Conservation groups share $10.8 million gift

Two local conservation groups, the Natural Land Institute (NLI) and the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation, will share with other private conservation groups in five Midwest states part of a $10.8 million grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to help landowners protect habitat for wildlife along the Mississippi River bluffs. These funds, along with additional money from the groups receiving the grant, will help implement state wildlife action plans at a time when the special places we value are vanishing quickly.

“With this grant, landowners in the hills and valleys along the Upper Mississippi River will get the help they need to protect their properties for wildlife,” said Jerry Paulson, executive director of NLI. He cites the example of Savanna resident Jack Nickels, who recently shielded from development 80 acres of forested land north of Mississippi Palisades State Park in Carroll County using a tailor-made conservation agreement.

“Jack Nickels faced challenges familiar to many other conservation-minded landowners,” said Paulson. “The Natural Land Institute was able to help him overcome obstacles to protecting his land due to rising tax bills, development pressures and estate taxes. The legal agreement gave Jack some equity from his land, and he’s eligible for potential tax benefits. In exchange, he agrees to protect the forest, prairies and wildlife that he loves.”

Paulson said the Nickels property is in the region known as the Mississippi River “Blufflands,” one of the focus areas for the Duke grant. The Blufflands are in one of America’s fastest-growing areas, home to hundreds of wildlife species and critical to the survival of the warblers, orioles, scarlet tanagers and other songbirds that migrate along this flyway to Central and South America.

Chris Larson, executive director of the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation, said the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation grant shows a large Eastern foundation recognizes the Upper Midwest as a critical area for wildlife. She said the grant will allow her group to step up the pace of its work with landowners in Jo Daviess County to preserve habitat.

“In less than a generation, our remaining natural areas could be gone,” Larson said, “but at the same time, neighbors are banding together to take conservation into their own hands. In support of conservation, we have Americans’ fundamental love of the land, economic common sense and commitment to our children and grandchildren.”

The $10.8 million from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation grant over three years will be devoted directly to the protection of habitat identified as a priority in the wildlife action plans of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin. The state wildlife agencies were careful to consider the broad range of wildlife, including game and non-game species as well as endangered ones. They identified and prioritized key wildlife habitat, in many cases using the latest technology to map these lands.

NLI is a not-for-profit conservation organization founded in 1958 that preserves and restores forests, prairies and wetlands for people, plants and animals. For information:, e-mail or call (815) 964-6666.

The Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation is a not-for-profit organization founded by area residents to protect the natural heritage, spectacular scenery and agricultural character of the Jo Daviess County area. For information:, e-mail or call (815) 858-9100.

NLI and the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation are part of the Blufflands Alliance, a coalition of six private land conservation groups in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin working to preserve the scenic and natural resources of the bluffs along the Mississippi River.

from the Oct. 10, 2007, issue

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