Century farm works to restore woodlands, savanna and trout streams
BLUE MOUNDS - Helmenstine Hillside Vue Farm, located in the Driftless area of western Dane County, has been in the Helmenstine family for over 100 years.
Jerome Helmenstine grew up on the farm and has worked on the land for many years. He and his wife, Jackie, raised their family on the farm and hope to, one day, turn the farm over to their sons
Jerome has worked actively to restore his farms woodlands back to open oak woodlands and oak savanna communities over the past ten years. He partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through a Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program contract to combat invasive species on a 30-acre unit including an oak savanna.
At the same time, Jerome also began restoring the stream running through his farm utilizing Streambank & Shoreline Protection and Stream Habitat Improvement & Management. Trout Unlimited holds a streambank easement, allowing public access for fishing in the restored trout stream.
Further projects were funded through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program on other units, expanding the restored savanna and open oak woods. Jerome received additional funding through the Wis. Department of Natural Resources Landowner Incentive Program for sensitive areas where rare plants, including state-listed purple milkweed, were identified following restoration efforts.
Annual bird surveys and university studies show a highly diverse avian population returning to the restored areas. Species, such as Redheaded Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpeckers, Common Nighthawks and American Kestrels have returned and use additional nest boxes erected by Jerome.
The Dane County man also enrolled low farmland along the stream in the USDA Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and planted native prairie habitat.
“I have really enjoyed the hard work and fruits of our labors watching the change in the landscape and wildlife since we started this project,” said Jerome.
Adam Dowling, NRCS District Conservationist in Dane County said that over many years, Jerome has proven to be a tremendous steward of his land and a great friend to the wildlife in the Dane County area.