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Land donors honored during reception in Des Moines

Nearly 3,500 acres of Iowa land in 23 counties with an estimated value of over $9.5 million was permanently protected through donations for conservation.


Shirley Brown donated 40 acres of woodland in Jefferson County and 42 acres of woodland in Wapello County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The donations of the two sites preserve spring ephemerals and wildlife habitat and protect water quality on the land.

Cindy and Kevin Burke donated 6 acres in Linn County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, subject to a reserved life estate, to explore how the land may be used for public recreation and/or education. The property includes several buildings, outdoor amenities and heirloom gardens. The Burkes have protected 163 acres with Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, including 80 adjacent acres, which inspired Grant Wood’s “Fall Plowing.” They have also partnered with Linn County Conservation to protect additional lands.

Bob and Carol Deppe and their family donated a significant portion of the land value on 127 acres of grassland north of Ames to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The property is adjacent to Story County Conservation’s McFarland Park and is along the I-35 corridor. Permanent protection of the land will preserve wildlife habitat, soil health and expand outdoor recreation opportunities in the area. Ownership of the property is slated to transfer to Story County Conservation.

Scott and Ruth Doescher donated a share of ownership on a conservation easement on 45 acres along the West Fork of the Cedar River in Butler County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The riparian woodlands have numerous oxbows that provide quality habitat for amphibians and reptiles. Wood turtles, a State Endangered Species, and Blanding’s turtles, a State Threatened Species live in this stretch of the river.

Jon Dusek and the late Waldo Morris donated 22 acres of rolling woodland in Linn County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. This donation protects wildlife habitat, including important year-round habitat for migratory birds. Less than ¼ mile from Indian Creek, the Cedar Rapids Greenbelt and the Sac and Fox Trail, it also expands protected green space and scenic beauty in a rapidly developing area just outside of Cedar Rapids.

Brian Fleck and Sabra Fleck donated 40 acres in Johnson County to Sustainable Iowa Land Trust. The farm, bought in 2007, provides ample wildlife habitat and soil and water protection. Brian has incorporated several conservation practices on the land including adding CRP and tree plantings. The Flecks plan to establish infrastructure to help a beginning food farmer get started on this land. The prairies and tree plantings will be protected as they are and several tillable acres will be used to grow vegetables and raise pastured livestock in the future.

The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration donated a conservation easement on 48 acres of prairie and woodland at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center in Linn County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Prairiewoods invites people of all faiths and cultures to explore the intersection of ecology, spirituality and holistic health. Permanent protection of this place ensures vital green space in a quickly developing area of Cedar Rapids.

Rowland and Barb Hackmann donated a portion of the value of 66 acres in Fayette County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to be considered as a future public recreation area. The property, near the Gilbertson Conservation Education Area and within the Turkey River floodplain, includes remnant sand prairie, woodland and working lands. The sand prairie provides habitat for ornate box turtles, a State Threatened Species, which historically have been found in the area. Ownership of the property is slated to transfer to Fayette County Conservation.

Susan Hamdorf, Lana Sensenig and Paul Smith donated a portion of the value of 161 acres along the Little Sioux River in Dickinson County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The property encompasses a mix of working lands, oak savanna and woodland river corridor. It is part of a complex of 325 acres of protected public and private lands along the river. Ownership of the land is slated to transfer to Dickinson County Conservation.

Steve and Margaret Hansen donated a portion of the value of 80 acres in Winnebago County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The land, adjacent to Pilot Knob Wildlife Management Area, will be restored to wetlands and prairie. The restoration will provide water quality benefits and expand wildlife habitat for neotropical migratory birds and waterfowl including trumpeter swans.

Daryl Howell and Gaye Wiekierak donated 80 acres in Lucas County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, subject to a reserved life estate. The property was being used as livestock pasture when the couple bought it in 1994. Restoration activities have included inter-seeding and prescribed fire. Protection will ensure habitat for deer, turkey, brown thrashers, bobcats and other edge species, and reduce runoff in an area known for highly erodible soils..

The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation conveyed seven properties totaling 1,206 acres to the State of Iowa at below market value prices. These land projects, one a joint project with the Nature Conservancy, are located in seven counties and valued at over $2 million of donated land value.

Tom Jacobson, Cheryl Lyon and Sondra Dyer, children of Robert and Wanda Jacobson, donated 8 acres of woodland near Blue Wing Marsh in Palo Alto County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The protection of this area honors Robert and Wanda’s love for nature and ensures that this place will remain a refuge for wildlife.

Roslea and Bob Johnson donated 1.5 acres in Madison County, close to Madison County Conservation’s Clanton Creek Wildlife Area, to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Roslea and her late husband, Bob, have done extensive protection and restoration on their land and hope this donation will spark additional land protection and restoration in the area.

Mike and Carolynn Korth donated 2 acres in Winnebago County to the Iowa DNR. Located two miles east of Forest City, this tract forms the northern boundary of Pilot Knob State Park. This donation will provide public access to numerous outdoor recreation opportunities.

Mike LaMair donated a conservation easement on 474 acres in northeast Clarke County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The farm’s mix of grassland, working lands and woodlands provide excellent wildlife habitat, open space, scenic beauty and water quality benefits to the nearby creek. The land lies next to and buffers Green Pine Wildlife Area, and is within one mile of Heritage Hills Wildlife Management Area and Vawn Wildlife Area.

Michael and Linda Meetz donated a conservation easement on 36 acres near Ames to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Over the past 20 years, the Meetzs have managed an existing remnant wetland, reconstructed an additional wetland and restored prairie with local-ecotype seed. The site is used by Iowa State University graduate students for research, Story County Conservation for youth programs and as a seed source for other prairie plantings.

Siblings Jane, Christopher and Sarah Nicholas donated 215 acres, known as Hall Farm Prairie, in Marshall County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to restore the land to prairie, wetlands, woodlands and oak savanna. Their mother, Kathy Hall’s, family has farmed here since the 1930s. The protection of the area will preserve wildlife habitat and improve water quality in Minerva Creek, which meanders through the property.

Linda Phelps and David Phelps donated 85 acres of cropland near West Okoboji Lake in Dickinson County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. This donation honors the desire of the late George Phelps, Linda’s husband and David’s father, to protect the land and restore it to wetlands and prairie. Restoring the land will enhance the adjacent West Okoboji Wetland Complex, which has led to a significant reduction in sediment, phosphorus and nitrates going into the popular lake.

Timberland, Inc., a collective of multiple family members who share a common vision for land protection, donated an overlay conservation easement on their two conservation easements in Marshall and Tama Counties to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The family first placed a conservation easement on 409 acres in 1996, and another on 40 adjacent acres in 2017. The latest conservation easement combines the two easements to ensure the property’s 449-acre woodland along the Iowa River is protected as one tract of land in perpetuity. The family has owned and stewarded the land since the 1850s.

 

The Nature Conservancy conveyed one property totaling 516 acres to the State of Iowa at below market value price. This joint land project with Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation in Mills and Pottawattamie counties is valued at over $1.75 million of donated land value.

 

Tom Wahl and Kathy Dice donated a conservation easement to Sustainable Iowa Land Trust on 86 acres in Louisa County. Tom and Kathy purchased the first 55 acres of this property in 1986 and continued to buy more land as their farming operation expanded. They are implementing every known regenerative farming practice appropriate for their property. Red Fern Farm has become a source of reliable expertise on perennial food crops and a well-respected nursery supplying the Midwest with perennial nursery stock. The farm has tried to grow every possible edible perennial fruit and nut species suited to this zone, and Tom and Kathy constantly evaluate the feasibility of perennials on their reliability, markets and ease of care.

Noah and Erin Wendt and Thielges Farms, LLC donated a portion of the value of 37 acres in Polk County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF). The property is next to Paul Errington Marsh Wildlife Management Area. Permanent protection of the land will provide a buffer between the marsh and the surrounding agricultural land, and preserve open space in an area with lots of development projects. The Wendt family is partnering with INHF to improve soil health on the land with regenerative farming practices.

Ann Werner donated 114 acres in Scott County to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF), subject to a reserved life estate. The land is part of Lark Fields, a 237-acre century farm in eastern Iowa that emphasizes conservation and biodiversity. In the past five years, Ann has planted 45 acres of the farm to native habitat including a riparian corridor along the creek, and generous prairie strips along hillsides and fence lines. These plantings and other conservation practices implemented over the years are reducing soil erosion, improving water quality and providing wildlife habitat. Ann donated the western half of Lark Fields to INHF, subject to a reserved life estate, in 2019.

Bob Winchell and his late wife T.C. Winchell donated a conservation easement to Sustainable Iowa Land Trust on 25 acres in Dallas County. This donation honors T.C.’s desire to preserve the solemnity and solitude near the Bear Creek Friends meeting house located directly to the north, and provide an affordable opportunity for farmers to grow food in a way that preserves soil, builds soil health and conserves and improves water quality.