The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation has wrapped up a big land purchase in Allamakee County. Spokeswoman Cathy Engstrom says in all, it’s 1,200 acres in far northeastern Iowa, part of it former farmland.
It has a long chunk of the Upper Iowa River winding through it, she says, steep bluffs with woodlands and some dry prairie on the sides of the hills. That part wouldn’t make good farmland at all, but, says Engstrom, "Boy, to the eagles and the other widlife love it." Engstrom says when the land came up for sale by an estate, her group had to move fast.
The Iowa natural Heritage Foundation is a conservation group, she says, "and this is a beautiful piece of land for conservation." She says one reason to buy it up is to protect the natural resources and wildlife habitat.
"Any time in Iowa that you can get one-thousand contiguous acres is practically a miracle." Engstrom says it’s considered the most remote place in Iowa, with eagle nesting sites, old oak and hickory forests, and limestone bluffs. While the foundation plans to begin work to improve water quality and restore native plants, they’ll also be looking to turn it around to some other buyer, most likely the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
"We often are a first buyer," Engstrom says, explaining that the DNR or county conservation groups will buy such properties when they become available, to make them into conservation and recreation areas. This one’s only different because it’s so large, and was a four-million-dollar purchase. While the Natural Heritage Foundation owns the land, she says, it’ll pay property taxes on the land formerly owned by Forrest and Gladys Ryan.