Conserved wildlife corridor expands in Crawford County

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Family conserve adjacent lands with

Mississippi Valley Conservancy


Mark Grunwald and Leigh Carlson signed conservation agreements with Mississippi Valley Conservancy to protect adjacent land totaling 109 contiguous acres in Crawford County. The agreement will preserve wildlife habitats established on the land.

Grunwald, along with his wife Ann, acquired their land east of Ferryville, along Buck Creek Road 25 years ago. Since their acquisition, the Grunwalds and their children have worked to conserve the land’s wildlife and plant life from further damage and development.

In 2005, The Grunwalds received a Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) cost-share grant from the USDA to further restore and conserve the land’s natural beauty. They cleared brush, controlled invasive species, and planted diverse prairies among other projects throughout the years.

In 2008, Leigh and Forrest Carlson purchased 37 acres from the Grunwalds. The two families continued restoration work in the area, with projects to revitalize the land’s understory and to introduce new species to the prairies under controlled conditions.

“The Carlsons and Grunwalds have done an immense amount of work to manage a diverse array of habitats. From the remnant dry prairies to the restored prairie plantings, the plant diversity on their properties is very high,” said Chris Kirkpatrick, the Conservancy’s Conservation Manager. 

These natural communities provided habitat for some rare species, such as the federally threatened rusty patched bumble bee, which has been observed on their restored prairies, and the state threatened slender bushclover found in their remnant prairie. The property has been a haven for grassland and savanna birds, including bobolinks, meadowlarks, red-headed woodpeckers, brown thrashers, and field sparrows. The oak openings and woodlands that have been restored by their joint efforts. 

“Functional oak opening is globally rare, and the families have conserved these rare habitats for the wildlife and for future generations,” said Kirkpatrick.

“The deep-rooted prairie plants the Grunwalds and Carlsons have established on the former row-crop fields are ideal for slowing rainwater, minimizing erosion, storing carbon, and feeding the pollinators and birds,” said Kirkpatrick. “It’s a very resilient habitat that can tolerate weather extremes. That’s why it’s green in this drought year when many homes are surrounded by brown lawns.”

Conserving the Grunwald and Carlson properties will support the Conservancy’s climate action plan by adding to a growing corridor of protected land in the surrounding watershed. 

Five other conserved private properties are in the watershed, plus one of the Conservancy’s public-access nature preserves, Sugar Creek Bluff State Natural Area. The native birds, insects, fish and wildlife will always find the habitats they’ve depended upon in this growing corridor of conserved land. 

The Grunwalds and Carlsons plan to continue with their stewardship of the land as they carefully consider the impact of each plant and tree they add or remove while enjoying their bird’s eye view from the ridgetop. This article submitted byt Carol Abrahamzon

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