VERNON COUNTY, WI – A new land conservation agreement between Dave and Betty Van Dyke and Mississippi Valley Conservancy has conserved 114 acres of beautiful ridgetop farmland and forest habitat into the future.
Forty-three years ago, Dave and Betty Van Dyke passed through Wisconsin’s Driftless Area on a trip to visit relatives, soon after Dave had finished his residency in psychiatry in Oshkosh. Both were so struck by the uniqueness and beauty of the area that they soon decided to make it their home. “Having land and a place to raise kids in the country was what we wanted,” said Dave, “I just have a piece of rural in me.”
Now, after decades of thoughtful and active care for the agricultural and wild resources of the land, they have made their commitment to the land permanent by protecting it with a conservation easement with their local land trust, Mississippi Valley Conservancy.
David and Betty maintain ownership of the land, but the Conservancy accepts responsibility for ensuring the land is not subdivided or developed in the future. Conserving family farms is an important component of the Conservancy mission. In reflecting on this new protection of their land, Dave commented, “We came to this area over 40 years ago and have created our lives here. Making responsible, ecologically sound choices to improve and preserve the farm has always been an integral part of that process.”
The Van Dyke’s land management has also extended from the farmland into the surrounding woods. The oak woodlands on their property are enrolled in the state Managed Forest Law program and are managed to support area wildlife. Their efforts paid off 6 years ago when their fourteen-year-old granddaughter got her first deer, an 11-point buck with a seventeen inch spread. She has been hunting there ever since. According to Dave, in the early 1980’s, wild turkeys (whose population had been decimated by disease) were reintroduced from Missouri to Wisconsin. As the turkey population increased, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources trapped turkeys in the Van Dyke’s back field to release into other areas of the state. “There was some concern about our peacocks,” Dave said with a laugh. “They kept leaving the coop to join the turkey flock, to the consternation of the DNR folks.” The turkey population began to flourish in Vernon County, and continues to do so today.
"David and Betty’s vision and work have all come together to enhance the value of their farm for the future while increasing its climate resilience for all who live here,” said Carol Abrahamzon, the Conservancy’s executive director. “Their contribution to improving soils, supporting wildlife, and protecting native habitats will last forever!"