UNION — Fresh off receiving recognition as the state’s Land Trust of the Year, Landmark Conservancy capped Wisconsin Land Trust Days by showing off some of their recent conservation efforts Sept. 29 with a guided hike at Eau Claire County’s Town of Union Conservancy.

The Town of Union Conservancy is a 125-acre property along the Chippewa River west of the city of Eau Claire that includes several miles of trails open for hiking and, in some cases, horseback riding.

Landmark Conservancy began working with the town of Union about three years ago to put a conservation easement on the property. The property had been managed by the Eau Claire County town since about the 1930s, according to Rick Remington, Landmark Conservancy conservation director. Landmark, the town of Union, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Eau Claire County and the Chippewa Valley Chapter of Pheasants Forever partnered to add an adjoining 45-acre property that had been owned by an Eau Claire Kiwanis group.

Landmark closed on the property about a year ago and opened the Town of Union Conservancy last fall.

“The town took steps working with Landmark to ensure that the property would forever remain open to the public and as open space in the county,” Remington said. “There are quite a few groups emphasizing protection of the lower Chippewa from Eau Claire all the way down to the Mississippi.

“It takes a lot of energy to acquire land and protect land, but we’ll keep sewing it up to the best of our abilities ..., picking the parts that have the greatest impact on bird life, plant life, fish life and the cultural resources.”

The property includes a 150-foot bluff overlooking the Chippewa River. The bluff’s ridgeline includes sand dunes deposited about 1,000 years ago, Remington said.

“About a thousand years ago, there was a period of warming that lasted about a couple hundred years when the temperature of Earth was about a degree Celsius warmer,” Remington said. “During that time, it was warmer and drier. Winds from the southwest kicked up sand, came up the cut bank and deposited sand dunes. At one point in time, it looked just like the sand dunes you’d see in the desert or on the Great Lakes.”

Remington said university researchers are taking samples from the area to more accurately pin down the history of the property, which includes Native American mounds.

“It looks like when the dunes were being deposited, roughly a thousand years ago, there were already mounds on the site,” he said. “So the site already had a significance much like a lot of bluffs on the Chippewa and Mississippi did to early people.”

Gathering Waters, Wisconsin’s statewide alliance for land trusts, recognizes individuals, policymakers, land trusts and other groups for efforts to protect Wisconsin’s land, water, wildlife and way of life each year with their Land Conservation Leadership Awards.

Wisconsin Land Trust Days is a series of outdoor events and activities hosted by Wisconsin land trusts during August and September. As part of the activities, Landmark Conservancy was honored as Land Trust of the Year Sept. 26 in Madison at annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration.

The Land Trust of the Year award recognizes a land trust that demonstrates its commitment to permanently safeguard Wisconsin’s natural treasures and open lands through its leadership, achievements, projects and more.

Landmark Conservancy was formed in 2018, when the boards of West Wisconsin Land Trust in Menomonie and Bayfield Regional Conservancy merged to create the new organization.

Landmark Conservancy serves a 20-county territory spanning from Trempealeau County to Lake Superior. Landmark Conservancy has protected about 35,000 acres in the combined 30 years of land-protection work.

For more information, visit www.landmarkwi.org.

There are more than 40 land trusts working around the state. Gathering Waters started Land Trust Days to highlight some of the work land trusts are doing.

For more events hosted by Wisconsin land trusts, visit gatheringwaters.org/events.