Landowner Highlight: Being Good Stewards, Forever

When Nancy Thomas and Mike Samuel placed a conservation easement on their property with Driftless Area Land Conservancy in December 2016, they already knew what they wanted to do next: create an endowment fund to make sure the hard work they’d put into their land would be carried on into the future. At the end of 2021, their vision became a reality.

 

“We’ve been working on this land for 25 years,” Mike says. “You can’t just walk away from it and let it go unmanaged. To ensure it into the future, we knew we’d have to put in some resources.”

 

Their Driftless property contains a diversity of natural features and habitats including remnant prairie, reconstructed prairie, oak woodland, wetlands, and a cool-water stream. Mike and Nancy have devoted countless hours to removing invasive species, carrying out prescribed burns, planting native seeds, and improving habitat for wildlife.

 

“As we were doing all this work, we wanted to ensure there was some way it would be maintained when we were gone,” Nancy says.

 

Nancy and Mike found their answer with the endowment program of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (NRF). They’ve created a management fund for their property, held by NRF, that will provide yearly funding for restoration and stewardship. DALC will administer these funds and work with the landowner on stewardship priorities.

 

Other landowners who have done similar restoration work on their properties have talked to Nancy and Mike about their strategy. They get questions like “Who’s going to take over the property when you’re gone?” and “What will actually ensure the management gets done?”

 

“The same time we were thinking about our conservation easement, we were thinking about [the endowment],” Nancy says. She and Mike hope that the combination of these two tools will ensure that no matter who owns the land after them, it will forever be protected and managed with care.

 

“We would like to encourage other people to follow our example,” Mike says.

 

DALC agrees! Mike and Nancy are inspirational in their commitment to managing this beautiful Driftless landscape. DALC staff and board have long discussed the importance of not only protecting land via conservation easements, but also stewarding and improving the conservation values of properties into the future. Endowments through NRF are an excellent way to accomplish our mission of long-term stewardship and protection of the Driftless Area.

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