Archived entries for prairie

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.”

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”.

 

It Starts With YOU: Our Thanks to George Varnum

As we enter the season of giving we’re touched by the many ways that individuals have cared for the land. Indeed, we’re grateful that so many participate in this work with us — Land conservation starts with YOU.

As is the case with the recently celebrated George Varnum, a landowner who has worked to protect his land for decades, it starts from the ground-level.  Back in the 1990s, Varnum began the process of documenting all the unique plant species on the 61-acre property near his home. He started to reach out to the community in 1997 about this special piece of prairie and this led to efforts by the Mississippi Valley Conservancy to preserve the property.

Thanks to George Varnum for playing a key role in protecting such a special place in his community. Photo by Dave Skoloda.

Thanks to George Varnum for playing a key role in protecting this special place in his community. Photo by Dave Skoloda.

Today the town of Holland owns the property and Mississippi Valley Conservancy holds a conservation easement on it, meaning it will stay as it stands today for future generations. Now and forever, the prairie is open for the public to enjoy.

Holland Sand Prairie

Holland Sand Prairie

Varnum recently received a plaque for his role in prairie preservation. The plaque says Varnum, “helped care for the property. Mississippi Valley Conservancy and the Friends of the Holland Sand Prairie share in thanking George for the important role he played on behalf of the prairie and its hundreds of species and the people who now enjoy them in any season, forever preserved.”

We’re grateful for community leaders like George Varnum who take notice of critical habitats for wildlife and plants, develop partnerships, and assist in preserving these places for future generations to enjoy.



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