Partnership Protects Grasslands At Military Ridge

The Nature Conservancy Transfers A to Z Farm Industries Land to The Prairie Enthusiasts

MADISON, WI | May 04, 2007

The Nature Conservancy announced today that it has transferred ownership of 276 acres of important grassland habitat in the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area in Iowa County to The Prairie Enthusiasts for long-term ownership and management.  The 276-acre parcel, formerly owned by A to Z Farm Industries, contains existing blocks of grassland, which are important habitat for songbirds like the meadowlark and bobolink, whose populations are declining worldwide, as well as for pheasants and other wildlife.

The A to Z property is within one of the most significant concentrations of prairie sod and grassland bird habitat in the Military Ridge Area.  It is immediately adjacent to significant parcels of high-quality remnant prairie sod with rare and declining plants and animals and extensive acres of grasslands.

“The Prairie Enthusiasts are very pleased to accept this significant property from The Nature Conservancy,” said Renae Mitchell, Executive Director of The Prairie Enthusiasts.  “Together we are taking another major step toward fulfilling the vision of a large contiguous grassland habitat area in the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area that conserves the natural, agricultural, and cultural resources of this special place.  We truly value our strong partnership with The Nature Conservancy."

The Prairie Enthusiasts has been assisting private landowners to manage the prairie and savanna remnants on their lands in this area for the past 10 years.  This will be the group’s fifth land acquisition in the area.

“The Nature Conservancy has a history of transferring land to other conservation organizations with the experience and capacity to care for the property,” said Steve Richter, the Conservancy’s Director of Conservation-Land Management.  “The Prairie Enthusiasts has done an excellent job of assisting neighbors in the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area manage their land.  We know the former A to Z Farms land will be in good hands with The Prairie Enthusiasts.”

When The Nature Conservancy purchased the land in 2005, the organization received a $1 million Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund grant to assist with acquisition.

“The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, which often provides a one-to-one match to private donors who support conservation, is one of The Nature Conservancy’s strongest partners in protecting the best of Wisconsin’s natural lands and waters,” said Mary Jean Huston, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin.  “We greatly appreciate Governor Doyle’s steadfast leadership and support for this important conservation program.”

The Prairie Enthusiasts plan to pay taxes on the land and to keep the land with high quality soils in agricultural production.  The property will be open to the public for hunting of white-tailed deer, turkey, and pheasant with a permit; hiking; cross-country skiing; wildlife watching and other low impact activities.

The Nature Conservancy and The Prairie Enthusiasts are part of a larger group of public and private organizations who are interested in working with local communities to help conserve the beauty, biological diversity, and rural character of the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area.  Some of the services that group members can provide include: technical support and hands-on management assistance to landowners who want to manage and/or restore their land to native prairie and savanna; information on public funding programs like CRP and CREP; and buying land and/or negotiating easements with willing landowners.  For more information, contact Katie Abbott, Project Coordinator, at 608/935-2791, ext. 134.

For more information about The Nature Conservancy’s work in the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area, please contact Steve Richter at 608/251-8140.  For more information about the work of The Prairie Enthusiasts, please contact Rich Henderson at 608/845-7065.

The Prairie Enthusiasts is a private organization committed to the protection and management of native prairie and savanna of the Upper Midwest. We have an incorporated, nonprofit status and are a grass roots organization run by volunteers. The Prairie Enthusiasts differ from other conservation groups in its sole dedication to the preservation of the last remaining pieces of the once vast, now endangered, prairies and savannas of the Upper Midwest through land protection and management. The Prairie Enthusiasts evolved from small prairie preservation organizations that began in the mid-1970's. We now have chapters in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. On the Web at

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

Contact information

Chris Anderson
Wisconsin Media Contact
(612) 331-0747
(612) 845-2744 (cell)

Rich Henderson
The Prairie Enthusiasts
(608) 845-7065

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