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May apple flower growing among oak woodland.
Rulo Bluffs May apple flower growing among oak woodland. © Chris Helzer/TNC

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Homecoming for Rulo Bluffs

Conservation Land Will Be Cared for by the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska

  • Dr. Mace Hack
    Nebraska State Director
    The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska
    Email: mhack@tnc.org

  • Timothy Rhodd
    Chairman, Executive Committee
    The Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska
    Email: trhodd@iowas.org

In the far southeast corner of Nebraska – practically in Kansas – lies a scenic landscape where the cool, shady hardwood forest of the eastern U.S. meets the wind-swept, sun-drenched prairie of the Great Plains.  After years of ownership by The Nature Conservancy, this natural area has now been returned to the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. 

The Nebraska program purchased the 160-acre Bachman tract in 1994.  That land was transferred to the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska in February of 2018.  

Prior to 2018, The Nature Conservancy owned two tracts of land at Rulo Bluffs; the Bachman tract and the Schulenberg tract.  This 444-acre site in Richardson County is filled with wildlife, including ten at-risk species.  

Now, the second transfer of the 284-acre Schulenberg tract has been completed. 

Ray Schulenberg bought 20 acres for $780.  For a couple of years, he lived a simple, $10/month life in an old shack on the property.  Inspired, Ray became a botanist, and slowly added more acres over the years.  His work in protecting and restoring prairies at the Morton Arboretum landed him the title of “grandfather of native prairies in the Chicago area.”

Schulenberg was a member of the Conservancy since its inception in 1953, and decided to donate his 284 acres to the Conservancy in 1989. He wanted to protect and enhance the biological diversity of the property.  This transaction will guarantee that. 

TNC’s land holdings fell within the Tribe’s reservation boundaries.  “After many years as neighbors, it became clear that the site’s ecological values would be best protected under Tribal management,” said Dr. Mace Hack, State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska.  “It was simply the right thing to do.”

The Tribe plans to use that land to establish the Ioway Tribal National Park, only the second such park in the nation.  For now, access to the land requires permission. 

“We look forward to helping to ensure the health and the biodiversity of the land, as well as educating tribal members and visitors about the ecosystem. Interpretation, trails and more will be part of that plan, as well as a permitting system that will control impact on resources. This land is part of us, and we are part of it," said Lance Foster, Vice-Chairman of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. 

 

“We will be here a thousand years from now, and this land is our future."

Vice-Chairman of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska

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 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, 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.