Dwight Hemion grew up in New York City and Los Angeles, but he fell in love with the land his grandfather farmed in Nelson, Wisconsin, on the Mississippi River. He eventually moved to Wisconsin to help his grandfather work the land in Nelson and on the home farm near Alma.
Towering over the rich Nelson-area farmland are rugged bluffs covered with dry prairies and oak openings. They are home to bald eagles and other raptors, red-headed woodpeckers and migratory songbirds like the cerulean warbler.
In May, The Nature Conservancy protected 161 acres of Dwight Hemion’s land in Nelson, including the bluffland, with assistance from his widow Aimee Hemion.
“Dwight loved the land, but he also loved the people in the community,” said Aimee. “Seeing this land protected was his way to give back to the community and to make his grandfather proud.”
Initial work to protect the land in Buffalo County started in 2009, when the Hemions met with George Howe of the Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC), a land trust dedicated to providing permanent protection for important natural lands in the Mississippi River Valley. Before they could finalize a plan to protect the land, Dwight passed away. Aimee continued to work with MVC on a conservation plan. After years of work on the project, MVC needed assistance to secure the necessary funding and the Conservancy stepped in to help.
Part of the Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area, the land is designated by the Wisconsin Historical Society as an important archaeological site once used by Native Americans.
Aimee is part Dakota and also has connections to the land through her Native American and French Canadian ancestors who once lived in the area.
"This land holds the memory of my husband, his grandfather and those who came before them, including my indigenous ancestors,” Aimee said. “By protecting this special place, I not only honor them, but also the land that supported them and that continues to support us all.”
“The breathtaking bluffs along the Mississippi River in this part of Wisconsin are not only scenic but provide habitat for raptors, reptiles and rare plant communities found in few other parts of the state,” said Mary Jean Huston, director of The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin. “We are grateful to the Hemions for their past care of the land and their commitment to seeing it conserved.”