Land protection in Madison County and a milestone for INHF

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Roslea Johnson, left, touring her property with For Land’s Sake.

When Bob and Roslea Johnson donated part of their Madison County farm to INHF, they had no idea that their generosity would help INHF reach a major milestone: 150,000 acres protected statewide.

Since 1979, INHF has worked to protect Iowa’s land, water and wildlife in a variety of ways: through the expansion of publicly-owned lands, the placement of conservation easements on privately-owned lands, the piecing together of miles-long trail projects. It is the foresight and dedication of private landowners like the Johnsons that make the work possible.

In the Johnsons case, this is land that they owned for more than 30 years. It is home to a former quarry site, as well as mixed savanna, remnant prairie, reconstructed prairie and cropland. But the Johnsons weren’t always aware of their property’s conservation value.

When they first acquired the land, portions of it were “totally mucked over and unusable for anything,” Roslea said, “But my husband [Bob] worked really hard to restore it.”

Bob’s initial restoration goal was to create pasture land for cattle grazing. But in the process, the Johnsons learned that there were remnants of prairie on their land. “Then when we learned about savanna,” Roslea said. “We recognized the savanna remnants and wanted to preserve these rare ecosystems.”

After discovering their property’s special features and putting in years of work to steward, protect and connect the remnant pieces, the Johnsons took the next step to protect it. They decided to donate their land to a conservation organization, and “INHF seemed like the logical choice to ensure that the work we have done to preserve natural areas is continued,” Roslea said.

The Johnsons intend to donate their property in parcels over time in order to protect the unusual plants and provide a refuge for the abundant wildlife including deer, turkeys, bobcats, dragonflies and butterflies.

“Long before we purchased the land, local people enjoyed the special features of the old quarry,” Roslea said, “and we would like that to continue.”

In the future, the Johnsons hope to see more neighbors protecting their land in the Clanton Creek area. “Our goal is to help build an even stronger community of people who appreciate and enjoy nature,” Bob said.

How does INHF count acres protected?

In general, there are three categories of projects that we count toward protection:

  • Projects in which we were involved that became public land (parks, trails, wildlife management areas, etc.)
  • Conservation easements held by INHF
  • Land owned by INHF

In 2015, INHF protected more than 5,000 acres through 50 projects. The Annual Report in the Spring issue of Iowa Natural Heritage magazine will look at each of these projects in more detail.

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