A Legacy of Land Stewardship Continues for a Rare Habitat in Rock County  

Written by Sarah Barron. Photos by Joshua Mayer
March 21, 2024

Newark, WI—As spring begins, nature lovers anticipate the first sounds of sandhill cranes and spring peeper frogs. However, habitats that can support these species and others like them have become increasingly rare. That’s why the protection and stewardship of these threatened places and the life they support is more important now than ever.  


Since the early 1980s, Beloit College has been caring for Newark Road Prairie which consists of nearly 33 acres of high-quality wetland, prairie and oak savanna. To maintain its rich diversity, the land requires active stewardship consisting of frequent prescribed fires and invasive brush removal. For decades, Beloit College has had passionate volunteers, contractors and staff like Professor Richard Newsome stewarding the land. Recently, The Prairie Enthusiasts approached the college to collaborate on habitat stewardship. That relationship resulted in Beloit College generously donating the property to The Prairie Enthusiasts on March 21, 2024. The Prairie Enthusiasts will continue the site’s long legacy of stewardship, ensuring that the prairie will be a haven for wildlife for generations to come. “Newark Road Prairie is one of the most ecologically diverse areas that we are now stewarding,” says Debra Behrens, Executive Director of The Prairie Enthusiasts. “We’re grateful for the decades of care that many organizations have provided and look forward to continuing that land legacy.”   


The property, which was originally protected in the 1970s by The Wisconsin Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, has been managed by college students and volunteers, Rock County Conservationists and The Prairie Enthusiasts. It is home to an incredible array of plants, insects and animals. Crayfish burrows create small mounds throughout the wetland, and rare plants draw in students and researchers. The diversity of wildlife there is so abundant that the Wisconsin DNR named it a State Natural Area in 1974. 

The property has also served as a place of ecological and geological education for Beloit College students who have examined the behavior of red-winged blackbirds, monitored streams and completed floristic surveys. Yaffa Grossman, Professor of Biology with Beloit College stated, “Newark Road Prairie’s rich floristic diversity provides a glimpse of southern Wisconsin’s rich prairie heritage. Beloit College students, faculty, and staff, the Rock County Conservationists and others have engaged in many field trips, research studies and prescribed burns at Newark Road Prairie during the past 40+ years. As The Prairie Enthusiasts assume the stewardship of this site, I expect that these activities will continue and grow.Newark Road Prairie will continue to be a place of education for the college as well as be open to the public.  

All are welcomed to lace up a pair of boots and enjoy walking along the mowed path where one can observe the many birds and blooms. The Prairie Enthusiasts also encourage anyone with or without land stewardship experience to take part in caring for this special place. The immediate need is to remove invasive brush. Anyone interested in getting involved or wanting to support this work should contact The Prairie Enthusiasts at Info@ThePrairieEnthusiasts.org

About The Prairie Enthusiasts 

The Prairie Enthusiasts is an accredited land trust that seeks to ensure the perpetuation and recovery of prairie, oak savanna, and other fire-dependent ecosystems of the Upper Midwest through protection, management, restoration, and education. In doing so, they strive to work openly and cooperatively with private landowners and other private and public conservation groups. Their management and stewardship centers on high-quality remnants, which contain nearly all the components of endangered prairie communities.