Land Protection

Striking a balance between development and nature

The very same characteristics that attract people to this region are being threatened by subdivision, development, mining, and unsustainable land use practices. We understand the need to conserve the unique outdoor spaces that may otherwise be lost. Our goal is to help strike a balance between a growing, prosperous community and a healthy, diverse environment.

Over the last century, communities began to recognize the need to conserve important natural treasures in the Driftless area as their populations grew. The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and La Crosse’s Grandad Bluff were early conservation projects. Today we are building on this foundation to broaden the opportunities for conservation by working cooperatively with others to conserve blufflands, prairies, wetlands and streams.

How we protect

Voluntary partnerships yield results

We accomplish all of our land protection work by partnering with willing landowners. We don’t regulate land use but instead provide tools and opportunities for landowners to preserve their properties so that future generations may enjoy the land just as they do today.

We protect land in three primary ways:

  • Conservation easements — Landowners continue to live and work on their property and may even sell or give it to their children or other relatives. At the same time, the landowners with conservation easements are assured that the conservation values of the property will be protected forever.
  • Land ownershipWe work with willing landowners who are interested in donating, bequeathing or selling land to become nature preserves. These sites provide habitat for wildlife and are available for school groups for environmental education, researchers, and nature-enthusiasts. All of our nature preserves are available for hiking, fishing, bird-watching, snow-shoeing, and other nature-based outdoor recreation.
  • Restoration work — We work to bring natural areas back to functioning, healthy states by removing invasive plant species and using tools like prescribed burns to restore prairie and savanna habitats. Our goal is to provide residents and visitors with opportunities to visit different habitat types, from bluff prairies and cliffs to algific talus slopes and hemlock forests. These sites also provide opportunities for hands-on experience in habitat restoration techniques through our volunteer work days.

What’s at stake

Without conservation, Wisconsin has a lot to lose

  • Some of the rarest natural communities in the world, like oak savannas, are here in Wisconsin—but only a fraction of one percent remain
  • We have lost 99.9 percent of our prairies
  • We lose 30,000 acres of farmland to development every year
  • Wisconsin’s natural resources generate $12 billion in revenue from tourism every year and create 300,000 jobs
  • The number of frac sand mines has exploded over the past several years, leaving the landscape scarred and threatening the environment
  • A number of species found in our area are threatened by loss of habitat, including the ornate box turtle, little brown bat, Acadian flycatcher, blue winged warbler, cerulean warbler, cherrystone drop snail, Henslow’s sparrow, hooded warbler and peregrine falcon