Joe and Betsy Bacon standing on the edge of a trail

Joe and Betsy Bacon have protected over 800 acres in Spring Valley through a conservation easement with Landmark Conservancy.

In 1974, Joe and Betsy Bacon bought 160 acres in Spring Valley that had previously been part of a working dairy and cheese factory. Joe farmed for a couple of years, until they began a home-based business selling tempered safety glass for patio windows. As they built their business, they slowly built their homestead as well, purchasing adjacent acreage when they could.

They first added another 80 acres, and then purchased 360 – which Joe refers to as “two wet fields” – from a farmer who had put the property into the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Conservation Reserve Program but struggled to keep his fencing up due to the saturated soil.

They began planting thousands of trees annually in 1981. In the years since, Joe estimates that he and Betsy have planted 150,000 trees with support from this program.

Geologic Features showing a large rock outcrop in the forest

The presence of surface geologic features such as rock outcrops are often indicative of diverse local flora and fauna.

Geomorphological Characteristics showing horizontal rock and soil layers

A climate-resilient ecosystem often includes geomorphologic characteristics including diverse slope, aspect, geology and moisture regimes.

The property now totals over 800 acres. The landscape includes steep, rocky cliffs, and a total of eight natural springs. Pines, oaks, and maples that once provided shade to grazing cattle now measure over 16 feet in circumference. They lease a portion of the agricultural land to a local farmer who utilizes sustainable practices like vertical tilling and forage crops. Protective measures are in place in areas where soils are highly erodible.

Now retired, they enjoy daily hikes on their property. When weather is wintry, they seek the shelter of the pine forest, but on sunny days they venture into the coulee, a deep ravine. Coulees have unique microhabitats created by geology, hydrology, and elevation changes. The Bacon’s coulee is no exception, hosting an incredible diversity of species, including a Class II trout stream and numerous native plants.

Joe points out brook trout in the stream on his property

Joe points out brook trout in the stream on his property.

These features are a prime example of the diverse landscapes that Landmark Conservancy seeks to protect as they will be resilient to the effects of a changing climate.

The word “coulees” here in Wisconsin refers to the deep, steep-sided, rocky chasms of the Driftless Area often containing a meandering stream. The Bacon’s coulee epitomizes the word with its clear, cold water and seeping cliffs, providing niche habitats which harbor great plant and animal diversity.

The Bacons placed their property in a conservation easement with Landmark to ensure that the property will remain intact, productive and continue to support biodiversity beyond their ownership. “To know that this beautiful valley that we worked so hard to obtain and protect will remain intact for future generations to enjoy means everything to us!” Joe said.

Rick Remington

Conservation Director Rick Remington worked with the Bacons over several years to develop a protection plan for their property that will safeguard significant ecological resources while allowing for sound agricultural use.

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