The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin Transfers Native Grassland in Dane County to The Prairie Enthusiasts

Agreement Provides for Long-Term Management of Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie

MADISON, WI | September 05, 2007

The Nature Conservancy announced today that it has transferred ownership of Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie in Dane County to The Prairie Enthusiasts for long-term ownership and management. More than 80 native prairie plants have been identified on the 16.2-acre property located in the town of Black Earth, Wis.

The property was acquired by the Conservancy in 1986 from William and Agnes Rettenmund. The remnant prairie was subsequently dedicated as a State Natural Area to ensure its long-term protection. The site is one of the most colorful shortgrass prairies in Wisconsin. Throughout the growing season the native prairie features spectacular displays of purple, orange and yellow flowering plants. In the spring, violets, betony and shooting stars are in full bloom. Lead plant, butterfly weed and compass plant all blossom in the summer.

The Prairie Enthusiasts’ goal is to “ensure the perpetuation of remaining native prairies and savannas through preservation, restoration and management.” The group has been managing Rettenmund Prairie for the Conservancy since July 2002.

“The Prairie Enthusiasts is extremely pleased to be able to assist The Nature Conservancy in the long-term protection and care of this remarkably diverse treasure of history, and to continue our long-standing partnership,” said Rich Henderson, vice president of The Prairie Enthusiasts. “Remnants of original prairie are exceptionally rare today.  This high-quality piece of original Wisconsin is likely 5,000 years old; a real gem that people will be able to experience and enjoy for generations to come."

Mary Jean Huston, director of The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin, said she was pleased that The Prairie Enthusiasts will continue to manage Rettenmund Prairie as its new owners.

"The Prairie Enthusiasts are led by a large number of highly dedicated and accomplished volunteers," Huston said.  "The group has contributed thousands of dollars and a great deal of effort to improve the habitat here.  Their management activities have helped minimize invasives and increased the abundance of flowering plants at this prairie."

The Conservancy has a history of transferring land to other conservation organizations with the experience and capacity to care for the property. The Conservancy transferred a 276-acre grassland in Iowa County earlier this year to The Prairie Enthusiasts, which currently owns, manages or protects about 3,000 acres of prairie, oak savanna, oak woodland and other fire-dependent ecosystems in the Midwest.

Land management activities at Rettenmund Prairie include re-establishing native prairie plants, controlling weeds, removing brush and conducting prescribed burns to ensure that the site remains a high-quality natural area.

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-1970s. 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

Steve Richter
(608) 251-8140 ext. 126

Rich Henderson
The Prairie Enthusiasts
(608) 845-7065

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