Archived entries for General Interest

State and Federal Land Conservation Programs are at Risk

If ever there was a time for Wisconsin’s land trusts and the conservation community to work together with a common purpose, this is it. Many of our top priorities at the state and federal levelsWisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and public land ownership—face grave threats, and we need your support and involvement.

State Threats

Lands purchased through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program help protect Wisconsin’s air and water quality, and provide outdoor places that are close to home, where folks go to find peace, recreate, and reap the health benefits associated with such areas. Assembly Bill 338 seeks to reallocate most of that funding to create scholarships for students and purchase low-value lands currently owned by the state.

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program helps keep pace with an ever-growing need for public access to undeveloped, natural greenspaces throughout the state–like the one pictured here. Photo by Amy Singh

Federal Threats

The President’s 2018 budget proposal threatens to completely eliminate the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which provides critical funds that clean up and reduce pollution, prevent invasive species from ruining our waters, and keep our Great Lakes healthy.

The federal budget proposal also includes severe cuts to the Land & Water Conservation Fund, a program that creates and protects national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges from development. It also provides matching grants to states for their local parks and recreation projects.

These federal programs protect our nation’s most valuable assets: clean water, air, and the kind of natural landscapes that are so important for our physical and mental well being. Photo by Mindy Petersen.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Urge Wisconsin legislators to oppose this bill.

Let your state senators and house member know why you care about these important federal programs.

Looking for additional ways to help? Here are 7 ways to help protect your public lands and waters.

Tree Farmer Permanently Protects Land on Arbor Day

Kann famliy celebrating the permanent protection of their beautiful tree farm.

The following press release was written by our land trust member Mississippi Valley Conservancy 

An award-winning local tree farmer is celebrating Arbor Day Friday by signing a land protection agreement with Mississippi Valley Conservancy.

Gerald Kann of La Crosse who was named north central region Outstanding Tree Farmer of the year in 2016 by the American Tree Farm System, is permanently protecting his 114-acre Monroe County tree farm with a conservation easement.

Kann, who also received recognition in 2014 as Wisconsin Outstanding Tree farmer of the Year, said it was a nice coincidence to be closing on the agreement on a day set aside to celebrate the role of trees in our lives.

From 1974 through 2016, the Kann family, including wife Charlotte and sons Kurt and Karl, planted over 45,200 trees on their property. For 25 years, the tree farm was operated as a “choose-and-cut” Christmas tree farm.

“The Kann Property truly demonstrates exceptional forest stewardship,” said Carol Abrahamzon, executive director for the conservancy. “Their dedication to caring for the land is apparent in both the hours they’ve spent taking care of the property and also in the sheer numbers of trees planted.”

A conservation easement is a partnership between a land trust and a conservation-minded landowner. The conservation easement ensures that the Kann tree farm cannot, at any point in the future and regardless of ownership, be converted to a residential subdivision or cornfield, but remain as a refuge for area wildlife.

Abbie Church, MVC conservation director, said that wildlife observed over the years by the owners include bobcat, fisher, black bear and badger. Her most recent visit to the property included serenades of spring frogs, including spring peepers, chorus frogs, and wood frogs, all of which can be heard right from the porch of the log cabin on the property. Winter hikes on the on the property provide an abundance of wildlife tracks, the forest resources providing food and cover throughout the year.

The citation for the Wisconsin award says that the winning tree farmer “must exhibit the most exceptional forest stewardship to protect and improve forest health, wildlife habitat, clean water and sustainable wood supplies, and must promote this stewardship within their communities.”

Church said that meshes with the Conservancy’s focus to “conserve the forests, prairies, wetlands, streams, and farms that enrich our communities for the health and well-being of current and future generations.”

20 Year Habitat Investment Protected Forever

The following press release was written by our land trust member Mississippi Valley Conservancy.

MONROE COUNTY, WIS – George and Carmeen Johnston of Norwalk have protected 20 years of work on their land in the headwaters of the Kickapoo River where they have restored native tallgrass prairie and removed invasive species.

By signing a conservation agreement with Mississippi Valley Conservancy on the 54-acre property near Norwalk they have stated their wish that the prairies and oak woodlands on the property be protected from development, according to Megan Kabele, MVC conservation specialist who worked with the Johnstons on protecting their land. The development restrictions become part of the title to the land, which must be honored by future owners of the land. MVC will monitor the property once a year for compliance, according to the agreement.

George Johnston, a retired stream biologist and a longtime member of the Conservancy, said: “At some point Im going to be gone. I dont want whoever buys this place to be able to do whatever with it. Weve spent a lot of time caring for this place. I want to continue to have control over what happens with this land after Im not around anymore.”

He added that when he and Carmeen learned their land was in the Kickapoo River watershed they thought protecting the land would make a difference for water quality in the river. “It would be nice if more people would put conservation easements on their land.”

“Prescribed burning continues to be used to control invasive species and encourage native plants. As a result, the Johnston property features an incredible mix of habitat types that testify to their hard work and are a source of inspiration for landowners seeking prairie and woodland restoration,” Kabele said. The Johnston’s have not only protected their investment in habitat restoration, they are protecting rural open space values and are providing permanent vegetation for cleaner waters.

Carmeen Johnston said, “We are glad that our little bit of heaven can stay our little bit of heaven. We wouldn’t have known what to do, if it werent for Mississippi Valley Conservancy.

Asked to tell a favorite story about the land, George said that several years after they bought the property, he was out walking on the back side of the property. “All the western sunflowers were in bloom. I started looking around…the more I looked, the more species I found. We didnt know that back area was a prairie remnant. It was just really exciting to find a prairie remnant. I spent my career in fisheries, but I love plants. Ive always been more interested in botany than anything else. Ive spent my whole life outside. If I see something new, I have to identify it.”

Kabele said George’s work restoring the prairie has resulted in more native plants returning. “These improved habitats form natural communities that include wildflowers, grasses, and sedges — critical resources for declining pollinators.”

Carol Abrahamzon, MVC executive director, said, “Through their conservation easement George and Carmeen have provided an enduring legacy to future generations while achieving peace of mind, knowing that their land will be taken care of far into the future.”

Calling All Storytellers! ‘Wild Words’ Event Invites High-School Students to Share Stories

The following post was written by our wonderful member Door County Land Trust.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 10, 2017

CONTACT:  

Tom Clay, Executive Director: tclay@doorcountylandtrust.org

Cinnamon Rossman, Communications and Outreach Manager:  crossman@doorcountylandtrust.org

Sturgeon Bay, WI – March 10, 2017 – ‘Wild Words: Earth Day Stories of Our Connection to the Land’ is planned for Saturday, April 22 at Crossroads at Big Creek. On this evening, high-school students from across the county are invited to share stories of their connection to the land.

The ‘Wild Words’ project is currently enlisting students to participate. Students in drama, forensics and ecology clubs may be particularly suited, but any interested student should contact the Door County Land Trust to sign up soon. Workshop participation is limited. Stories can range from humorous to dramatic, informative or persuasive. Students can work individually or in pairs to develop and share their stories. An optional workshop for participants will be hosted by WriteOn, Door County in early April.

Door County Land Trust’s executive director Tom Clay says, “Door County families have a history of farming, hunting and fishing, and a great appreciation for the natural beauty of this county. This storytelling event gives high schoolers an opportunity to reflect on why the land is important to them and their family…to share their sense of place.”

The ‘Wild Words’ event on April 22 will be based on a format called “pecha kucha” which is Japanese for chit-chat. Using twenty pictures and twenty seconds per picture, each story will be 6 minutes and 40 seconds long.

‘Wild Words’ is a partnership project between Crossroads at Big Creek, the Door County Land Trust, and WriteOn, Door County. The three organizations are working collaboratively to engage students, help them develop their stories and to present the final event.

The first ten students to sign up to participate will receive a scholarship to the Festival of Nature in May 2017 and a certificate of participation. Students may also be eligible for extra-credit through their classroom teachers.

To learn more about participating in this project, call Door County Land Trust at (920) 746-1359 or email Cinnamon Rossman at crossman@doorcountylandtrust.org or Gretchen Schmelzer at grschmelzer6@gmail.com.

About the Door County Land Trust

The Door County Land Trust’s mission is “To protect Door County’s exceptional lands and waters…forever.”  It is a nonprofit, community-based organization that actively works to conserve land by undertaking or assisting with direct land transactions—primarily the purchase or acceptance of donations of land or conservation easements. Founded in 1986, the Door County Land Trust has protected more than 7600 acres from Washington Island through southern Door County and many points in between.

Door County Land Trust nature preserves are open year-round to the public at no charge for hiking, cross-country skiing, wildlife observation, hunting, and other low-impact, non-motorized recreational activities. For more information and to become a Land Trust member visit www.doorcountylandtrust.org or call (920)746-1359.  

Trump Budget Eliminates Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Leaving Fate of Lakes in Hands of U.S. Congress

The following statement was released today by The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition:

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 16, 2017)—The Trump Administration’s budget released today eliminates the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a popular program responsible for cleaning up toxic pollution, restoring wildlife habitat, controlling invasive species and reducing runoff from cities and farms. The cuts are part of the administration’s efforts to gut the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by $2.6 billion, almost one-third of the budget for the agency responsible for ensuring every American has clean, safe drinking water. During the presidential campaign, representatives of Trump pledged to support federal Great Lakes restoration investments.

Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said:

“For the 30 million people who depend on the Great Lakes for their drinking water, health, jobs, and way of life, the Trump Administration budget is a total non-starter. The Trump Administration’s budget makes it abundantly clear that real leadership to benefit the people of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Illinois will have to come from Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress, who have worked together over the last seven years to invest in Great Lakes restoration projects that are producing results for the environment and economy in local communities across the region. We look forward to working with Congress to restore funding to these important programs to ensure that Great Lakes restoration remains a top national priority.”

Read the White House budget at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/2018_blueprint.pdf

EPA and Great Lakes restoration cuts can be found on page 41-42

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 145 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes. For more information visit http://www.healthylakes.org Follow us on twitter @healthylakes.

Help Protect the Great Lakes

The original version of this article was updated on 3/16/17 in response to the release of the Trump Administration’s preliminary federal budget (EPA and Great Lakes restoration cuts can be found on page 41-42.)

The Great Lakes–which provide drinking water for nearly 40 million people, including more than a million Wisconsinites–are at risk. Gathering Waters staff is in D.C. this week for Great Lakes Day with more than 100 advocates from the region to let members of Congress know how vital and valuable the Great Lakes are to our state’s economy and quality of life.

Executive Director, Mike Carlson and Government Relations Director, Chris Danou were in Senator Baldwin’s office on the morning the draft budget was released.

Read on for more information about:

  • The potential for a complete loss of all federal funding for Great Lakes protection and restoration;
  • How you can help protect the Great Lakes;
  • Wisconsin land trusts and the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a critical federal program for cleaning up toxic pollution, reducing polluted runoff, controlling invasive species and restoring habitat. Cuts to this funding would be devastating.

Bi-partisan Great Lakes Programs at Risk

The Trump Administration’s preliminary budget eviscerates funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI)–a critical federal program for cleaning up toxic pollution, reducing polluted runoff, controlling invasive species and restoring habitat. The loss of the $300 million annual funding would devastate Great Lakes restoration efforts. The GLRI has enjoyed strong bi-partisan support in Congress, and we’re looking to Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation for leadership in defending critical Great Lakes funding and programs.

Read a statement from the Healing Our Waters Coalition to find out more about the immediate threat to one of Wisconsin’s most valuable assets.

 

You can help by contacting legislators and making a donation.

YOU Can Help

As part of the HOW Coalition’s annual fly-in to Washington DC, more than 100 Great Lakes advocates, including Gathering Waters staff, are meeting with members of Congress this week to talk about successful restoration efforts and the need for continued investment in the region. Can’t join us in DC? No problem–you can make a difference from home. Call your federal representatives today and ask them to protect critical Great Lakes funding and programs.

Find contact information for Wisconsin’s U.S. Senators and your U.S. House member, or simply text your zip code to 520-200-2223. You’ll get a text back immediately with everything you need.

Also, consider a donation to Gathering Waters today to increase your impact.

More than a dozen Wisconsin land trusts help protect the Great Lakes in the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior basins through land protection and management.

Wisconsin Land Trusts and the Great Lakes

More than a dozen Wisconsin land trusts help protect the Great Lakes in the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior basins through land protection and management. These protected lands–such as the Frog Bay Tribal National Park–also provide access to the Lakes for all of us–for all kinds of recreation and enjoyment, forever.

Cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would be devastating to these efforts in the region.

Trump Administration Proposed Cuts to Great Lakes Programs, EPA Unacceptable

The following is a statement from the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition (HOW Coalition), which consists of more than 145 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Gathering Waters is a proud part of the HOW Coalition.

Republicans, Democrats in Congress are key to protecting Great Lakes, clean water programs

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (March 9, 2017)—The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition today expressed deep concern with the rumored Trump Administration’s budget cuts that would gut core Great Lakes programs, roll back Clean Water Act protections, and delay federal action to respond to serious threats like the invasive Asian carp. Absent a change in course from the Trump Administration, the Coalition is looking to work with the U.S. Congress to keep federal restoration efforts on track.

“The administration’s actions over the last few weeks threaten to stop federal Great Lakes restoration efforts in their tracks and undermine gains we’ve made,” said Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “We strongly urge the White House to reverse course and put forward a strong Great Lakes budget that is in the best interest of the millions of people who depend on the Great Lakes for their drinking water, job, and way of life.”

Preliminary Trump Administration budget numbers leaked last week would eviscerate funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative – the popular and successful federal program to clean up toxic pollution, reduce runoff, control invasive species and restore habitat – from $300 million to $10 million, a 97 percent cut. This cut comes, even though President Trump’s campaign pledged to support Great Lakes restoration investments in September 2016. In addition to cuts to Great Lakes programs, the budget also contained drastic cuts to other critical programs and even the elimination of programs such as the EPA’s environmental justice office.

The preliminary budget was the latest in series of actions that could undermine Great Lakes restoration efforts. Over the last three weeks the Trump Administration has:

  • Proposed slashing funding for core Great Lakes programs by 97 percent;
  • Recommended cutting the Environmental Protection Agency budget by 25 percent;
  • Indefinitely postponed the release of a study needed to bolster defenses against invasive Asian carp; and,
  • Issued an executive order asking federal agencies to review the Clean Water Rule to determine whether to revise or rescind it.

“These actions have real impacts on local communities,” said Joy Mulinex, co-chair of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition and director of government relations, Western Reserve Land Conservancy. “Federal investments are producing results, but serious threats remain. Cutting successful programs will not save the federal government one penny, because projects will only get more difficult and expensive the longer we wait.

President Trump is scheduled to release the final proposed budget the week of March 13. That week, as part of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition’s annual fly-in to Washington, D.C., more than 100 Great Lakes advocates will be meeting with members of Congress to talk about successful restoration efforts. Over the past three years, Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress have beaten back attempts to cut Great Lakes programs.

“Congress controls the purse strings, and we have been fortunate to have strong Great Lakes champions on both sides of the aisle,” said Chad Lord, policy director, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “Now, more than ever, it will be important for Great Lakes senators and representatives to support Great Lakes restoration and protection efforts and defend the policies and agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency that are the foundation for clean water. Every single person in the United States deserves access to affordable, clean, safe drinking water, beaches that are safe to swim in and fish that are safe to eat.”

Learn more about the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition at www.healthylakes.org or follow us on Twitter @healthylakes.

Driftless Area Land Conservancy Earns National Recognition

Strong Commitment to Public Trust and Conservation Excellence

At a time of political change, one thing is clear: Americans overwhelmingly support saving the open spaces they love. Since 2001 Driftless Area Land Conservancy (“Driftless”), one of 1,363 land trusts across the United States, has been doing just that for the people of Southwest Wisconsin.

Now Driftless is pleased to announce it has achieved national recognition, joining a network of only 372 accredited land trusts across the nation that have demonstrated their commitment to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust in their work.

To be accredited demonstrates our commitment to permanent land conservation in Southwest Wisconsin,” said Mike Van Sicklen, Driftless’ board president. “Financial supporters, conservation partners and landowners should all feel comfort in the knowledge that we’re a strong, ethical and fiscally responsible organization for having gone through the rigorous accreditation program.

Driftless Executive Director, David Clutter, and his son are seen here at the 220-acre Erickson Conservation Area in Argyle Wisconsin, which is open for public enjoyment.

Driftless had to provide extensive documentation and undergo a comprehensive review as part of its accreditation application. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded accreditation, signifying its confidence that Driftless Area Land Conservancy’s lands will be protected forever. Over the past 16 years Driftless has conserved 42 different sites covering nearly 7,000 acres of farms, forests and natural areas, including the 220-acre Erickson Conservation Area in Argyle Wisconsin, open for public enjoyment.

Over the years Driftless has also conserved unique historic lands and resources like the Thomas Stone Barn outside of Barneveld, high quality trout streams, productive farmland, critical wildlife habitat for declining grassland birds and endangered species, old-growth woods and native remnant prairies, massive rock outcrops and geological features, and lands that provide buffer unique Wisconsin River backwaters that support threatened and engaged fish.

“It is exciting to recognize Driftless Area Land Conservancy with this distinction,” said Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the Commission. “Accredited land trusts are united behind strong ethical standards ensuring the places people love will be conserved forever. Accreditation recognizes Driftless Area Land Conservancy has demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship.”

The National Land Trust Census, released December 1, 2016 by the Land Trust Alliance, shows that accredited land trusts have made significant achievements.

  • Accredited land trusts protected five times more land from 2010 to 2015 than land trusts that were not yet accredited.
  • Accredited land trusts also have stronger systems and more resources to steward and defend their conservation lands forever.
  • As a result, the public’s trust in land conservation has increased helping to win support for federal, state and local conservation funding measures.

A complete list of accredited land trusts and more information about the process and benefits are detailed at www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

About the Driftless Area Land Conservancy

Driftless Area Land Conservancy’s purpose is to maintain and enhance the health, diversity and beauty of Southwest Wisconsin’s natural and agricultural landscape through permanent land protection and restoration, and improve people’s lives by connecting them to the land and to each other.

A student birding on one of the properties that is protected by Driftless and free for the public to enjoy.

About the Land Trust Accreditation Commission

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission inspires excellence, promotes public trust and ensures permanence in the conservation of open lands by recognizing organizations that meet rigorous quality standards and strive for continuous improvement. The Commission, established in 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts. For more, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

About the Land Trust Alliance

Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. Based in Washington, D.C., and with several regional offices, the Alliance represents about 1,000 member land trusts nationwide.

The Alliance’s leadership serves the entire land trust community—our work in the nation’s capital represents the policy priorities of land conservationists from every state; our education programs improve and empower land trusts from Maine to Alaska; and our comprehensive vision for the future of land conservation includes new partners, new programs and new priorities. Connect with us online at www.landtrustalliance.org.

This blog post was copied from Driftless Area Land Conservancy’s blog

Land Swap at Patrick Marsh and Waunakee Prairie

Natural Heritage Land Trust and Dane County this week swapped land to improve management of two public natural areas.

Dane County donated 14 acres of land on the south side of Patrick Marsh Wildlife Area (map), on the eastern doorstep of Sun Prairie, to Natural Heritage Land Trust. The land is adjacent to the 80 acres owned by Natural Heritage Land Trust and is part of a 320-acre wildlife area. In exchange, Natural Heritage Land Trust donated 40 acres of land north of Waunakee to Dane County. This land, the Wilke Prairie Preserve (map), is adjacent to the County’s Waunakee Prairie.

patrick-marsh

Patrick Marsh

At Patrick Marsh, Natural Heritage Land Trust has been working with Patrick Marsh Conservancy, Sun Prairie Rotary, Patrick Marsh Middle School, and other groups to improve trails and restore wildlife habitat. In November, 250 students from Patrick Marsh Middle School planted 18 acres of prairie in a field on the south side of the marsh (click here for the video). This fall the Land Trust officially adopted the DNR land at the marsh and will work on more improvements to wildlife habitat. The Land Trust works with volunteers, a summer intern crew, Operation Fresh Start, and others to make the wildlife area more accessible, educational, and enjoyable for everyone.

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Wilke Preserve

The land Dane County is gaining in this swap, the Wilke Prairie Preserve on Six Mile Creek north of Waunakee, was created in 1994 when Hazel Knudson donated 40 acres to Natural Heritage Land Trust. According to Land Trust Executive Director Jim Welsh, “Hazel’s original goal had been to see her land become part of the county’s system of parks and natural resource areas. It’s nice to see that 22 years later we could fulfill Hazel’s wishes.”

According to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, “The land exchanges with Natural Heritage Land Trust are wonderful examples of how Dane County continues to collaborate with our conservation partners to deliver a quality and seamless recreational experience for residents of and visitors to Dane County.  These exchanges will increase management efficiencies and reduce operating costs by consolidating land holdings where the County or the Land Trust already owns other conservation and recreational lands.  My special thanks to Natural Heritage Land Trust for all it does to further the goals of the County’s Parks and Open Space Plan.”

Scenic farm and bluffland property protected forever.

We received some wonderful news last week from our member land trust Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC). If you have a connection to the Mississippi River Valley, or simply care about protecting special places in Wisconsin, you’ll want to read MVC’s press release below:

Mississippi River Valley Property Conserved

A drive the through the Mississippi River Valley now features brilliant fall colors, and a short distance east of Ferryville, Mississippi Valley Conservancy has ensured 189-acres of scenic bluffland will remain intact for future generations. The Conservancy completed a conservation agreement with Ken and Deneen Kickbusch on Thursday, October 20th to permanently protect their 189-acre farm and bluffland.  The voluntary conservation agreement protects the scenic beauty and wildlife habitat by limiting future subdivision, development, mining, and other unsustainable activities that are inconsistent with the landowner’s wishes. The land remains in private ownership and is not open to the public.

“The animals and the birds don’t always have contiguous habitat, and our land can make a difference for the wildlife,” said Deneen, “we have so many great memories here.” Their memories include hunting trips with sons and grandsons, camping within view of the Mississippi River, working in the prairie, serenades by whippoorwills, and startling wood ducks out of the ponds.  Carol Abrahamzon, Executive Director for the Conservancy stated, “Ken and Deneen have been so thoughtful about the use of their land and the future of that land. We are honored to be a part of realizing their dream to protect the wildlife and its habitat.”

 

kickbusch-ac-007

The Kickbusch 189 acre property is comprised of farmland, bluffland and prairie communities. Its protection ensures wildlife and native plants will have suitable habitat, forever.  

Photo by: Mississippi Valley Conservancy

The Kickbusch’s bought the land in 1976, attracted to the rural character, the lack of buildings, and the wildlife. The land is a mix of agricultural land and wooded bluffs, with the steep rugged topography characteristic of the Driftless Area. Ken and Deneen recognized the importance of land preservation, watching changes to the landscape as commodity prices rise, stating, “a conservation easement would provide the kind of protection that this highly erodible land deserves”. Nationwide an acre of farmland is lost every minute from conversion to other land uses. Over the years, terraces and water retention ponds were added to the Kickbusch property to address soil erosion and runoff. “When we bought the property, we restored the ponds,” said Ken, “which were as full this year as they have ever been, and always used by the wood ducks. Once, I counted sixteen wood ducks flying out of the pond.”

The land also includes several “goat” prairies, labeled as such because the early settlers thought they were so steep, only a goat could climb them. The prairies include the same wildflowers and grasses that were present here 200 years ago. The agreement with the Conservancy ensures that habitat remains intact for wildlife, and future owners honor the conservation practices within the farmland. “There is just too much abuse of the land, devastating local communities, rivers, wildlife,” said Ken “we felt this was something solid, something real we could do for the future”.

great-plains-ladies-tresses

Great Plains Ladies Tresses Orchid, found on the Kickbusch property. The orchid was recently added to the DNR’s list of species of “Special Concern”. The native wildflowers & grasses found today have been present on the Kickbusch land for over 200 years. 

Photo by: Mississippi Valley Conservancy

“The Kickbusch’s land provides a great example of how little is known about the habitat right here in our backyard,” remarked Abbie Church, Conservation Director for the Conservancy, “as we walked through the prairie, we found a small stalk of snow-white blooms, and a Great Plains Ladies Tresses Orchid. We walked on to find five other stalks. This orchid was recently added to the Wisconsin DNR’s list of species of “Special Concern” and the University of Wisconsin herbarium has no previous records of this orchid being found in Crawford County. One week later we found yet another species of rare orchid, this time in the woods, another new record for Crawford County.” The prairie today is in great shape due to Ken and Deneen’s efforts. “Fifteen years ago Ken went out and cut the red cedars in the prairie,” according to Deneen, “It looks much better today than ever before; the prairie is so beautiful”.

 



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