Thanks to the conservation goals of Oscar and Norma Bjugstad, on March 27, 2020, we were able to place a conservation easement on 106 acres of high-quality farmland on the southeast side of Evansville Wildlife Area in Rock County. The easement permanently prevents development of the property, keeping it available for farming and open to the public for hunting at the adjacent wildlife area.
As Oscar and Norma put it, “We believe in preserving the farmland for future generations!” That sentiment runs in the family. Their son Brian already protected his adjacent farm with a permanent conservation easement.
A major funder of the conservation easement is the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Land Easement program. According to Kristin Westad, NRCS Easement Biologist, “The purpose of the ALE program is to help effective organizations like Groundswell Conservancy protect even more land. Groundswell brought USDA funds together with other contributions to protect soil, water and wildlife habitat. Meeting farm families like the Bjugstads is the highlight of my job.”
Other funding to purchase the easement came from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, the Rock River Valley Chapter of Pheasants Forever, and supporters of Groundswell including the estate of Marie Fraser.
As the times and protocols call for, we purchased the easement by escrow, meaning that the Bjugstads and Jim Welsh were not physically in the room when the transaction occurred.
Jim’s message to the Groundswell community at the time was, “This is the last closing we expect to have for a few months, but that doesn’t mean our land protection efforts will stop. Staff will continue to lay the foundation for future conservation easements and acquisitions. In the meantime, I hope you can find your own good news by getting outside and enjoying the spring. The pasque flowers should be in bloom on the prairies shortly. I hope you stay well.”