SCARVILLE | Winnebago County has acquired 54 acres of land near Scarville to expand and protect the 1,800-acre Winnebago River Greenbelt.  

The 54 acres of river bottom and upland wildlife habitat purchased from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation were previously owned by the Tenold family.

The Tenolds approached the Winnebago County Conservation Board and the INHF in 2014 about permanently protecting the farm and the possibility of a sale.

The INHF held the property until the conservation board could secure funding.

The conservation board subsequently submitted wildlife habitat grant applications and sought out partners to make the acquisition possible.

Funding was provided by the Winnebago-Hancock Chapter of Pheasants Forever, Winnebago River Whitetails Unlimited Chapter, John K. & Luise Hanson Foundation, a North American Wetland Conservation Act grant administered by the Iowa Department of Natural Resoures, Iowa Pioneer II Cerro Gordo Pheasants Forever Chapter, Northern Prairie Pheasants Forever Chapter, Kossuth County Pheasants Forever Chapter, the Mitchell County Pheasants Forever Chapter and sportsmen and women of Iowa who purchase wildlife habitat stamps.

The total cost of the project was $133,074.

The tract consists of three-quarters of a mile of the meandering Winnebago River and is made up of typical river bottom vegetation, including sedges, cattails, river bulrush, and a mixture of native and cool season grasses.

Many wildlife species, including ring-necked pheasant, Canada geese, mallards, blue-wing teal, wood ducks, white-tailed deer, muskrat and river otter, as well as numerous non-game species such as sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans and bald eagles will benefit from the acquisition, according to Winnebago County Conservation Director Robert Schwartz.

Immediate plans for the area include the planting of a pollinator mix of native wildflowers and grasses, wetland restoration and the construction of a parking lot this fall.

The boundaries of the area have already been posted with conservation board signs.

The Tenold Tract is open to the public for hunting, trapping, fishing, nature study and other compatible uses.

The area is located 1 1/2 miles east of Scarville and can be best accessed from county road A16 (490th Street).

The Winnebago River Greenbelt, managed by the conservation board, is located within the 27 miles of river from the Iowa-Minnesota border to Forest City.

Many lakes and rivers in Iowa, including the Winnebago River, are categorized by the Department of Natural Resources as impaired waters.

This means they have water quality and aquatic diversity below acceptable levels, according to Schwartz.

He said in a news release acquisitions such as the Tenold Tract, coupled with other available conservation practices on private land, will help to improve the quality of those waters benefiting wildlife and the public.