On August 1, the UMRR Board met at the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Visitor Center in Onalaska, Wisconsin (near La Crosse). We were joined by Megen Kabele from the Mississippi Valley Conservancy. This group works with farmers and other land owners to protect farmland from increasingly intense land uses through perpetual conservation easements that are negotiated with the land owners and then enforced by the Conservancy. The Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC), a regional, non-profit land trust, has permanently conserved 17,369 acres of blufflands, prairies, wetlands, and streams in and around the Mississippi, Kickapoo and Wisconsin Rivers since their founding in 1997. More than a million visitors to the area each year enjoy the scenic beauty of MVC nature preserves.
Megan told us that the MVC works with private landowners and local communities on voluntary conservation projects in nine counties along or near the Mississippi River: Buffalo, Trempealeau, Jackson, La Crosse, Monroe, Vernon, Crawford, Richland and Grant Counties.
The Conservancy uses voluntary tools such as conservation easements, land acquisitions, and a landowner registry program to protect lands for their ecology, scenic beauty, outdoor recreation potential, and prime agricultural soils. MVC works hard to restore native natural communities by removing invasive species and conducting prescribed burns. Additionally, the Conservancy provides hand-on learning experiences in the outdoors for thousands of young people and works to foster a conservation ethic.
Megen is a native of Northeast Iowa, where she was raised on a small farm near the Wapsipinicon River. She studied Forest Management at Iowa State and later worked with the Forest Service on the Pike-San Isabel National Forest in Colorado. As a Lands Administrator for the Forest Service, Megen was involved with land use activities on National Forest, focusing on recreational and non-recreational activities that also included hard rock mining. Her background in realty actions include land exchange, purchase, donation, and due diligence.
Thanks to Carolyn Mahlum-Jenkins, after the meeting, we were given a tour of the USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center research facility in La Crosse. This center is working cooperatively with the US Army Corps of Engineers on Upper Mississippi River restoration. Thanks to Randy Hines for giving us the tour!
The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge is a wonderful facility and well worth a visit if you are in the area. There are hiking trails, restored prairies and sweeping vistas and lots of birds, especially in the spring and fall. Another great place to hike nearby is the McGilvray Seven Bridges Road through the Van Loon Scientific and Natural Area.
La Crosse is a city that is embracing its waterfront. Visitors can take paddle boat tours on the Mississippi and see visiting vessels as well as wonderful river environments. Sunset from Granddad’s Bluff is not to be missed when you are in town to enjoy the Upper Mississippi!