WASHINGTON COUNTY, Iowa – Just west of Wellman, more than 100 acres of undeveloped land is changing hands. Bur Oak Land Trust of Iowa City and the Washington County Conservation Board are working together to continue to protect a haven for local wildlife and a place for Iowans to experience nature.
Dotted with mature oak and hickory trees surrounding a lush wetland, the 103-acre Gross property in Lime Creek Township is being transferred from Bur Oak to WCCB to continue its permanent protection.
“Transferring this property to the WCCB will create nearly 900 contiguous acres of protected land, helping to establish an important corridor for wildlife along the English River,” said Bur Oak Land Trust Executive Director Jason Taylor.
The Gross property, donated to Bur Oak in 2018 by Tom Gross and Linda Lee, will join the English River Wildlife Area (ERWA) already managed by WCCB.
“The acquisition of the Gross property is a good thing for Washington County Conservation because it continues a pattern of investment our department and county has made into increasing access to public land,” said Zach Rozmus, Executive Director at WCCB.
Iowa ranks 47th in the United States in terms of total acres protected for public access. This status, Rozmus said, is due in part to Iowa’s agriculture industry, making protection of natural resources and public access “critical.”
“Not every individual has access to private land where they can learn to camp, fish, hike, and hunt which makes it important to have access to public land so that the opportunity to recreate is all-inclusive,” he said.
The continued protection of the Gross property is also important for the wildlife that call the property home. “Countless native species” including the threatened long eared owl will benefit from the property’s unique combination of lowland timber, wetlands, willow thickets and native grasses, Rozmus said. These features also mean the property serves as a flood mitigation area and water quality filtration system, he said, and WCCB’s strict management plan will make the Gross property a place for public recreation for years to come.
Partnerships like this one between WCCB and Bur Oak are important, he continued, because the work of protecting and preserving natural resources alone would be a nearly impossible task.
“The Bur Oak Land Trust has a history of giving back to the public, protecting natural resources, and involving younger generations in those efforts,” he said. “I firmly believe that the Gross family addition to the ERWA will one day symbolize the beginning of a relationship between two organizations with common goals, that resulted in hundreds of acres being preserved, as well as an involvement with the public, that both entities will be proud to be a part of.”