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Land-Purchase Project Nears Goal

County Board Lands Another State Grant in its Bid to Buy 419 Acres of Whitewater Canyon

Craig Reber

Dubuque Telegraph Herald

January 26, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.]

FILLMORE, Iowa - The Dubuque County Conservation Board is closing in on its goal to purchase a valuable tract of property south of Fillmore.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has awarded the organization a $230,000 state wildlife habitat stamp grant. The money gives the board a huge boost for the $1 million project to buy 419 acres of Whitewater Canyon, located between Dubuque and Cascade. The area encompasses parts of Dubuque, Jackson and Jones counties.

"It was a pretty competitive process," said Bob Walton, conservation board executive director. "We grabbed a pretty good-sized portion of the pot."

The property is being purchased from Cliff and Jenny Waller. The conservation board is partnering with the non-profit Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation on the acquisition.

Walton calls the area one of the best examples of "wilderness" in Dubuque County: Half is mature forest, the other half grassland. Some of its oak trees are more than 300 years old. Whitewater Stream, originating in Peosta, meanders under 160-foot limestone bluffs.

In October, Iowa's Resource Enhancement and Protection program awarded $290,000 for the project. Walton noted the effort received a $10,000 donation from an individual in Ames.

"To get that kind of donation is really a credit to the area itself," he said.

Several organizations, including Pheasants Forever, Whitetails Unlimited and the Iowa Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, have pledged more than $170,000. According to Walton, the effort is about $40,000 short of its goal.

"Forty-thousand dollars out of a million isn't bad," Walton said, adding, "We're still beating the bushes (for funding)."

Walton reported receiving inquiries from individuals across the state, as far away as Council Bluffs, eager to see the area.

"When you see it for the first time, it is a pretty awesome place," Walton said. "It's nice to be able to accumulate (financial) support from sportsmen's groups, rather than from the taxpayers."

In 1979, the Iowa General Assembly passed legislation requiring hunters and trappers to purchase a wildlife habitat stamp. All revenue derived from the stamps' sale is used within the state for acquisition of land, leasing of land, or obtaining easements from willing sellers for use as wildlife habitats.

"Everybody has taken an ownership in it," Walton added. "When you have a good project, it makes fund-raising easy."