Landowners Ron & Darla Giordano pose with The Prairie Enthusiasts Executive Director Debra Behrens. Photo credit: The Prairie Enthusiasts

Protecting special places forever is always a team effort. We recently had the pleasure of teaming up with The Prairie Enthusiasts, along with two conservation-minded landowners, to help protect 40 acres of land in the Wisconsin River Valley.

When Wisconsinites think of their landscapes, they rarely envision sandy areas where cacti could thrive. So, it may be surprising to learn that within the Wisconsin River Valley, such an ecosystem has survived the changes of the last century and is now permanently protected by The Prairie Enthusiasts.

With the help of Groundswell, this 40-acre parcel, now named Giordano Oak Barrens and Sand Prairie, was donated to The Prairie Enthusiasts by Ron and Darla Giordano on May 16, 2023. Groundswell led negotiations with the owners, made arrangements for the closing, and helped cover costs associated with the closing. With the help in part from a generous donation provided by the Giordanos to support initial management of the site, The Prairie Enthusiasts can now ensure the continued vitality of this area.

“We are excited to be helping the Giordanos fulfill their dream of seeing this site be preserved and restored as a natural area for generations to experience and enjoy.”
– Rich Henderson, The Prairie Enthusiasts Board Member

The Giordanos took an interest in the area many years ago, and for ten years, they called the original owner twice a year, asking if he was interested in selling. When the day finally came, the original owner asked to meet the Giordanos to ensure they were people who would care for the land. Satisfied with the Giordanos’ intent, they were sold the property and quickly began making improvements.

They contacted the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to survey the land and understand its history; they planted trees and removed dead brush. Their stewardship was driven by the goal for the land to be a haven for the natural world, and for others to enjoy its splendor.

The property has a beautiful view overlooking Lake Wisconsin and the Merrimac Railroad Bridge. It also has various native ecosystems that are now rare but once were common.

We are grateful to the Giordanos, The Prairie Enthusiasts, and the many volunteers who helped protect this property for generations to come. Current and new volunteers will now work towards the goal of bringing this ecosystem back to its original state of sand prairie and oak barrens, which was its condition when the Ho Chunk Nation was caring for the land for thousands of years. Until management plans are
finalized, the preserve is not open to the public. Those interested in volunteering to restore this ecosystem should contact The Prairie Enthusiasts at