Iowa landowners honored at Capitol
On Tuesday, March 12, more than 40 gifts of land, land value or conservation easements were recognized at the Iowa State Capitol. Gift to Iowa's Future Day is an annual celebration of private landowners and organizations for their contributions to conservation and recreational efforts across Iowa. In 2019, these gifts totaled more than $6 million and protected 5,700 acres across 35 counties.
Gov. Kim Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg presented the honorees with certificates while descriptions of their donations were read. Of the donors being recognized, 16 worked with INHF, preserving 2,093 acres and donating more than $2.8 million in land value.
“Gift to Iowa’s Future Day is a special moment for all of us,” said INHF President Joe McGovern. “It’s important that we take the time to recognize and celebrate the generosity of these donors. It’s truly an honor to work with landowners that provide wild places for our future generations."
Learn more about the honorees that worked with INHF in 2018:
Congregation of the Humility of Mary
The Congregation of the Humility of Mary, an order of sisters based in Davenport, donated a conservation easement on 83 acres along the Wapsipinicon River in Clinton County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The property is part of the Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat, a spiritual retreat center run by the sisters, offering people of all faiths a place to reflect, meditate and appreciate the surrounding beauty.
Aaron & Alysia Countryman
Aaron and Alysia Countryman donated a conservation easement on 126 acres of woodland, wetland and grassland near Fairfield to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The Countrymans were eager to protect this important habitat after purchasing it from Pathfinders RC&D, which had done major restoration work to the property over the last 25 years, including constructing ponds and wetlands and planting thousands of trees.
John Decker donated a conservation easement on 94 acres of woodland-dominated land in Dubuque County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The vast majority of the land has been in the Decker family for four generations. As such, John felt a strong obligation to protect the property, which he visits often. Easily seen from the Great River Road National Scenic Byway, the Mississippi River Trail and a mere 1.5 miles from the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, permanent protection ensures habitat, open space and scenic beauty will endure.
Sherri Richardson Duey & Bill Duey
Sherri Richardson Duey and Bill Duey, both retired Army Corps of Engineers project operations managers, donated a 164-acre conservation easement on a portion of their farm in Monroe County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Eleven Species of Greatest Conservation Need, including bald eagles, bobcats, bobolink and American woodcock, have been observed on the property. Composed of woodland, grassland, remnant prairie, working lands on previously cropped ridgetops and an unnamed tributary of Coal Creek, permanent protection preserves wildlife habitat, open space and the agricultural character of the land.
Lon Horbach & Ted Halls
Lon Horbach and Ted Halls donated a portion of the value of 704 acres of mixed habitat in southwest Warren County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The property is significant for both its size and proximity just 45 minutes from the Des Moines metro. It will eventually transfer to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The land will provide high quality wildlife habitat and outstanding opportunities for the public to get outdoors.
Gary & Deborah Howell
CERRO GORDO COUNTY
Gary and Deborah Howell donated 70 acres near Mason City with a reserved life estate to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The property includes working lands, woodland and grassed waterways with tremendous potential for prairie and wetland restoration, which the Howells hope to see realized. They would eventually like the property to provide expanded wildlife habitat and opportunities for others to get outdoors during educational and volunteer events.
Lawrence McTaggart donated a portion of the value of 22 acres of his family farm along the banks of the Volga River in Clayton County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Permanent protection of the property, which is adjacent to the Volga River Wildlife Management Area, will expand the complex of protected land in the area and increase wildlife habitat for a variety of game and non-game species. The land has since been transferred to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Darrel & Middie Morf
Darrel & Middie Morf donated a conservation easement on 14 acres of reconstructed prairie on part of their property in Linn County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The prairie lies on a paha — a prominent hilltop formed by glaciers — offering spectacular views of Cedar Rapids and Palisades-Kepler State Park. Over the past 20 years, the Morfs have spent countless hours caring for the prairie, resulting in a diverse, high quality reconstruction that provides critical habitat for pollinators, grassland birds and other wildlife.
Karen Nelson donated a conservation easement on 60 acres in Cherokee County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Karen and her late husband, Thomas, cared for and enjoyed the land for many years. After placing a conversation easement on the property, which lies along the Little Sioux River across from the Silver Sioux Recreation Area and adjacent to the Pearse Access and Harold Clark Areas, Karen donated it to the Cherokee County Conservation Board with the hope that it will provide low-impact recreational opportunities for the public.
The Family of Esther Wicks
Suzanne and Michael O’Brien and Jay and Barbara Muckle donated a portion of the value of 55 acres along the South Skunk River to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The property just outside of Story City city limits is characterized by oxbows, woodland and riparian habitat. Approximately 28 acres of flood-prone cropland will be restored to native prairie, reducing soil loss, improving water quality and expanding wildlife habitat. The property will eventually transfer to the Story County Conservation Board.
Eric & Peggy Peterson
Eric and Peggy Peterson donated 31 acres of woodland along Little Beaver Creek in Dallas County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Over the years, the Petersons have spent countless hours in the woodland, improving the timber stand, enjoying the woodland flowers and wildlife. The woodland is home to an impressive variety of spring ephemerals, including trout lily and Dutchman’s breeches, and migratory birds such as wood ducks.
Pleasant Grove Land Preservation, Inc.
Pleasant Grove Land Preservation, Inc., an entity composed of 20 shareholders with a shared vision for land protection and stewardship, donated 479 acres near the North Skunk River in Mahaska County with a reserve life estate to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The property includes woodland, prairie and grassland. Pleasant Grove Land Preservation, Inc. donated a conservation easement on the property in 2010.
Michael W. & Linda Rickert
Mike and Linda Rickert donated a conservation easement on 20 acres of land along the Upper Iowa River in Allamakee County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. This is the third conservation easement the Rickerts have donated to INHF since 2007. Linda and Mike are committed to protecting the wildlife habitat, woodland, native prairie and water quality of the Upper Iowa River. Protection of this parcel, which include native goat prairie and oak-hickory woodland, creates a 260-acre contiguous complex of protected land along the river.
VanKirk Storage Company, LLC
VanKirk Storage Company, LLC donated 10 acres of land in Dallas County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to be used in the connector trail between the High Trestle and Raccoon River Valley trails. The VanKirk family has been supportive of the project that will link two of the most popular trails in Iowa between the towns of Woodward and Perry. The donation includes approximately one mile of trail corridor, and has since been transferred to the Dallas County Conservation Board.
Dick Schwab & Katherine Burford
Dick Schwab and Katherine Burford donated a portion of the value of 133 acres of woodland in Johnson County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for future transfer to the Johnson County Conservation Board. The property includes a community supported agriculture project, ponds, an ephemeral creek, trails and hand-built wooden double-round and stone barns. The property is adjacent to several other protected properties in the area, creating a 500-acre complex of protected habitat.
Fred & Emily Weitz
Fred and Emily Weitz donated a conservation easement to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation on 28 acres of woodland along the Raccoon River just south of the Des Moines metro. The land lies between Raccoon River Park, Walnut Woods State Park and Brown’s Woods State Park. It includes a high quality oak, hickory and walnut woodland that boasts a stunning assortment of spring ephemerals. It was important to the couple to permanently protect the property, which has been in the family for two generations, preserving its woodland habitat and expanding the complex of protected land in the area.