The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) and the Raccoon River Land Company recently signed a permanent conservation easement totaling approximately 400 acres. This project is the first step in the Raccoon River Bluff project, a large conservation area in West Des Moines along 3.5 miles of the Raccoon River near Booneville that will eventually connect into the heart of Des Moines. Fourteen years ago, INHF identified the Raccoon River Bluff as a crucial area in the metro area to protect and restore for the improvement of water quality and forest and wetland wildlife habitat and to provide important green space in an area of future development. The Raccoon River is one of the primary drinking water sources for the largest metropolitan region in Iowa, and its protection is critical for water quality. "We recognized that this area was an important link to water quality for the city of Des Moines and was in the path of development," said Mark Ackelson, INHF president emeritus. "We are enjoying working with the public and private partners and agencies involved with this long-term project and hope it helps us set the stage for future work in this area as well." In 1999 INHF approached real estate developer Bill Knapp, one of the initial principal owners of Raccoon River Land Company, which is now jointly owned with Jim Cownie, and an important partnership developed as the planning and partnership changed over time. "Building conservation into development isn’t always done, but by doing this project, we hope to not only improve water quality and protect important woodlands but also enhance the community in the long run," said Bill Knapp. "RRLC is proud of this project and hopes this will be a model for future development in the metro as well." Wells Fargo is providing additional support for the project by awarding INHF a $100,000 grant to help with the creation of the conservation area. The Wells Fargo grant program, which is administered by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, supports community-based nonprofits nationwide to help support land and water conservation, energy efficiency, infrastructure, and educational outreach. The goal of the program is to provide grants for highly impactful projects that link economic development and community well-being to the stewardship and health of the environment while also encouraging volunteer participation.

"Our goal is to support those projects and ideas that will protect and conserve the environment in local communities for the long term," said Scott Johnson, region president for Wells Fargo in Iowa. "We’re pleased to team up with the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for this important project to protect and restore the Raccoon River Bluff and enhance our community for current and future generations."

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