Saving Land for the Future

Lisa Martin News

The Prairie property includes this  beautiful spot on the Wapsipincon River

On November 20, 2018, CHM President Mary Ann Vogel, and CHM Vice President Johanna Rickl signed a conservation easement agreement between Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat (OLPR) and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF).

OLPR is a spiritual retreat center on about 200 acres near Wheatland, Iowa, owned and operated by the Congregation of the Humility of Mary (CHM) since 1999. Through the years, the congregation converted the majority of the land to natural prairie fields bordered by timber. The Prairie Retreat has been host to thousands of people seeking peace and spiritual nourishment ̶  the beauty of the land being a major draw.

In 2017 CHMS formalized a Land Ethic which serves as a guide for decisions made by the entire congregation and by those in congregational leadership regarding the land for which they are responsible. The Land Ethic supports the CHM mission of “…caring for the poor, the powerless and Earth itself.” It affirms, as a matter of justice, the prophetic call to ecological sustainability and nonviolence in relationships.

The retreat center property has always been a focus of the sisters to protect, restore and care for the land. To that end, not long after the Land Ethic was adopted, the CHMS decided to dedicate 80 acres, more or less, of the prairie property as a conservation easement – an agreement between the CHMS and INHF which is recorded in the local land records and becomes a chain of title for the property.

The conservation easement’s purposes in this case are:

·       Maintain and improve water quality

·       Perpetuate and foster the growth of healthy forest

·       Maintain and improve wildlife habitat and migration corridors

·       Protect scenic vistas visible from roads and other public areas

·       Ensure that lands are managed so that they are always available for sustainable agriculture and forestry

The conservation easement also has certain perpetual restrictions that will retain the sacred and peaceful character of the retreat environment.  Promoting eco justice and ethical responsibility is of high importance to the Congregation of the Humility of Mary. They now rejoice that this portion of land will be preserved forever in its natural, scenic, forested and open-space condition for the benefit of Earth and future generations.

Sr. Mary Ann Vogel, CHM President, Sr. Johanna Rickl, CHM Vice President and Erin Van Waus, conservation easement director for the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, at the signing of the Our Lady of the Prairie Conservation Easement agreement.