Hagie Award Winner 2007: Bob deNeui
The “Dead End” sign that greets drivers en route to Bob deNeui’s property is misleading. Past the century-old cemetery and vibrant, flower-filled ditches sits a property teeming with life. From the red-tailed hawks flying above to the deep ravines filled with walnut trees to the Iowa River flowing along its border, Forestwilde farm is anything but dead.
Bob deNeui, born and raised near Ackley, has been dedicated to protecting the Iowa River Greenbelt for decades. That dedication was recognized through the 2007 Hagie Heritage Award.
“For more than 20 years, Bob has been an active conservationist and a model landowner of high-quality woodlands,” says Nancy Slife, Conservation Technology Program Coordinator at Ellsworth Community College. “He exemplifies the spirit of the award.”
Slife, along with Bob Gunderson of the Hardin County Conservation Board, nominated deNeui for the Hagie Heritage Award.
Their nominations described deNeui as a conservationist who puts his money where his mouth is. The owner of nearly 800 acres of high-quality woodland along the Iowa River, Bob and his wife, Joell, have ensured that more than half of it is protected indefinitely.
DeNeui says there are four main “pillars” to his land-protection efforts. The first came in 1996, when he donated a conservation easement on 206 acres of his property to INHF. A conservation easement allows the family to own the land, while assuring that future owners will never log, farm, mine or develop the area.
The second, in 2003, was an additional INHF easement on nearly 100 acres in the same area.
Pillars three and four come in the form of two 40-acre parcels of dense, undisturbed woodland recently sold to the Hardin County Conservation Board at a bargain price.
Including deNeui’s easements and the adjoining sites owned by Hardin County, roughly 1,000 contiguous acres are now permanently protected within the pristine core of the Iowa River Greenbelt.
“Bob is a prime example of how private individuals can take an active role in land conservation and how it’s not necessary to wait for the next landowner or a public agency to take responsibility for protection of the land,” says Lisa Hein, program and planning director for INHF. “He’s living proof that everyone can have a part in restoring the land and keeping Iowa wild.”