Peace, Purpose & Wild Parsnip

By Katy Heggen, Communications Assistant on June 13, 2018 in Blog

Dennis Haller
Dennis Haller

Several years ago, Dennis Haller assigned himself the unpleasant task of pulling wild parsnip, a particularly cantankerous plant.

“I had a bad infestation at my place,” he said. “I had been working at it for four years. The seeds stay viable a long time. I didn’t see the results right away.”

But he kept at it. Over time, Dennis gained the upper hand and eradicated the plant from his property. The story serves as a fitting analogy for the approach Dennis has applied to his work as an INHF volunteer — and in his life.

Dennis grew up in northeast Iowa hunting, fishing and exploring the Shell Rock River valley. He credits his dad — an avid outdoorsman — for instilling a love and appreciation for Iowa’s outdoors at a young age.

Dennis considered a career in natural resources management, but instead went into education, spending the first half of his career as a teacher and the second half as a school counselor. But a love for the outdoors always remained. When Dennis retired, he reached out to INHF to get more involved.

“Dennis has been one of INHF’s most consistent, eager and patient volunteers. Whatever the need, Dennis is quick to share his time and energy, and his gentle nature, good humor and encouragement are so refreshing. His contributions make INHF a stronger conservation organization.”

- Brian Fankhauser, INHF Blufflands Director

Over the years, Dennis has helped restore hundreds of acres of INHF-owned-and-managed lands near his home in Decorah. In 2016, he became an INHF Land Ambassador, a designation given to volunteers that take on long-term leadership on select INHF-owned land, expanding INHF’s stewardship capacity.

Dennis speaks about the joy he gets from spending his days outdoors, learning restoration techniques he can try on his own land and working alongside like-minded people, but it’s evident that the work is also deeply personal. In restoring the prairies, woodland and river valleys dotting the Driftless area, Dennis has found peace and purpose.

“Things are just less complicated,” he said. “Being outdoors reminds me of what is really important, and what isn’t. It’s good for the mind, it’s good for the body and it’s good for the soul.”