State recognizes Iowa landowners
Photo courtesy of Pleasant Grove Land Preservation, Inc.
More than 3,800 acres of land in 24 counties with an estimated value of $4.8 million was permanently protected through donations of land or land value by Iowa landowners in 2019.
The individuals, businesses and organizations associated with more than 30 donations were scheduled to be recognized at Gift to Iowa Future Day, an annual event honoring those who made gifts of land, land value or conservation easements in the previous year, at the Iowa State Capitol on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, Iowa DNR Director Kayla Lyon and INHF President Joe McGovern were all scheduled to speak at the event. While the event was canceled in the interest of slowing the spread of COVID-19, we would like to recognize the landowners INHF had the privilege of working with in 2019 here today.
“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 current and future generations."
All 2019 land donors will receive a certificate signed by the governor and be honored at Gift to Iowa's Future Day 2021 event. A full list of land donations is available at iowadnr.gov
Bruce and Tancy Becker
Bruce and Tancy Becker donated a conservation easement to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation on 150 acres of stream corridor, oak woodland and pasture near Sac City where Tancy grew up. Permanent protection of the property will enhance wildlife habitat in the area and provide water quality benefits to the North Raccoon River valley.
Valli Jo Grammer
Valli Jo Grammer donated a portion of the value of 197 acres of bluffland in Allamakee County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The land, overlooking the Mississippi River and an unnamed coldwater trout stream, neighbors Lansing Wildlife Management Area, the Great River Road National Scenic Byway and the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Now part of Lansing Wildlife Management Area, it will expand public recreation opportunities and protect wildlife habitat and scenic beauty along the Upper Mississippi River corridor.
Ray and Patti Hamilton
Ray and Patti Hamilton donated a 60-acre conservation easement on Codfish Hollow Hill Prairie east of Maquoketa to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Over the last 35 years, the couple reconnected the property’s twelve remnant hilltop prairies and restored the prairie in-between them with locally-sourced native seed. A blend of remnant and reconstructed prairie now includes more than 100 native species. Ray and Patti previously donated a portion of the value of a 34-acre remnant prairie in Jones County to INHF in 2008, which is now owned and managed by Jones County Conservation Board, and their share of a 29-acre fen in Fayette County to INHF in 2017.
David & Annette Hartig
David and Annette Hartig donated an 8-acre conservation easement within Dubuque city limits to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The land, comprised of two parcels, encompasses a mix of woodland, grassland and stream corridor along Catfish Creek near Mines of Spain State Recreation Area. For over three decades, the Hartigs have worked to restore and protect natural lands in the area. The couple previously donated three adjacent conservation easements totaling 120 acres in 1988, 2007 and 2008. Together, they create a large block of protected land in an urban setting and protect a significant stretch of Catfish Creek and its floodplain.
Michelle Meier and Holly Lester
Sisters Michelle Meier and Holly Lester donated a portion of the value of a quarter mile of former railroad corridor near Bouton to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The corridor is part of a planned 9-mile trail between Perry and Woodward that will connect the Raccoon River Valley Trail and the High Trestle Trail, two of Iowa’s largest and most-used trails. Once complete, the connector will link over a hundred miles of multi-use trails in central Iowa. The Dallas County Conservation Board owns and manages the land.
The Okoboji Foundation donated a portion of the value of 20 acres of wetland near the Pearson Lake Art Center and Dickinson County Nature Center in Okoboji to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The property offers water quality benefits, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities, and expands protected land in the heart of the Iowa Great Lakes. The Dickinson County Conservation Board owns and manages the land.
Pleasant Grove Land Preservation
Members of Pleasant Grove Land Preservation, Inc. donated a portion of their remaining interests in 479 acres of woodland and grassland in Mahaska County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation with reserved life estates. Twenty friends who shared a common vision for land protection and stewardship formed the Pleasant Grove Land Trust, Inc. 20 years ago. The group previously donated a conservation easement on the land to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation in 2010, and reserved life estates in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Sisters of St. Francis of Dubuque, IA
The Sisters of St. Francis of Dubuque donated a conservation easement on 68 acres of prairie within Dubuque city limits to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The Sisters purchased the land, now known as St. Francis Prairie, when they moved to the area in the late 1800s. Permanent protection of the land aligns with the Sisters’ land ethic, which calls them to “live in right relationship with all creation.” The property is near the Mississippi River, the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and Eagle Point Park.
CERRO GORDO COUNTY
Union Pacific Railroad donated a portion of the value of 1.8 miles of former railroad corridor in Mason City to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The corridor is scheduled to become part of the city’s High Line Trail, an eight-mile, partially elevated multi-use trail through the heart of the city. The trail is part of a larger regional trails plan that will connect Mason City residents and visitors to areas of interest and activity around the city, as well as nearby parks and natural areas, including Lime Creek Conservation Area and Nature Center.
Seth & Christy Watkins
Seth and Christy Watkins donated a portion of the value of an agricultural land easement (ALE) on their 301-acre cattle farm along the West Nodaway River near Clarinda to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Seth’s family, which includes Iowa 4-H Founder Jessie Field Shambaugh, has farmed the land since 1856. Seth took over management of the family farm in the 1990s and has implemented conservation and animal husbandry practices that reflect the family’s strong beliefs to work with nature, not against it. The ALE protects the Watkins’ grasslands for conservation-minded grazing, water quality and wildlife habitat.