40 Years of Protection

By Katy Heggen with special thanks to Jessica Riebkes Clough on August 27, 2019 in Blog

From the Loess Hills to the Mississippi River Valley, INHF has had the opportunity to protect some pretty incredible places over the past four decades. Together, members and partners have protected more than 170,000 acres and blazed the way for 2,000+ miles of multi-use trails. Here’s a look at some major protection milestones along the way.

Partners in conservation

Not quite 40: the number of additions (32 to date) INHF has helped Polk County Conservation and the Iowa DNR acquire to expand Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt, making it one of INHF’s largest and longest ongoing projects. Throughout Iowa, INHF and our partners have completed 839 public land protection projects now owned by 112 city, county, state and federal public agencies.

Setting the Standard

Daisy Iowa Whitham donates 130 acres near Fairfield to INHF in 1980, permanently protecting the former family nursery-turned-nature area. Her donation marked INHF’s first land protection project, setting the standard for protecting special places across Iowa. Owned by INHF and managed by the Jefferson County Conservation Board as a public park, Whitham Woods features a diverse mix of plants, excellent wildlife habitat and ample opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Digging Deep

Featuring both stunning natural features and historically significant landmarks, Mines of Spain near Dubuque was INHF’s second land protection project. The landowners of this wooded bluff chose to work with INHF to protect their land for conservation. Today, it is a state recreation area featuring more than 15 miles of hiking trails and breathtaking views of the Mississippi River.

Happy Trails

INHF began building trails across the state in the early 1980s. Its first trail projects – the Heritage Trail and the Cedar Valley Nature Trail – used former railroad corridors and converted them into multi-use trails and linear parks. This approach has helped make Iowa a trails destination. To date, INHF has helped create more than 65% of Iowa’s rail trails, including INHF’s 40th protection project, the Fort Dodge Nature Trail.

A Towering Milestone

Marked by its striking limestone bluffs, Chimney Rock towers over the Upper Iowa River in northeast Iowa. Protected in 1988, Chimney Rock was INHF’s first conservation easement (CE). In 2001, the current owners of the Chimney Rock CE, brothers Bill and David Heine, decided to expand the protection area, donating a new CE – INHF’s 40th. 190 INHF-held CEs now protect 22,910 acres across the state.Protecting cultural heritage.

Protecting Cultural Heritage

CulturalHeritageWhen 1,045 acres of woodland along the Yellow River near Effigy Mounds National Monument became available in the 1980s, INHF seized the opportunity to protect it. Completed in 2000, the Heritage Addition nearly doubled the size of Effigy Mounds to 2,526 acres and linked it to a unit of the Yellow River State Forest.

Even Greater Great Lakes

GreaterGreatLakesFor 130 years, nearly two-thirds of a mile of shoreline in the northwest corner of Big Spirit Lake remained undeveloped, supporting a massive bed of bulrushes. When the owners were considering developing the land, a move that would have put the bulrushes in jeopardy, INHF entered the conversation. After an ambitious fundraising campaign that included a generous gift from the owners who chose to sell the land to INHF for far less than its appraised value, the shoreline was permanently protected.

More Loess

MoreLoessIn 2008, INHF protected its 100,000th acre with the purchase of 40 acres of prairie and woodland connecting two parts of Stone State Park in the Loess Hills. To celebrate, INHF donated the property to the Iowa DNR to expand the park. INHF has completed more than 100 projects protecting more than 17,000 acres in the Loess Hills.

Into the wild
Heritage Valley in fall

Folded into the far-reaches of northeast Iowa, Heritage Valley encompasses more than three miles of the Upper Iowa River and includes a diverse mix of woodland, prairie and floodplain, all managed primarily for wildness. When INHF purchased the 1,200-acre property in 2007, it didn’t anticipate how large of an impact this place would have on its work. After much consideration, INHF made the decision to own and care for Heritage Valley long-term.

Creating an Icon

CreatinganIconOne of Iowa’s most beloved trails, the 25-mile High Trestle Trail stretches through five towns and four counties in central Iowa. Completed in 2011, the trail features an iconic 1/2-mile bridge across the Des Moines River Valley, making it one of the largest trail bridges in the world, and a symbol of Iowa’s commitment to trails.