THOR, Iowa (AP) — A prairie and wetland in northern Iowa are flourishing a few years after two farming brothers donated the land following their deaths.
Palmer Larson, 86, and his brother, Roger Larson, 82, both died in 2012. The brothers donated 150 acres (61 hectares) of their land in Humboldt County to the state, which was turned into the Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area, the Des Moines Register reported .
Bryan Hellyer is a wildlife supervisor with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. He said the brothers weren't openly conservationists, but arranged a meeting with him in 2001. He said they spoke about the goals of the agency, but that he didn't hear about the donation until after their deaths.
"I nearly fell over," Hellyer said. "I thought, 'no way.' As far as farmland, there is not much better, so this is not the typical type of land the DNR manages."
Farmers in the area were also surprised by the donation, including Paul Knudtson, who helped the brothers harvest their corn and bean fields because they didn't have a combine.
"People said, 'That is good farmland, why do that?'" Knudtson said. "I guess because they can do what they want."
Hellyer and wildlife technician Rob Patterson have spent five years restoring the land to its native condition. Two portions of the land were seeded with native prairie plants. Patterson has used more than 100 species of grasses and wildflowers.
The remaining 30 acres (12 hectares) has food plots for wildlife and a small patch of timber. The area also includes a 33-mile (53-kilometer) trail.
"Hopefully, (the Larsons) are looking down and saying, hey, it's getting there," Hellyer said.
The brothers gave eight other nonprofit agencies their gross estate of $2.6 million, including the Iowa Department of the Blind, the Iowa Radio Reading Information Service and the Humboldt County Historical Museum.