The History of IWC

and how we got to today

The Organization's History

l-r: Derrick Grimmer, Lynne Brookes (co-founder), Bruce Ehresman, Nan Bonfils, Don Adams & Marlene Ehresman (co-founder) celebrate the transfer of the property

The Iowa Wildlife Center was born thanks to the generosity and foresight of many committed people. The Alma Natura Trust proposed and nurtured the original concept and provided significant funding. We have had a wonderful start with committed people and organizations giving us a lift as we create a truly remarkable wildlife rehabilitation and education center. Won't you join us in the adventure? It is through your belief in this project that we will build the foundation of a sustainable wildlife center.

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The Land's History

Generous landowners, Don Adams and Nan Bonfils
Generous landowners, Don Adams and Nan Bonfils

The Iowa Wildlife Center is fortunate to have found Nan Bonfils and Don Adams, owners of the organic Full Circle Farm, early in the search for land on which to build the facility. This conservation-minded pair of educators and farmers were immediately interested in the proposed project and the more they learned about it the more they wanted the Center to be located on their property. Bonfils and Adams made the site available to IWC at a bargain price, which gave us another wonderful boost forward.

The land has historically been a family farm for over 50 years. For a brief period between 1979 and 1981 a sizable hog confinement was slated to operate on the land. Legislation regulating large livestock confinement operations would not become law until 1995 and citizens were concerned about this chosen site largely because it was located within a mile of the Ledges State Park. A grassroots outcry from the neighbors and surrounding communities stopped the operation before any hogs arrived, but not before buildings were erected and a wastewater storage cell was created.

Bonfils and Adams were among the neighbors who spoke out. Adams had grown up adjacent to the property, and he and his wife were then running an organic farm across the road. His father, Harold Adams, owned the woodland and pasture adjacent to the confinement site. When it became apparent that the confinement project was not going to succeed, Bonfils and Adams purchased the site and added it to their organic farm. They affectionately called it "Harm's Way", partly because they had taken it "out of harm's way".

Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation Steps Up

INHF's Mark Ackelson, right, hiking property with Derrick Grimmer & Bruce Ehresman

The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) played a vital role at this point doing what it does best -- working with landowners to protect land for conservation. Mark Ackelson, INHF President (now retired), worked with Adams and Bonfils during the purchase period. While Joe McGovern is the current INHF President, he was the INHF Land Stewardship Director during this time and was instrumental in setting up a shared part-time land stewardship position between IWC and INHF, sharing a Conservation Corps Iowa crew of five for some stewardship work and advising IWC staff on land stewardship issues. Ehresman, a former staff member of INHF, has been humbled by the continued support IWC receives from their staff. The organization retained title to the land and was the fiscal agent until IWC acquired its nonprofit status and became more self-sufficient in early 2011.