Forty acres of wildlife-rich bluff land near La Farge have been added to the list of properties permanently protected through conservation agreements with Mississippi Valley Conservancy. Judy Kingsbury and Leslie Grossberg, the property owners, are self-described biology “nerds” who say that their deep attachment to the land dates to when they met on an organic farm at Plymouth in 1991.
“So we both have an interest in organic agriculture and conservation,” Kingsbury said. The Madison couple stay in La Farge when they visit their property to work on planting, removal of old barbed wire fencing, invasive species removal or to “just relax,” as Grossberg put it in a telephone interview. They were drawn to the beauty of the Kickapoo Valley during their search for land where they could work on ecological restoration.
Kingsbury, who is volunteer program coordinator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, said they “highly value” conservation efforts and know the concerns over habitat and species loss. “We’re just glad to be able to protect this land — honored we can do this.” She paused and added, “It’s our responsibility to do it, to protect it forever. Maybe others will be inspired to do the same.”
The property’s forested areas include a mix of native species, such as red oak, shagbark hickory, burr oak, sugar maple, black cherry, and white ash. Kingsbury said that their primary work on the land is encouraging the regrowth of forest. Abbie Church, MVC conservation director, said that as the ridge-top fallow fields fill in with grassland and young forest, a rich wildlife habitat is available for songbirds, turkey, whitetail deer, bear, fox and coyote. Native bees and other pollinators will flourish where there is an abundance of flowering plants and fruit-bearing trees.
Their agreement with the conservancy permanently protects the land and resources from habitat destruction, from residential development, mining, inappropriate agriculture and forestry practices, as well as from subdivision that would break up the habitat, according to Megen Kabele, MVC conservation specialist who worked with the couple on the easement.
“Judy and Leslie have provided through their conservation easement an enduring legacy to future generations while achieving peace-of-mind, knowing that their land will be taken care of far into the future,” said Carol Abrahamzon, executive director of the conservancy.
Grossberg said that they once considered moving to the La Farge area, but decided it would be better to stay in Madison, close to family. They began working on the easement only four-and-a-half years after purchasing the land so it, and their restoration work, would be protected in case they ever decided to sell it.
Kingsbury said they enjoyed working with the conservancy staff who joined them for a survey of the property and its wildlife and vegetation. “We were impressed by their level of attention to detail.” She described Abbie Church looking under leaf litter to find a cherrystone drop snail, a Wisconsin threatened species that is unique to the Driftless Area. “Super cool,” Kingsbury said.
Founded in 1997, Mississippi Valley Conservancy is a nationally accredited regional land trust that has permanently protected nearly 20,000 acres of scenic lands in southwestern Wisconsin by working with private landowners, businesses and local communities on voluntary conservation projects.