In the blufflands region of the upper Mississippi River valley, strong local public-partnerships led by an alliance of area land trusts work with conservation-minded landowners and active communities work to protect the precious natural resources of the area for their own sake—and for their economic, health, aesthetic and other human benefits. These partners work cooperatively to achieve “a state of harmony between men and land” as sought by the great conservationist and Wisconsin native, Aldo Leopold.
We at the Mississippi Valley Conservancy have forged a strong and broad array of partnerships to address the myriad conservation challenges found in our service area of 3.4 million acres.
La Crosse Bluffland Protection Program
Since 2001, the City of La Crosse has budgeted money each year for bluffland protection. We use the money to acquire properties within the eight-mile stretch of Mississippi River bluffs overlooking the city. The program provides scenic preservation to ensure that the beauty of the landscape is not destroyed by poorly-planned development. Through this program, we carry on the proud tradition of land conservation in the Coulee Region pioneered by Ellen Hixon and other citizens in the early 1900s who purchased Grandad Bluff and Hixon Forest and donated these gems to the city for all residents to enjoy. Through these ongoing efforts, we work with the city to enhance the quality of life of all local residents, provide accessible outdoor recreation and promote our tourism-fueled economy.
Onalaska Natural Lands Protection Program
In 2009, we and the City of Onalaska entered into a formal contract whereby we work to protect land within Onalaska’s Greenway Plan. The first project was completed in December 2009—the Savannah Oaks Tract in Greens Coulee is a beautiful bluff adjacent to existing city park land. The land is now open to the public for activities like hiking, hunting and bird watching.
La Crosse River Conservancy
The La Crosse River Conservancy project is located in the valley east of Highway 16 and south of Interstate 90 along the La Crosse River State Trail. This partnership is a public-private, community-based effort to conserve this river valley with its associated riparian forests, wetland prairies, tamarack swamps and open wetlands with an additional emphasis on low-impact recreational trails and environmental education. The partners involved include Gundersen-Lutheran Medical Center, Western Technical College, the Cities of La Crosse and Onalaska, private landowners and Mississippi Valley Conservancy.
Borah Creek Prairie Partnership
We joined forces with The Prairie Enthusiasts and Driftless Area Land Conservancy to protect an important tract of native prairie in Grant County with rare wildflowers. The prairie was at risk of being plowed up for agriculture and lost forever.
Holland Sand Prairie Partnership
A 61-acre tract, the last remnant of what had been the expansive “Prairie La Crosse,” was about to be bulldozed for development. The site contains incredible biodiversity and was a spot school children could go to study nature. Through the joint efforts of the Conservancy, Town of Holland, WI-DNR, The Prairie Enthusiasts and the Friends of the Holland Sand Prairie, the land was saved. Town of Holland citizens actually voted to tax themselves to help pay for the prairie! How often does that happen? Visit Friends of the Holland Sand Prairie to read more.