Archived entries for Conservation

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”.

 

Bill Lunney wins Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award 

Bill Lunney has dedicated more than 45 years to advancing state and local conservation efforts through his leadership serving numerous conservation-based organizations either as a board member (including ours!), founder, or board Chair. He has been integral to preserving thousands of acres of land, building strong citizen-based environmental organizations, growing consensus among many stakeholders—particularly public officials—for land preservation, and for promoting a land ethic based on the idea that any land preserved is a gift to future generations.

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Bill Lunney

Through a variety of roles with different organizations and agencies, Bill has helped expand Dane County’s Park system exponentially and helped preserve environmentally significant land all over Wisconsin. He has also aided in the development and implementation of educational and volunteer programs on many of those lands.

These successes would have failed without productive engagement with various stakeholders locally and statewide. “Bill has an ability to lead meetings, diffuse tensions and outline ways forward,” applauds Dane County Parks Director Darren Marsh, “he is exceptionally astute when it comes to personal interactions and motivating people for a cause.”  His levelheaded pragmatism has paid off over the years as Bill has consistently helped bring together a broad coalition in support of reauthorizing, and fending off budget-cuts to the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

 

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Bill with Jim Welsh, Executive Director at Natural Heritage Land Trust, and his wife, Judie Pfeifer, at Patrick Marsh Wildlife Viewing Platform.

All told, Bill has served, or still serves, as a Board Member for seven different conservation organizations. This total doesn’t include the involvement he and his wife Judie Pfeifer have with nonprofit organizations and government agencies in other fields. What’s telling is the dedication he brings. “Bill commits himself to major fundraising efforts, membership recruitment efforts, developing educational and volunteer programs and ensuring strong organizational capacity,” says Gail Shea, who served with Bill on Natural Heritage Land Trust’s board, “he doesn’t just join an organization as a passive board member.”

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Bill and his wife Judie Pfeifer

In many ways, Bill’s leadership is responsible for the preservation of thousands of acres of critical habitat, which also serve as educational opportunities. In Dane County and beyond, Bill has made a lasting impact on the conservation movement in Wisconsin and we are proud to honor him with the prestigious Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement award. Bill will be presented with his award at a Garden Party, hosted by Natural Heritage Land Trust on September 15, in Middleton. If you are interested in attending, please email heidi@nhlt.org.

Linked to the Land

We love to see land trusts across the state developing new and exciting partnerships to meet the needs of the communities they serve. One recent example is Mississippi Valley Conservancy’s (MVC) partnership with the Mayo Clinic Health System. Mayo is sponsoring “Linked to the Land,” a series of hikes given by MVC, designed to get people outside.

“This series offers a wide variety of outdoor events that provide an opportunity to experience the wonder and excitement of our region’s natural resources on the lands that have been permanently protected by MVC and its partners,” says Carol Abrahamzon, MVC executive director.

“The Linked to the Land hikes are an excellent way to add physical activity and fun to your lifestyle, as well as to learn about the wonders of the Driftless Area,” says Jonathan Rigden, M.D. “Mayo Clinic Health System – Franciscan Healthcare, supports our community’s efforts to promote healthy living. Plenty of physical activity, good eating habits, and stress reduction are the key.”

TMcCormick_Boch Fnd @ Narrows_4687

With healthcare costs rising, it’s wonderful to see land trusts and healthcare organizations partnering to promote healthy lifestyles. Photo by Terrence McCormick

If you are interested in checking out this exciting new series, here are the remaining 2014 dates:

Apr. 27 – Earth Fair Hike – Miller Bluff, La Crosse Bluffland

May 10 – Mother’s Day Bird Identification Hike – Sugar Creek Bluff, Crawford County, 8-10 a.m.

May 17 – Birds & Brunch at Boscobel Bluffs

Jun. 15 – Father’s Day Hike – Seldom Seen Farm, Gays Mills

Jul. 26 – River Bluff Day’s Hike – Sugar Creek Bluff, Ferryville

Aug. 16 – Prairie Flower Hike – Holland Sand Prairie, Town of Holland

Sept. 13 – FSPA Stargazing Hike, St. Joseph Ridge Garden Tour 5:30 p.m. Hike 6:30 p.m. Stargazing 8 p.m.

Oct. 11 – Family Fall Hike – MacGregor property, Grant County

Nov. 8 – Tree Identification Hike – Angel Bluff, Buffalo County

Dec. 30 – Holiday Break Hike – Mathy Quarry at 2 p.m.

For more information, visit MVC’s website.

Birds of a Feather: Linking Land Trusts, Birds, and Vibrant Communities

The news we’ve been hearing over the last few weeks has certainly shown us something interesting about the city of Madison – Madisonians are bird lovers! In Dane County and in Madison specifically, Madison Audubon Society plays a large role in protecting birds and their habitats. This land trust has been especially busy over the past few weeks delivering and receiving awards and recognition, garnering some cool press in the process:

Lincoln Elementary Honored

This fall, Madison’s Lincoln Elementary was awarded the “Conservation Scholar” award from Madison Audubon. The honor was bestowed for this school’s tradition of placing importance on teaching kids about the environment. Lincoln Elementary houses a unique and long-standing nature trail/wilderness walk on school grounds.

This year, teacher Laurie Solchenberger took the next step and involved Lincoln students in the Great Wisconsin Birdathon. As part of this initiative, each student was assigned a Wisconsin bird. The students studied their bird species and then, at the project’s culmination, taught the rest of the class about the bird.

Lincoln Elementary students loved all they learned by participating in the 2013 Birdathon!

Lincoln Elementary students loved all they learned by participating in the 2013 Birdathon!

The “Conservation Scholar” honor comes with a small cash award, which the school will most likely use to purchase binoculars to promote birding and other nature-viewing activities as part of the school’s environmental tradition. Judging by the thank you notes and drawings from the students to Eagle Optics (for the temporary use of their binoculars), it seems that this will be money well spent!

The City of Madison Honored

With help from the Madison Audubon Society, Madison was recently deemed a ‘Bird City’ through Bird City Wisconsin– a program of the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative. This honor was imparted because of Madison’s outstanding community-based efforts to protect bird populations through conservation, meeting criteria for education, habitat management, species management, and limiting or removing hazards to birds. The Madison Audubon Society played an important role in these efforts.

A Madison Bird City celebration was held at Warner Park where the city was presented with official Bird City flags, plaques, and street signs.

Charles Schwartz, State Coordinator of Bird City, presents Bird City flags to Madison and Maple Bluff. Photo from Madison Commons.

Charles Schwartz, State Coordinator of Bird City, presents the Bird City flag to Madison. Photo from Madison Commons.

Its no wonder that Madison Audubon has been making the news! This land trust has clearly been working hard, enriching the communities they serve while forwarding their mission to educate their members and the public about the natural world and the threats that natural systems are facing, to engage in advocacy to preserve and protect these systems, and to develop and maintain sanctuaries to save and restore habitat. We certainly are proud of them. Well done!

Family and fireflies: preserving land in La Crosse County

The donation of a recent conservation agreement between Sue Strehl and Mississippi Valley Conservancy comes from a longing to protect the land that made Sue who she is today.

Sue and her dog at the farm.

Sue and her dog at the farm.

On a 100-acre farm plot in the Town of Shelby, fond memories of family and fireflies were formed for Sue Strehl. This farm has been in Sue’s family for 99 years and was established in 1914 when Sue’s grandparents, the Neidercorns, purchased the first 60 acres. The farm was used for a dairy operation, growing potatoes, and for a short time, growing tobacco.

Sue has many fond memories of the land; in an interview she recalled one night where she took off exploring, “I had hiked to the back 40 one evening [and] I was standing there as it got dark, just enjoying the sounds of nature. As the last traces of the sun’s glow disappeared from the sky, the valley in front of me filled with more fireflies than I had ever seen. I was awestruck.”

Because the land has been with her family for nearly a century Sue says she wants to protect it so that the “future owners of the land… get the same joy from the property as my family has experienced.”

The rolling hills of the Strehl Farm.

The rolling hills of the Strehl Farm.

Mississippi Valley Conservancy is overjoyed that they will be able to help Sue and her family protect this beautiful land from development and mining while still allowing the property to stay under the private ownership of Sue’s Family.

Reflecting on the conservation agreement, Tim Jacobson, the Conservancy’s executive director, said “Caring for the farm in this lasting way is the true embodiment of the ‘land ethic’ that Wisconsin conservationist Aldo Leopold wrote about.”



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