County acquiring swath of land for public hunting

160 acres near Rippey bought with grant money


RIPPEY — The acquisition by the Greene County Conservation Board of one of the biggest blocks of timber along the North Raccoon River is being heralded as a trophy-sized gift to local hunters.

“It’s so hard for the average guy to hunt,” lamented Dan Towers, Greene County’s longtime conservation director.

That’s what makes Tom Hanson’s determination to make 160 acres of land six miles southwest of Rippey a public wildlife management area so admirable.

Long gone are the days, Towers said, when the average hunter could knock on any farmer’s door for permission to hunt on their land.

Land in Greene County, according to Towers, is increasingly being snatched up for private hunting — and by Carroll County hunters, in particular.

Iowa, in fact, ranks 49th of 50 states in the number of acres in public ownership.

“We can’t compete with the private market,” he said. “He could’ve put it on the open market and it would’ve been snapped up.”

Two years in the making, the county will buy the 160 acres in Washington Twp. — with the potential to add another 130 acres of adjacent timber — for $344,300.

But, it gets even better.

“There’s not a single taxpayer dollar going into the purchase of it,” Towers said.

Greene County Conservation is buying the land entirely with grant money, including a $229,250 Habitat Stamp Grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

“Without that, we never could have done it,” Towers said. “Those dollars are so competitive anymore, they don’t stretch very far.”

Each time a hunter buys an Iowa hunting license, they have to buy an $8 habitat stamp, too. The DNR keeps 50 percent of the money, but the other 50 percent becomes available to counties on a competitive basis for land acquisition.

Hanson, who lives in Des Moines, approached Greene County Conservation about acquiring the land, Towers said.

“You just don’t find 288 acres of timber in one block,” he explained.

The county will take possession of the land — located about a mile from the Dallas County line — in the summer, Towers said, with public hunting likely open in the fall.

Hanson’s parents — the late Ruth Hanson and Judge William Hanson, a federal judge from Jefferson — first bought the land in the 1930s, according to Towers.

A half-century later, in 1981, the DNR chose the site for the release of 13 wild turkeys as part of efforts to bring wild turkeys back to Iowa.

“The state was without turkeys for 60 years,” Towers said.

Towers, then a DNR employee, personally released the 10 hens and three toms on the Hanson property.

All wild turkeys in the area have since descended from those original 13.

According to Towers, Tom Hanson’s only wish for the land — besides making it available for public hunting — is that it be named for his late mother.

“This is going to be here forever,” Towers said.

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