Archived entries for Mississippi River

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.”

Effigy Mounds, Great River Road Bluffs, Rare Lizard Habitat Protected

Effigy Mounds

View from Tweeds Bluff

CRAWFORD COUNTY, WIS – Land ownership that dates to the Civil War, Native American effigy mounds, scenic bluffs on the Great River Road, and habitat for a rare lizard. These are some of the features of the latest land protection effort by Mississippi Valley Conservancy and Tweed family members who have permanently protected their land south of Ferryville.

According to the landowners, while the 29-acre property has been in the family since the Civil War, it used to be a much larger farm, over 800 acres in size. But some was sold during the Great Depression. The seven Tweed siblings, the children of John and Gertrude Tweed, all grew up there. A cabin built sometime in the late 1930s remains along with a history of working farmland, beekeeping for honey, and many memories.

Abbie Church, MVC conservation director, said that the project started with MVC in 2010 with a meeting outside of the cabin. All seven siblings — Jane Johnson and Marie Tweed, both of La Crosse, Nancy Dale of Stoddard, and those who have since passed away, Joyce Morrison, Robert Tweed, June Lindevig and Gladys Tweed — were interested in seeing the land protected.

Bluffs

View of Tweeds Bluff

Carol Abrahamzon, MVC executive director, said “Under this conservation agreement, the Conservancy accepts the responsibility of ensuring that the landowner’s wishes are honored now and forever. Those wishes include preserving the land and preventing future subdivision, development and mining, all while the land remains in private ownership.”

In view of traffic on both Highway 35 and 171, the property is within a designated “Important Bird Area” and one of North America’s primary migratory bird flyways. The Great River Road, Highway 35, was voted the “prettiest drive in the US” and is Wisconsin’s only designated National Scenic Byway. The wildlife habitat on the Tweed’s land includes dry prairie, oak savanna, rock cliffs and oak woodlands. Scenic views of their bluffland will be preserved in perpetuity and enjoyed by travelers on both the highway and the Mississippi River.

Jane Johnson said when the agreement was completed recently, “I am very enthused about conserving the land. It is a beautiful piece of property.”

Lizard

Five-lined skink

Two Native American effigy mounds overlook the Mississippi River on the land and are associated with the Late Woodland culture (AD 400-1100), according to archaeologists.

The rare lizard found there is the five-lined skink. Church said the skink is brightly colored, black with yellow stripes and a bright blue tail. “They live in oak barrens and prairie areas adjacent to oak woodlands. On the Tweed property they are up in the southwest-facing remnant prairie.” She said it was the first site the Conservancy has protected with a skink population.

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”.

 

Protecting the Mississippi — One Farm at a Time

Flowing 2,300 miles through the heart of America, the Mississippi River provides water, food, industry, habitat for wildlife and recreation for millions of people. Clearly this is one natural resource that affects all of us, everyday, and we need to be conscious of how we use it so we can preserve it as best we can for future generations.

That is exactly what farmer Charles Pearce is working on. Pearce has lived and worked on his family farm for decades and has been looking for ways to improve the health of the land and water around him and his farm. Lucky for Pearce his local land trust, Kettle Moraine Land Trust (KMLT), also recognized the importance of addressing water quality issues in the Walworth County area.

Pearce inspecting the cover crops on his farm. Photo by Kettle Moraine Land Trust.

Pearce inspecting the cover crops on his farm. Photo by KMLT.

 

So, KMLT asked the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to become a partner in their Watershed Initiative Network. NRCS agreed, and through this partnership funding is now available through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative.

How the partnership works is that KMLT requests funds from NRCS to help local farmers like Pearce implement conservation techniques that will improve the quality of water that eventually flows into the Mississippi River. Pearce is then able to plant cover crop on his fields to prevent soil erosion that protects nearby Lake Delavan.

Thanks to national programs like this and local land trusts like KMLT, landowners are able to reap the benefits of not only protecting their land but also entire watersheds, which we are truly grateful for, because they impact us all everyday.

Delevan Lake in Walworth County, WI. Photo by Kettle Moraine Land Trust.

Delavan Lake in Walworth County, WI. Photo by KMLT.

 



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