Labor of Love

Posted on August 28, 2020 in Blog


Leo Schlunz has been part of Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) one way or another for 30 years. In 1990, he became a supporter of INHF. In 2013, he donated a conservation easement to INHF on 95 acres of restored woodland, prairie and wetlands in Lucas County. He donated the same
property to INHF in 2016 with a reserved life estate, ensuring that the land will be cared for long-term. For the last six years, he’s hosted INHF’s intern crew there for a day of learning, stewardship and sharing in his love of the land.

But of his many contributions to INHF, Schlunz is probably best known to the broader INHF community as a frequent and familiar face at INHF volunteer events.

Since 2014, Schlunz has lent a hand at 19 events logging 52 volunteer hours, and that doesn’t include time he spends with interns during the summer. Schlunz loves to volunteer, sometimes driving more than 50 miles to help INHF work on a project.

“I’ve watched a lot of property get overgrown with invasives [species] and I realized the only way you’re gonna get rid of invasive [species] is going out there and cutting,”  Schlunz said. “But it’s also the camaraderie of working with other people.”

“It’s always a pleasure to work alongside him at events, and I always look forward to hearing about his most recent travels,” said INHF Volunteer Coordinator Melanie Schmidt. “Leo has dedicated his life to conservation through his career (Schlunz spent much of his career working as a DNR biologist at Red Haw State Park in Lucas County), the land he has protected, and through the free time he gives to supporting and volunteering for organizations like INHF.”

Leo is also an avid birder who has been birding on all seven continents, waded in all five oceans, and traveled to many different countries. He has been all over the world but always ends back at home in Iowa.

Leo really cares for his land and the land of Iowa. Below is an excerpt from ”A Place for Nature,” an essay he wrote in 2017 about why he decided to permanently protect his land.

“I want the marsh to always be alive with the incessant song of the marsh wren and young ducks swimming around the ever-rising muskrat houses in the cattails in the summer. Where the tree and rough-winged swallows swoop over the marsh feeding on insects by day, replaced at nightfall by bats that are raising their young in the timber under the loose bark of the shagbark hickory. Where the prairie starts to bloom with yellow black-eyed Susan, purple prairie clover and purple coneflowers.
Where a Dickcissel sings from a compass plant stalk, and the lightning bug flashes out its Morse code at night.”

If anything, his love for the land has only grown since then. Through his many contributions to conservation in Iowa, so does it’s lasting impact.