In Praise of Drops in the Bucket

In this original essay, Legacy’s Land Protection Coordinator Robin Burke reflects on the challenges and rewards of protecting land in Southeast Michigan.  This article was originally published in Legacy’s 2014 Annual Report.  


Land protection is a task without an endpoint in sight. We chip away at it bit by bit: Legacy’s average conservation easement size is fifty-two acres- a number driven by the historic 40-acre parcel found in southern Michigan.  It is easy to feel daunted. It is easy to say, “Fifty-two acres protected. Well done, but isn’t that just a drop in the bucket?”

Yes. That is exactly what it is: a drop in the bucket. No matter how you look at it, fifty-two acres is a small portion of the surface of Earth.

When a sinPainted Turtle, Turtlegle drop hits the calm surface of water, it sends out ripples in all directions. Its size does not make it powerless; the force of that drop carries well beyond the place it first made contact. Likewise, property boundaries do not isolate what is within them. The change created by protecting fifty-two acres ripples outward across a community that includes, as Aldo Leopold wrote, “soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land”. Protecting land can have positive ecological impacts beyond parcel boundaries. Words and stories from individuals who protect their property are shared again and again, catalyzing friends and neighbors to action.

Over the past fiscal year, Legacy worked with five families to complete six conservation agreements, affecting a total of 373 acres of southern Michigan. Small though those acres may seem when measured against the size of Earth, these drops in the bucket are already rippling into our community of people, soils, waters, plants, and animals. Join Legacy in celebrating every shining, glorious, indelible drop in our bucket.

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