Archived entries for Carol Abrahamzon

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.”

 

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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”.

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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”.

 

The Call of the Whip-poor-will

The forest is quiet – the floor is littered with last season’s fallen leaves.

You can barely hear the ripple of the creek where the clean, clear water flows across the rocks.

Shhh, listen.  Can you hear it?

Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will.

The call of the Whip-poor-will.

Look.  Over there on the side of road the bulldozers quietly, patiently, sit in wait.

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The whip-poor-will.

Thump, thump.  There’s a knock on the farm house door. Vicky isn’t expecting anyone.  She wipes her hands and pulls the curtain back.  Vicky doesn’t recognize the man in the suit with the clipboard of papers under his arm.

She opens the door. “Can I help you?”

“Good afternoon.” John explains that he is from Hi Crush, the sand mining company. “Your farm has the prime sand we are looking for and we’re willing to pay you handsomely for it.  The papers are all ready, just sign here.”

Vicky’s face becomes ashen.  “This farm has been in my family for well over 30 years. My son has spent years restoring that prairie you call a sand mine.”

“This farm is not for sale!” Vicky closes the door.

temp Looking-Toward-the-Baraboo-Hills

Photo credit: Prairie Hill Farm

Vicky spends the evening worrying about the future of her family farm.  Tossing and turning, she barely sleeps that night. While she lays awake she can hear it.

Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will.

When she wakes up in the morning Vicky remembers an article she read in her local paper about protecting land. She digs through the papers on her desk until she finds the one she is looking for.  Vicky re-reads the article.

Then she picks up her phone and calls Mississippi Valley Conservancy!

Vicky talks about her farm with Abbie. She talks about the years her kids spent growing up on it. She remembers how they loved to go down to the creek with their city cousins and splash in the water.  She remembers how they would come back to the house muddy and exhausted, but with grins from ear to ear.

And Vicky talks about the wildlife and plants that still call her farm home.

Photo credit: Susan Penning

Photo credit: Susan Penning

Over the next few months, Vicky works with the team at Mississippi Valley Conservancy.  She tells us how important protecting her farm forever is to her, her kids, and her grandkids.  She talks about the clean, clear water that runs through the creek below. And she talks about the Whip-poor-will, and the other animals that live on her farm.

Today, Vicky is at peace knowing her family farm is protected from development forever through a conservation agreement with Mississippi Valley Conservancy.

Because of this agreement, Vicky’s grandkids and great grandkids will splash through the stream and come back to the house wet, muddy and happily, exhausted.

Because of this agreement, Vicky and her family will continue to hear the call of the Whip-poor-will as it drifts through the valleys and across the forest floor – for generations to come.

Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will.

Story by: Carol Abrahamzon, Executive Director, Mississippi Valley Conservancy

Sugar Creek Bluff State Natural Area Grows

A 144-acre bluffland on the Great River Road, Wisconsin’s only national scenic byway, was slated for residential development. When the community found out, many banded together under the leadership of the local land trust, Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC), to make sure that didn’t happen.

Jay Olson-Goude

MVC tapped into an invaluable resource—the state’s Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program. Funding through the Stewardship Program provided over 80% of the money needed to purchase this special place from the folks who owned it. A number of community institutions came through to cover the $86,436 balance. Clearly, protecting this land was important to the community and instead of being developed, the land became an extension of the Sugar Creek Bluff State Natural Area.

And for good reason! They now have 420-acres available to them for hunting, fishing, hiking, bird watching and other family recreation.  Additionally, as Carol Abrahamzon, MVC executive director pointed out, this “will benefit the students of De Soto Junior High and High School, who have adopted Sugar Creek Bluff, doing restoration workdays as well as environmental education activities.”

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“if today was my last day on earth, I’d like to spend part of it on Sugar Creek Bluff.” (Laura Patten) Photo courtesy of Mississippi Valley Conservancy

Andy and Laura Patten, who own property next to the state natural area were asked how they would describe it to someone who hadn’t been there before. Andy said it “combines all the natural beauty of the Driftless in a setting that makes it easy for anyone to access. The goat prairie, a spring-fed trout stream, the full range of the oak savanna and woodland ecosystem, grasslands and an abundance of rare and native plant and animal species all exist there to be appreciated and enjoyed.”  Laura said, “if today was my last day on earth, I’d like to spend part of it on Sugar Creek Bluff.”  She added, “Seeing the bluff out my window when I’m at work reminds me that when people work together, we can make good decisions that will reward the land and others for generations to come.”

Cerulean Warbler

A variety of wildlife will always be able to count on this place, including the rare cerulean warbler. © Mark S. Szantyr

Joanne White, member of the Ferryville Tourism Council, said that the Bluffland is part of Ferryville’s identity as the smallest of the 93 cities in the Bird City Wisconsin program.  “We’re thrilled to have it protected,” she said. The community co-sponsors public hikes on the property with MVC. She said the rare cerulean warbler has been seen on each of the hikes she has attended.



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