Archived entries for Mississippi Valley Conservancy

The Call of the Whip-poor-will

The forest is quiet – the floor is littered with last season’s fallen leaves.

You can barely hear the ripple of the creek where the clean, clear water flows across the rocks.

Shhh, listen.  Can you hear it?

Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will.

The call of the Whip-poor-will.

Look.  Over there on the side of road the bulldozers quietly, patiently, sit in wait.

whip (1)

The whip-poor-will.

Thump, thump.  There’s a knock on the farm house door. Vicky isn’t expecting anyone.  She wipes her hands and pulls the curtain back.  Vicky doesn’t recognize the man in the suit with the clipboard of papers under his arm.

She opens the door. “Can I help you?”

“Good afternoon.” John explains that he is from Hi Crush, the sand mining company. “Your farm has the prime sand we are looking for and we’re willing to pay you handsomely for it.  The papers are all ready, just sign here.”

Vicky’s face becomes ashen.  “This farm has been in my family for well over 30 years. My son has spent years restoring that prairie you call a sand mine.”

“This farm is not for sale!” Vicky closes the door.

temp Looking-Toward-the-Baraboo-Hills

Photo credit: Prairie Hill Farm

Vicky spends the evening worrying about the future of her family farm.  Tossing and turning, she barely sleeps that night. While she lays awake she can hear it.

Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will.

When she wakes up in the morning Vicky remembers an article she read in her local paper about protecting land. She digs through the papers on her desk until she finds the one she is looking for.  Vicky re-reads the article.

Then she picks up her phone and calls Mississippi Valley Conservancy!

Vicky talks about her farm with Abbie. She talks about the years her kids spent growing up on it. She remembers how they loved to go down to the creek with their city cousins and splash in the water.  She remembers how they would come back to the house muddy and exhausted, but with grins from ear to ear.

And Vicky talks about the wildlife and plants that still call her farm home.

Photo credit: Susan Penning

Photo credit: Susan Penning

Over the next few months, Vicky works with the team at Mississippi Valley Conservancy.  She tells us how important protecting her farm forever is to her, her kids, and her grandkids.  She talks about the clean, clear water that runs through the creek below. And she talks about the Whip-poor-will, and the other animals that live on her farm.

Today, Vicky is at peace knowing her family farm is protected from development forever through a conservation agreement with Mississippi Valley Conservancy.

Because of this agreement, Vicky’s grandkids and great grandkids will splash through the stream and come back to the house wet, muddy and happily, exhausted.

Because of this agreement, Vicky and her family will continue to hear the call of the Whip-poor-will as it drifts through the valleys and across the forest floor – for generations to come.

Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will.

Story by: Carol Abrahamzon, Executive Director, Mississippi Valley Conservancy

Sugar Creek Bluff State Natural Area Grows

A 144-acre bluffland on the Great River Road, Wisconsin’s only national scenic byway, was slated for residential development. When the community found out, many banded together under the leadership of the local land trust, Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC), to make sure that didn’t happen.

Jay Olson-Goude

MVC tapped into an invaluable resource—the state’s Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program. Funding through the Stewardship Program provided over 80% of the money needed to purchase this special place from the folks who owned it. A number of community institutions came through to cover the $86,436 balance. Clearly, protecting this land was important to the community and instead of being developed, the land became an extension of the Sugar Creek Bluff State Natural Area.

And for good reason! They now have 420-acres available to them for hunting, fishing, hiking, bird watching and other family recreation.  Additionally, as Carol Abrahamzon, MVC executive director pointed out, this “will benefit the students of De Soto Junior High and High School, who have adopted Sugar Creek Bluff, doing restoration workdays as well as environmental education activities.”

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“if today was my last day on earth, I’d like to spend part of it on Sugar Creek Bluff.” (Laura Patten) Photo courtesy of Mississippi Valley Conservancy

Andy and Laura Patten, who own property next to the state natural area were asked how they would describe it to someone who hadn’t been there before. Andy said it “combines all the natural beauty of the Driftless in a setting that makes it easy for anyone to access. The goat prairie, a spring-fed trout stream, the full range of the oak savanna and woodland ecosystem, grasslands and an abundance of rare and native plant and animal species all exist there to be appreciated and enjoyed.”  Laura said, “if today was my last day on earth, I’d like to spend part of it on Sugar Creek Bluff.”  She added, “Seeing the bluff out my window when I’m at work reminds me that when people work together, we can make good decisions that will reward the land and others for generations to come.”

Cerulean Warbler

A variety of wildlife will always be able to count on this place, including the rare cerulean warbler. © Mark S. Szantyr

Joanne White, member of the Ferryville Tourism Council, said that the Bluffland is part of Ferryville’s identity as the smallest of the 93 cities in the Bird City Wisconsin program.  “We’re thrilled to have it protected,” she said. The community co-sponsors public hikes on the property with MVC. She said the rare cerulean warbler has been seen on each of the hikes she has attended.

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.

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.

Dairy Industry Family Protects Land Along the Kickapoo

The Babson family, who played a key role in modernizing dairy farming, recently gifted an additional tract of land along the Kickapoo River to Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC). With this additional 983 acres, almost 2,278 contiguous acres along the Kickapoo have been protected by MVC  (a majority of the remaining 1,295 acres were also donated by the Babson family).

Jean Babson’s family owned the Chicago-based Surge milking machine business for many years. Jean and her late husband James (former president of the Babson Brothers Company) bought farms in this area along the Kickapoo 35 years ago and consolidated them to create a place for upwards of 1,000 beef cattle to graze on.

Jean has many fond memories of her family and friends gathering at a cabin they built above the Kickapoo River. The family will still maintain ownership of the cabin and the conservation easement property.

According to Jean: “James Babson had vision, had a love of the land. The whole place meant a lot to (him)…not just the cattle, but being here. It’s such a beloved part of the country that meant so much to me and (my husband), and it’s nice to know it’s going to be in good hands.”

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Ariel view of Babson property.

Out of the 2,278 total acres protected by MVC, 1,271 acres are open for public access, including hiking, hunting, bird watching, fishing, trapping, canoeing and cross-country skiing.

Protecting the Babson property, “is an astonishing and welcome gift that gives further protection to important ecological features and wildlife on this spectacular part of the Wisconsin landscape,” said Tim Jacobson, executive director of MVC.

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.”

Kettle Moraine Land Trust Earns National Accreditation

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission announced last week that 23 new land trusts around the nation have earned the accreditation seal, with one Wisconsin land trust among them.

Kettle Moraine Land Trust (KMLT) has become just the fifth Wisconsin land trust to earn this coveted recognition!  A Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program participant, KMLT joins Bayfield Regional Conservancy, Caledonia Conservancy, Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, and Mississippi Valley Conservancy.  The Nature Conservancy, which works internationally and has a very active Wisconsin Chapter, was also awarded accreditation last week.

President Jerry Petersen with KMLT’s Accreditation Files

Why is this a big deal?  The accreditation seal is truly a mark of distinction for land trusts because it recognizes that they have met strict national standards for excellence, upholding the public trust and ensuring that conservation efforts are permanent.

Sue Heffron, a board member for the KMLT, expresses how important achieving accreditation is: “We learned that the steps to protecting and preserving land are not trivial, and must be done correctly. By achieving the seal of excellence through national land trust accreditation, we embrace the serious work of permanently preserving important lands in our community.” Operating with nonprofit excellence is increasingly important as Kettle Moraine Land Trust increases its pace of conservation work in Walworth County.

Congratulations on this supreme achievement!

 

Three More Wisconsin Land Trusts Receive National Seal

As we previewed last spring, we’re pleased to announce that Mississippi Valley ConservancyBayfield Regional Conservancy, and Caledonia Conservancy are officially accredited!  Our hats are off to you!

See a video we made about the process and hear testimonials from these land trust leaders.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission was incorporated in April 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance to operate a land trust accreditation program to build and recognize strong land trusts, foster public confidence in land conservation and help ensure the long-term protection of land. The Commission is governed by a board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts from around the country. Commissioners volunteer their expertise to verify that a land trust is carrying out specific indicator practices from Land Trust Standards and Practices.

The accreditation seal is a mark of distinction in land conservation. It recognizes organizations for meeting national
standards for excellence, upholding the public trust, and ensuring that conservation efforts are permanent.

The invitation to apply comes after many months, often years, of work revising policy, updating records, and fund-raising to ensure perpetual agreements are upheld.

Previously there had only been one accredited land trust in WI, Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, so these three additions are significant!  Each of these organizations has had connections with and received services from GWC and the Land Trust Alliance as recently as this year.  As we look ahead to meeting our goals for the Land Trust Excellence and Advancement Program (LEAP), we’re proud to share with you these accomplishments that align so squarely with our commitment to land trust excellence.

Telling Our Stories

Saving land is a critical tool for conservation that often carries high price tags and emotional connections with it.  We live to tell these unique and engaging stories and applaud the land trusts that do this so well.  We’ve noticed recently that Wisconsin land trusts are telling their stories in many different venues.  We’re so impressed!

Glacial Lakes Conservancy is the local non-profit land trust for Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Kewaunee, Calumet and Fond du Lac Counties – a big territory spearheaded by one very dedicated executive director.  For Glacial Lakes, online communications tools are essential for success.

Glacial Lakes Conservancy’s new website offers the land trust an opportunity to make their stories front and center.  “GLC’s refreshed website features our Grasshopper Hill Preserve project as well as our partnership in the the Lake Michigan Shorelands Alliance as one of the land trusts of the Lake Michigan Basin,” notes the Conservancy’s executive director, Vickie Hall.  She adds, “This project is exciting for us because it represents GLC’s first campaign to purchase, own and manage land.”

The Ozaukee Washington Land Trust has also recently invested in its events calendar to engage its donors and supporters in their fun and challenging work on-the-ground.  We have also eagerly followed the Facebook news from Ice Age Trail Alliance, Bayfield Regional Conservancy, Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust, Tall Pines Conservancy, and River Revitalization Foundation, among many others.  Mississippi Valley Conservancy has created its own YouTube channel where it posts videos about its work protecting the blufflands, prairies, wetlands, and streams in southwestern Wisconsin.

Stay connected with the excellent work being done by Wisconsin’s land trusts by checking in on these great outreach efforts!

It’s All in the Telling

Wisconsin’s conservation community is full of dedicated people doing incredible things to protect the places that make Wisconsin special.  At Gathering Waters, we are always looking for ways to tell people about the great work being done across the state.  We have developed the Land Trust Stories section of our website to do just that.

We believe strongly in Wisconsin’s land trust movement and in the idea that everyone benefits when land trusts become well-known, valued community institutions.  To that end, we have been putting a lot of time and energy into getting the word out about the remarkable work going on in the Wisconsin land trust community.

The Johnson family worked with the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust to preserve their family farm.  It is so gratifying to see Lyle & Roberta talking about their decision to set aside their beautiful piece of land for future generations.  The Johnson’s story is a wonderful reminder of the huge benefits of land trusts and landowners working together.

Recently, three Wisconsin land trusts, Bayfield Regional Conservancy, Caledonia Conservancy, and Mississippi Valley Conservancy,  applied for national Land Trust Accreditation status.  We spoke with each land trust to hear, in their own words, why they are pursuing this seal of excellence.  We are very pleased to be able to share their story with you.

The Northwoods Land Trust recently completed their largest single conservation easement to date on over 800 acres of land in the towns of Newbold and Pine Lake in Oneida County.  These wild lakes, shorelines, and flowages are now preserved in perpetuity thanks to the determined efforts of two generations of the Wellenstein family and the dedicated staff of the Northwoods Land Trust.  The photos tell the entire story of a special piece of land being protected by special people.

In the coming weeks, we will be adding to our ever-growing library of Land Trust Stories, so please stop back frequently to learn more about the great work being done all across Wisconsin.  If you know of a story or just a land trust doing great things, please let us know.  If you are a land trust and have a story you’d like to have told, please contact Conor Moran or Kate Zurlo-Cuva.

 

 

 

 



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