The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation is helping a big name in Iowa agriculture officially get into the conservation business. The Garst family of Coon Rapids will be donating 13-hundred acres to the Natural Herritage Foundation. Natural Heritage Foundation spokeswoman Cathy Engstrom says they’re creating another non-profit organization called the Whiterock Conservancy, and Engstrom says eventually that conservancy will hold the land and manage it. Whiterock’s long-term goals include restoring the area’s natural landscape, creating public education and recreation opportunities, and setting up a research station for environmentally-sound, economically viable agriculture. Engstrom says the land along the Middle Raccoon River in Carroll and Guthrie Counties was accumulated by the late Stephen Garst to be used by his family and other area residents.She says there had been a tradition of conservation usage, however now it will become more formalized and will be moving away from the family into this long-term non-profit. The 13-hundred acres is only the first phase of the plan, which will include five-thousand acres in all, over time. Engstrom stresses the area isn’t being completely opened. It’s not owned by the state of Iowa, but rather by this conservancy, and she says like other such land it will not be for hunting, or “wild uses,” at least unless would-be users go talk to the conservancy. Engstrom says this is a unique project, but the Natural Heritage Foundation believes it will demonstrate a variety of conservation options that landowners have. The Heritage Foundation’s Engstrom says they hope other landowners in the area and throughout the state look at this as a model for what can be done with land protection.
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