Archived entries for conservation easement

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.”



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 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”.


Years in the Making

Local land trusts are in the business of conservation in perpetuity so by their nature they must practice patience, and have compassion for the land AND the people in order to meet their missions successfully. We’re pleased to share just one example of this type of patience and compassion to kick off our year.

Indeed, the passion of a single individual can impact so many lives, and over such span of time. In the last moments of 2013, Helen Boley made an agreement to conserve her land with Driftless Area Land Conservancy.


Helen Boley donated a 637-acre conservation easement to Driftless Area Land Conservancy on her very special property in northwest Iowa County.

This beautiful property is roughly 1 ½ miles west of the 781-acre Dry Dog conservation easements – also protected by DALC – and two miles due south of the 80,000+ acre Lower Wisconsin Riverway.

Boley's land is located within the Blue River Watershed

Boley’s land is located within the Blue River Watershed

This unique landscape, which includes Driftless Area outcrops and rock features, unique pine relict communities and over 6,000 feet of a Class 2 trout stream, the Sand Branch, is a paradise for local nesting birds and wildlife.

Helen Boley with Dave Clutter, Executive Director of Driftless Area Land Conservancy

Helen Boley with Dave Clutter, Executive Director of Driftless Area Land Conservancy

“I donated a conservation easement and also willed my property to Driftless because I’m concerned with the changing whims of government agencies and how they view land. I love my land and I want to see it protected forever.  This is the right thing to do.

 According to Dave Clutter, executive director with Driftless Area Land Conservancy, a Gathering Waters member and LEAP participant, Helen spent over two years communicating with loved ones and advisors and carefully thinking through a range of different options for her property.  In the end Helen donated a conservation easement and willed her property the Conservancy. 

The conservation community is incredibly grateful for Helen’s generosity, foresight and gift to posterity. To know that her special land will be protected forever is truly a wonderful gift to all of us as as we kick off the New Year.

Celebrating Earth Day with Tia Nelson

The following is excerpted from an op-ed piece featured in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Gathering Waters board member Tia Nelson.  We at GWC endorse Tia’s message below and the Conservation Easement Incentive Act.  Please join us and on this Earth Day, let’s give the Earth a tax break.

Here’s a new way to celebrate Earth Day: Urge your representatives in Congress to help pass the Conservation Easement Incentive Act.

This bill would restore a tax break to modest-income landowners who want to protect the valuable natural resource that is their property. It expired on Dec. 31, so landowners have less of an incentive today to donate a conservation easement – a voluntary agreement that limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values – to a land trust in their community.servation Easement Incentive Act.

But an amazing thing has happened in this year of partisan wrangling: 300 members of Congress have come together to support the restoration of this tax break, with majorities of both parties – 125 Republicans and 175 Democrats representing 47 states – supporting it in the House. Supporters include the chairman, ranking Democrat and 32 of 37 Ways and Means Committee members.

The Conservation Easement Incentive Act is a truly bipartisan bill. At a time when Democrats and Republicans seem miles apart on most environmental and tax issues, here is one place they have come together.

By giving landowners a decent incentive to place a conservation easement on their property, Congress would help preserve our vanishing forests and farmland and make available millions of acres for wildlife – and our kids and grandkids – to enjoy. Such a tax break is a proven success.

Since enacted in 2006, it has allowed landowners to deduct the fair market value of their donated easement up to 50% of their income. And forestland owners, ranchers and farmers have been able to deduct the full 100%. This boosted the amount of land preserved by easements by more than a third, to more than 1 million acres a year – about the size of Yosemite and Grand Teton National Parks combined – each year.

Privately owned and managed forestland, farms and ranches are essential to America’s great landscapes and the people, economies and wildlife that depend on them. And foresters, ranchers and farmers are taking the lead in permanently protecting the country’s best working lands. These landscapes not only provide incredible scenery, water quality and wildlife habitat but also produce wood, fiber and the safest, most reliable source of food in the world.

In Wisconsin, Mark and Pam Dryer protected 270 acres of sustainably managed forestland surrounding two miles of Marengo River shoreline with the Bayfield Regional Conservancy, protecting a high-quality water resource and habitat to rare and endangered species of wildlife. Riverbank erosion along the Marengo River is one of the biggest contributors to sedimentation, so protecting it from development also protects Lake Superior, which lies downstream.

Let’s give landowners the incentive to conserve their land, protect the fish and wildlife and the communities that depend on it and pass on this heritage to our children and their children.


Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy, a Gem for Future Generations

While volunteering with Gathering Waters Conservancy during his winter break from college, our friend Will Erickson wrote the following story about a terrific land trust accomplishment close to his heart.

A new agreement between the Village of Williams Bay and the Geneva Lake Conservancy will permanently protect the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy. This agreement ensures that the 215-acre conservancy will not be subdivided or otherwise developed, a goal a long time in the making.

The Village of Williams Bay originally purchased the land from private owners in 1990.  The land consists of natural undisturbed woodland, wetlands, and prairies, with many trails for observation of birds, wildlife and native plantings.  And now thanks to a conservation easement held by Geneva Lake Conservancy, the land will be protected forever.

For many years Williams Bay had been turning down development proposals that would have had a detrimental impact on Williams Bay and Geneva Lake.

In 1989, following a citizen outcry regarding another more extensive project, the Williams Bay Board took the initiative and purchased this site for preservation.  In July of 1990 the board created the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy to “ensure the protection of this fragile shoreland-wetland area for future generations”.

My late grandfather, Herb Erikson, was one of many concerned Villagers in 1989 when extensive development offers were coming into the Bay.  It is with great pride and gratitude that I, one of the children of “future generations,” may still enjoy the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy.  To be able to appreciate this shoreline as my grandparents knew it is truly a gift, both to my generation and the health of Williams Bay and Lake Geneva.


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