Land donors honored during reception in Des Moines

More than 3,890 acres of Iowa land in 22 counties with an estimated value of more than $11.6 million was permanently protected through donations for conservation.

The donors associated with 16 donations of land or land value will be recognized during a ceremony on March 23, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., in the 1st floor rotunda, at the State Capitol, in Des Moines. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is scheduled to attend. An additional 47 donors from 2020 and 2019 will also be recognized at the ceremony.

Landowners who are in attendance will be honored individually for their donation.

Sara and Jim Anderson donated 35 acres in Jefferson County to the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT) to support a vibrant local food system. They turned their homestead on a large pond into a working farm, including a straw bale house they built themselves. They want to make sure that they are able to pass the legacy of their land on to the next generation of farmers who need access to it to grow food. This donation of land and buildings will ensure the next generation of food farmers can supply the surrounding community with freshly grown vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats, honey and other table foods.

Marjorie Andrews donated 95 acres in Linn County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, subject to a reserved life estate. Located along Otter View Road near Cedar Rapids, the property includes agricultural land, woodland and a meadow. Otter Creek, a tributary of the Cedar River, traverses the southeast corner of the property. Permanent protection of this land preserves wildlife habitat, water quality and soil health within the Cedar River watershed. 

Charles Furnal donated a portion of the land value on 108 acres in Warren County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The land east of Hartford includes prairie grasses and sedges that support and help advance a 700-acre marsh restoration in the floodpool of Lake Red Rock. Once fully restored, it will provide critical waterfowl habitat.

The Garst family donated the first-in-the-nation soil health conservation easements on 2000 acres in Audubon, Carroll, Greene and Guthrie counties to Whiterock Conservancy. The Garst family have been recognized worldwide for their innovative work in agriculture for generations. The third generation family members Liz, Ed, Sarah, Rachel, Kate, and Jen recognized the alarming impact the loss and degradation of topsoil have had on the environment across the nation. They wanted to preserve the precious soil on the farmland they had protected over the years through sustainable agriculture practices. Current conservation easements did not protect soil health. Collaberating with many of the top conservation easement minds in the U.S. and Whiterock Conservancy, the Garsts helped to create the nation's first-ever soil health conservation easement. These easements ensure that this land will continure to be farmed in ways that enhance and build the soil each year and reduce soil erosion into Iowa's waterways.

The Garsts also helped lay the foundation for Whiterock Conservancy's conservation easement program with a generous endowment and land donation, including a farm shop and office. These financial investments will ensure these and other soil health easements will be monitored and protected in perpetuity so that others may learn from these ground-breaking easements.

Rex Heer donated a conservation easement on 59 acres of mature oak-hickory woodland in Boone County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Located near Boone, the property protects important wildlife habitat and water quality of the nearby Des Moines River and expands protected land along the edge of the river valley.

Cindy Hildebrand and Roger Maddux donated 60 acres in Story County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, subject to a reserved life estate. The land, known as Stargrass, is a mix of prairie, wetland and riparian area that has been thoughtfully restored and cared for by Cindy and Roger. It has been a seed source for other nearby prairie restorations. Protection of this land will benefit wildlife habitat and water quality and preserve valuable natural space in an area that is developing quickly. 

The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation conveyed eight properties totaling 981 acres of land to the State of Iowa at below market value prices. These land projects were located in eight counties and valued over $1 million of donated land value.

Larry and Sue Koehrsen donated 69 acres in Pottawattamie County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The Koehrsen's have practiced conservation measures on the farm for many years and recently increased and upgraded the prairie domain. These plantings will provide critical habitat and support a diverse range of species in a location that is surrounded by high intensity agriculture.

Richard Kuehl donated 40 acres in Scott County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The land north of Bettendorf includes reconstructed prairie, woodland and a man-made pond. It provides important wildlife habitat for pollinators, birds and small mammals, including otter, muskrats and box turtles.

Alec Pendry and Stephen Pendry donated a portion of the land value on 29 acres in Warren County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The land is critical to waterfowl habitat restoration in the floodpool of Lake Red Rock near Coal Creek Marsh. The donation of this grassland will help to build on the complex of protected land in the area.

Dale Peterson donated 15 acres in Allamakee County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation subject to a reserved life estate. The upland woodland property contains 650 feet of Waterloo Creek, one of Iowa’s premier coldwater trout streams. Dale has previously protected multiple properties in Linn County through conservation easements with INHF.  The donation of this northeast Iowa land continues a legacy of conservation.

Members of Pleasant Grove Land Preservation, Inc. donated 7.5 acres 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. more than 20 years ago and have collectively protected the 640 acre property. The group previously donated a conservation easement on the land to INHF in 2010, and reserved life estates in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and 2019.

The Schultz family donated 133 acres in Winneshiek County to the Winneshiek County Conservation Board. The family's connection to the Roy and Genevieve Schultz Memorial Outdoor Discovery Area, aka Walden Pond, extends back to the early 1900s. In the 1960s, Roy and Genevieve Schultz transformed the property into a recreational retreat. Their Alaskan sourdough pancakes and homemade maple syrup were famous across northeast Iowa. Since then, Jim and Sharon Schultz, along with their children and family members, have carried on his parent's conservation work by managing and protecting the property's woodlands, grasslands, wetlands, and streambanks. Entrusting this special place to Winneshiek County Conservation ensures that it will be permanently protected for future generations to enjoy and immerse themselves in learning about and exploring nature. Walden Pond will be a lasting memorial to the conservation legacy of Jim and Sharon; Wendy, Rebecca and Mike Perez;  and all the Schultzes that came with and before them. 

Phil and Sharon Specht donated a portion of the land value on an agricultural land easement on 244 acres in Clayton County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The property includes grassland with pockets of prairie and wooded draws, and provides outstanding habitat for grassland birds and other species. Permanent protection ensures the land will be available for continued sustainable and innovative farming practices indefinitely.

Janey and Thomas Swartz donated a conservation easement on approximately 12 acres of woodland in Marshall County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Situated along the Iowa River near Marshalltown, the property borders previously protected land held by Timberland, Inc., a collective of family members who share a common vision for land protection. Together, these lands form a 500-acre complex of protected land.

The Sustainable Living Coalition donated a conservation easement on 12 acres in Jefferson County to the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT) to protect this agricultural land for nature-friendly food farming for Fairfield and the surrounding communities.  A straw bale building on the property hosts educational events including speeches given by well known environmental advocates from around the world.