TWIN BLUFFS, BUFFALO COUNTY, WISCONSIN © John Gregor/ColdSnap Photography
The Nature Conservancy announced today that with assistance from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund it has protected 161 acres of scenic bluffland along Wisconsin’s Great River Road in western Wisconsin. The Conservancy purchased the land, within the Village of Nelson, Buffalo County, and adjacent to an area known locally as Twin Bluffs, from Aimee Hemion and the estate of her late husband Dwight Hemion. The newly protected property is to be known as the Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area - The Nature Conservancy Addition.
At the TNC Addition, dry prairies, cliffs and oak openings on the rugged bluffs are home to a wide array of plants and animals including bald eagles and other raptors, red-headed woodpeckers and migratory songbirds like the cerulean warbler. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Stewardship Fund staff ranked the protection of the TNC Addition higher than any other proposal submitted last year by land trusts, however, the effort to protect this parcel was years in the making. The initial work 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. Dwight and Aimee had a strong desire to see this land, once part of Dwight’s grandfather’s farm, preserved for future generations to enjoy. 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 Nature Conservancy stepped in to help.
“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 Dwight and Aimee Hemion for their past care of the land and their commitment to seeing it conserved.”
George Howe, Conservation Director for MVC, agreed: “Working with the Hemions to develop this project was a real joy. They could have sold the property sooner and for more money to other parties, including a mining company, but they didn’t believe that was an ethical choice –they didn’t want the land to be exploited or the community of Nelson, Wis. to lose its most valuable scenic asset. This is one of the most significant projects that I have worked on in my 20-plus years of land conservation work.”
Part of the Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area, this site is also designated by the Wisconsin Historical Society as an important archaeological site once used by Native Americans.
"This land is sacred and it was my duty to seek protection for it,” said Aimee Hemion. “It holds the memory of not only my husband, but also his grandfather and those who came before them, including my indigenous ancestors. By protecting this land, I not only honor them, but also the land that supported them, and the land that continues to support us. I feel totally relieved knowing that this living memory and history will be protected for future generations."
“We very much appreciate Aimee Hemion’s dedication and commitment to picking up where Dwight left off to ensure conservation of this incredibly scenic bluff,” said Tim Jacobson, MVC’s executive director. This site “is a world-class resource for residents of, and visitors to, Buffalo County. Now the bluffs can be enjoyed by people and wildlife for countless generations.”
The Nature Conservancy Addition to the Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area is open to the public for outdoor recreation including hiking, hunting, birding and photography.
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 www.nature.org.