Dane County grants $110K to local conservation group for land acquisition

A generic winter prairie landscape

MADISON, Wis. — Dane County has awarded $110,000 to a local conservation group that will use the funds to buy 40 acres of land and expand the Erbe Grassland Preserve in Blue Mounds.

The grant will allow The Prairie Enthusiasts to buy a patch of land that would connect two other sections of TPE-owned land, thus creating a 140-acre preserve that will serve as a habitat for grassland birds, prairie vegetation and prairie-restricted insects. The land will also serve as a recreational space for area residents looking to enjoy hiking, bird watching, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and hunting.

“We are excited to partner with The Prairie Enthusiasts on this land purchase to increase access to recreational opportunities and preserve our natural resources,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “This effort will help ensure Erbe Grassland Preserve and its environmental benefits can be enjoyed for many years to come.”

The property is located in the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area and Southwest Grasslands, both of which are Regional Resource Protection Initiatives under the Dane County Parks and Open Space Plan.

TPE has helped the current landowners, the Goplin family, with land management for more than 20 years by conducting burns, helping with weed and tree control, monitoring for rare species and providing prairie seed to continue restoration efforts.

“The Goplin family has loved this land and worked closely with us for 22 years now to restore its original remnant prairie. This is a unique opportunity to add 40 acres to an existing 100 acre preserve,” said Debra Behrens, Executive Director of The Prairie Enthusiasts. “Together, with the Dane County Conservation Fund and the WI-DNR Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, we are protecting critical habitat for rare species for generations to come.”

The land acquisition costs are estimated to be $206,900. The Dane County Park Commission recommended providing a total of $109,400 to help make the purchase possible. A resolution to approve the grant will be introduced at a Thursday night County Board meeting, which is expected to be approved in the coming weeks.