Land Stewardship

Big Rock Valley (BRV), the foundation’s headquarters, draws its name from the large number of boulders left by receding Ice Age glaciers. The property began with a 160-acre parcel that Ed Lowe purchased in 1964, and today BRV comprises 2,000 acres of woodland, farmland, wetland and prairie.

Dan Wyant, President and Chief Operating Officer

Environmental mission

In addition to supporting entrepreneurship, the Edward Lowe Foundation has a mission of environmental stewardship, reflecting Ed Lowe’s great love and respect for the land.

Because of its different landscapes and ecosystems, BRV has a wide variety of flora and fauna. Indeed, species inventories show that BRV is home to more than 700 plant varieties, 100 bird species and 30 varieties of amphibians and reptiles. “Nurturing these diverse native populations is one of our main priorities — with particular attention given to threatened and endangered species,” says Mike McCuistion, the foundation’s vice president of physical resources.

Land stewardship programs

In addition to encouraging entrepreneurship, the Edward Lowe Foundation has a mission of environmental stewardship, reflecting Ed Lowe’s great love and respect for the land.


BRV has about 700 acres of woodlands, comprised of maple, beech, oak, hickory and black cherry and other varieties of northern mixed hardwoods. Although the woodlands are primarily managed for diversity and sustainability, about 100 acres are dedicated to old-growth woodlands.

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BRV features about 500 acres of wetlands, which includes a 10-acre lake, ponds, streams,  calcareous fens and a lakeside fen, and marshes. The area’s many natural springs provide abundant water flow to these wetland areas, ensuring an influx of fresh nutrients and a healthy ecosystem.

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Research projects at BRV

In addition to its own land stewardship initiatives, the foundation also makes BRV available to academic researchers and environmental organizations.

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Habitat enhancements

Maintaining BRV’s biodiversity calls for a number of habitat enhancement initiatives, including prescribed burns, which prevent savanna, prairies and even wetlands from reverting back to mixed-hardwood woodlands, which is the climax ecosystem in southwest Michigan.

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Prairies were once widespread in southern Michigan until the 1800s when European settlers converted this ecosystem to agricultural land. Experimental patches of prairie grasses were started at BRV in 1994, and today the foundation has about 200 acres of prairie land, with about 100 different species of grasses and flowering plants.

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Environmental Mission

Our primary environmental objective at Big Rock Valley (BRV) is to practice good stewardship — to promote and maintain the diverse native species with particular attention to listed species. Perhaps most important is to consider the consequences of our actions, knowing that anything we do (or don’t do) will have a negative effect on something else.

Environmental Management at BRV

In addition to encouraging entrepreneurship, the Edward Lowe Foundation has a mission of environmental stewardship, reflecting Ed Lowe.

Prescribed Burns

As part of its land stewardship mission, the Edward Lowe Foundation conducts regular prescribed burns at Big Rock Valley (BRV), its 2,000-acre home in southwest Michigan

Managing Old Growth Woodlands

The Edward Lowe Foundation is trying to accelerate development of old-growth forest, a disappearing ecosystem that plays a critical role in biodiversity.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes

To encourage its massasauga population, the foundation’s environmental team engages in a number of practices, such as establishing grasslands near known habitats.

Prairie Grass Conservation Strips

Prairie grassland plays a role in many of the Edward Lowe Foundation’s land stewardship initiatives, and about 175 acres at Big Rock Valley (BRV), its 2,000-acre campus in southwest Michigan, have been restored to this natural ecosystem

Research Projects at BRV

Located on 2,000 acres of woods, prairies and wetlands, the foundation is an ideal place to study botanical and animal life. The foundation makes its property available to academic researchers and environmental organizations.

How sequence and seasonality affect the benefits of prescribed burns

Researchers from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) are including BRV in a study to see how variances in the season and sequence of prescribed burns could impact prairie and savanna restorations.

Soil microbes: Prairie restoration tool

Researchers from Western Michigan University (WMU) are working with the foundation in investigating ways to improve soil microbial communities (SMCs) in reclaimed agricultural land, which could help mitigate climate change.

Pollen Movement in Prairies

Black light is used to analyze crime scenes, detect leaks in machinery, and identify counterfeit money and art forgeries. For researchers at Michigan State University (MSU), it’s also a handy tool to study gene flow in restored prairies.

Improving Habitat for Bees

Wild bees are declining, and conservationists are trying to encourage these important pollinators through habitat restoration. Researchers at MSU found bees at BRV behaved differently than bees at the other two test sites.