Little Sioux Scout Ranch (LSSR) in Monona County spreads across the western slope of the Loess Hills. At almost 1,800 acres, it is also one of the largest privately owned natural areas in the state, and one of the few that offers this sense of remote wilderness.
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation is currently working with the Mid-America Council of the Boy Scouts of America to purchase the property. And you can help ensure it remains available to Boy Scouts and the general public in perpetuity.
Why you should protect LSSR
It is vast
The average privately owned parcel of land in the Loess Hills is around 100 acres. At almost 1,800 acres, LSSR offers unsurpassed opportunities for outdoor recreation such as hiking, birdwatching, wilderness camping, fishing and hunting. The property has 25 miles of trails and a 20-acre lake.
It is unique
The Loess Hills landscape is a globally unique area consisting of ridges formed by wind-blown soil. This property is located within the Loess Hills Bird Conservation Area (BCA), the Little Sioux Special Landscape Area (SLA), and along the Loess Hills Scenic Byway. It is directly adjacent to different tracts of the Loess Hills State Forest (LHSF) owned by the DNR.
It is a refuge
The LSSR is home to several state listed endangered, threatened or of special concern plant and animal species. These include the plains pocket mouse (Perognathus flavescens), numerous butterfly species and the bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi). Threatened plant species include narrow-leaved milkweed (Asclepias stenophylla) and scarlet globe-mallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea).
It is a memorial
On June 11, 2008 a deadly EF3 tornado struck the LSSR, injuring 48 and sadly resulting in the loss of life of four young scout members: Aaron Eilerts, Josh Fennen, Ben Petrzilka and Sam Thomsen. The memorial erected on site will continue to honor the memory of these scouts after ownership changes.
The site is currently owned and managed by the Mid-America Council of the Boys Scouts of America and has been run as a scout camp for more than five decades. “On an average year, we would get more than 10,000 [individual] nights of camping at Little Sioux,” said Chris Mehaffey, CEO of the Mid-America Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). “Generations of cub scouts have done their camping at Little Sioux."
With dwindling scout visitors and after a year-long study, the Mid-America Council of the BSA reluctantly decided to sell the property. Ideally, they would find a buyer who could do three things:
- Open the land to the public
- Preserve the memorial to the four scouts killed in the 2008 tornado
- Recognize the history of the land as a scout camp for more than 50 years
They immediately reached out to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. INHF's option to purchase the property must be exercised by December 31, 2022 to lock in the price of the land. INHF has a goal to raise $2 million of the $7 million needed for this project by the end of 2022.
The project is likely to take 3-5 years to complete, and in that time the camp will be leased back to the Mid-America Council for use and management. Even after the property is completely opened to the public, Mehaffey envisions scouts continuing to use it for years to come.
“I can see Eagle Scout projects being done for generations at Little Sioux. Arbor Day can be celebrated by planting native trees. Scouting will continue to have a presence there,” Mehaffey said. “When parents want to take their kids back to where they did scouting, they’ll be able to do that. It will be the same place, the same topography. There are a ton of people here that know of Little Sioux because of the tornado, but there’s not a whole lot of them that have been there. Now they’ll be able to go and get to know this place.”
If you're inspired to support the LSSR project, give today