Conservancy Transfers Land to Iowa Tribe
The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska transferred 160 acres of bluffland, hardwood forest, and tallgrass prairie in Richardson County to the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska last month. “We would like to thank everyone involved in making this happen. This return to us of a part of our reservation, in a natural condition much as our ancestors would recognize it and which we will continue to restore, is helping us to heal the land, and as a tribe," said Iowa tribe vice-chair Alan Kelley.
The Conservancy purchased the land in 1994, with assistance from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, to expand its Rulo Bluffs Preserve. Tucked away in the far southeastern corner of Nebraska, the Conservancy has the goal of protecting the hardwood forest and ridgetop prairie habitats on the land. “In a state distinguished by its prairie, this is a rare habitat,” said Dr. Mace Hack, State Director of the Conservancy. It is covered with trees – big, stately bur oaks, red oaks, basswood, black walnut and hickories tower over smaller trees, such as red bud, ironwood, buckeye, and paw paw.
“The forest and prairie quite literally meet here. Mature hardwood forest – the kind that once dominated the eastern U.S., fits hand-in-glove with tallgrass prairie. The coming together of these ecosystems really amplifies the variety of plants and animals living on this land,” said Hack. The Conservancy retains ownership of 284 acres adjacent to the Tribe.
The Conservancy and the Tribe agreed to a conservation easement, which prevents development that would be incompatible with the ecological value of the land. “We are happy knowing it will be well-stewarded,” said Hack. Contained within that complex is a wide-ranging diversity of plants and animals, many of which are found in only a few other places in the state. “Ensuring the land is well-managed and protected is a critical component of protecting the larger complex,” said Hack.
The Tribe has been working towards ownership of their reservation lands in the southeastern corner of the state, and the preserve falls within their reservation boundary. Kelley said, “Almost all of our lands were lost through treaties and allotment, and what remains has been converted into farming and pasture lands, so this tract of land with medicinal plants and animals put here by the Creator is very special for us. Little remains of that original world now, and the world is out of balance. The Iowa Tribe hereby pledges to protect this land and to restore it to the way the Creator made it, for the coming generations. As some say, you don't own the land, you borrow it from your children."
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.