Land buys protect rare ecosystems

on Lake Erie island

The preservation of two parcels of land on Ohio’s Kelleys Island protected an imperiled Great Lakes alvar ecosystem and a rare red cedar forest.


Kelleys Island is the largest American island in Lake Erie and home to a rare Great Lakes alvar ecosystem. Alvars are globally imperiled ecosystems comprised of grasslands and sparsely vegetated rock barrens that develop on flat limestone of dolostone bedrock. Almost all of North America’s alvars are found in the Great Lakes. A $1 million grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative enabled the Western Reserve Land Conservancy to acquire 58 acres of land adjacent to Kelleys Island State Park. That acquisition, coupled with conservation easements on adjoining lands, provided permanent protection for 112 acres of land and contributed to an 825-acre interconnected system of protected lands. A second grant, for $332,500, was used to acquire 18 acres of rare, mature red cedar forest. The preservation of those area was significant because migratory birds use Kelleys Island as a rest area during spring and fall migrations.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
  • An imperiled Great Lakes alvar ecosystem
  • Rare, mature red cedar forest


Glacial rock formations

The rare, globally imperiled alvar ecosystem on Kelleys Island, Ohio. Credit: Ohio Sea Grant.

Results and Accomplishments

The two grants preserved 59 acres of an imperiled Great Lakes alvar ecosystem and 18 acres of mature red cedar forest. The parcels were added to a larger assemblage of protected lands that provide important habitat for migratory birds.