Archived entries for oak woodlands

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.



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