility to follow the terms of the conservation agreement, while Legacy accepts the responsibility of overseeing the terms of the agreement, now and through all generations of future landowners. Legacy has also conserved natural corridors to support public recreation, protect wildlife habitat, and ensure clean water, creating seven public nature preserves that showcase the region’s common habitats throughout critical Great Lakes watersheds.

Legacy Land Conservancy is a member of the Land Trust Alliance and Heart of the Lakes.


“Make no small plans, for they have not the power to move men’s souls.”…Daniel Burnham

In 2008, Legacy Land Conservancy set a goal of protecting 25,000 acres of the most important lands in Washtenaw and Jackson Counties. These counties lie at the heart of the “Emerald Arc,” a swath of protected land surrounding the population centers of Southern Michigan. Throughout the Arc are found some of America’s most productive farmland, as well as lakes and rivers that impact water quality in the entire Great Lakes Basin. Working with our partners and with the community, Legacy is committed to ensuring that future generations enjoy the clean water, fresh food, scenic rural heritage, and peaceful recreational opportunities that have characterized Washtenaw and Jackson counties for generations.

Legacy’s Strategic Plan

In 2008, Legacy Land Conservancy adopted a strategic vision for the land conservation it would undertake. This vision is supported by a strategic plan, updated regularly, that sets out the broad focus for the organization. Contact info@legacylandconservancy.org or 734-302-5263.

Land Trust Accreditation Commission