Paul E. Stry Foundation Honored for Philanthropy with the 2021 Land Legacy Award

A memorial plaque for Paul E. Stry.

The Paul E. Stry Foundation, located in La Crosse, has generously given millions of dollars toward land protection, restoration, and conservation education since its founding in 1987. The recipient of the 2021 Land Legacy Award winner, the Paul E. Stry Foundation was presented with their award on September 30, 2021 at a discreet ceremony. The presentation, hosted by Mississippi Valley Conservancy, took place on the top of Miller Bluff in La Crosse.

The foundation started as a legacy of one person. Paul E. Stry, a La Crosse resident, directed that most of the income from his estate be used to care for five acres in the Town of Shelby just outside of La Crosse. Mr. Stry stipulated that the land should become a public nature preserve.

When the foundation managers found that it cost less to take care of the property than the Stry Foundation resources provided, the directors worked to expand the scope of giving to include like-minded conservation organizations. In subsequent years, the Paul E. Stry Foundation has worked with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other organizations committed to the preservation of the bluff lands and other unique properties in the Driftless area.

From the humble beginnings of one man’s vision to create a five-acre nature preserve, the Paul E. Stry Foundation has funded a myriad of conservation projects and preserved the landscape of southwest Wisconsin. For nearly a quarter century, Bob Swartz and the foundation’s directors have helped save prairies, bluffs, and other ecologically important lands along the Mississippi River.

Since 1998, Mississippi Valley Conservancy alone has received nearly $1,000,000 to protect land in the Driftless Area from the foundation. The organization has assisted with the land purchases for ten of the Conservancy’s nature preserves, helping Mississippi Valley Conservancy protect nearly 1,500 acres. Additionally, the foundation has supported restoration projects on numerous properties with varied habitats.

Thanks to the Paul E. Stry Foundation, many other conservation organizations in the region have also been able to protect and restore land, and educate local citizens about the unique and important ecosystems around them. These include the Driftless Area Land Conservancy, Sierra Club, The Prairie Enthusiasts, Valley Stewardship Network, Friends of the Blufflands, Fishers & Farmers Partnership, Organic Valley, Pheasant Ridge Waldorf School, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Some highlights of their philanthropy include:

  • Mississippi Valley Conservancy’s Kickapoo Caverns, one of Wisconsin’s longest natural limestone cavern systems, which provides unique bat habitat as well as beautiful above-ground ecosystems with mature forest, oak savanna, native remnant prairie, limestone cliffs, and rock outcroppings.
  • Two parcels of land added to the large Hixon Forest in La Crosse, as well as funding for the Friends of the Blufflands to restore and expand rare blufftop prairies on this preserve.
  • Driftless Area Land Conservancy’s Erickson Conservation Area, a 220-acre park that is a “community treasure” in Argyle, Wisconsin.
  • Wilton Hemlocks Preserve, 100 acres of woodlands and sedge meadows that include a relict hemlock forest, with some trees estimated to be 200 years old. The Paul E. Stry Foundation provided Mississippi Valley Conservancy with a grant to help cover transaction expenses and costs of maintaining the property, allowing them to accept the property as a donation.

These stories of conservation impact are numerous. Wisconsin’s land, water, and wildlife benefit from this generosity, as do the people of Wisconsin who are fortunate to enjoy the parks, bluffs, restoration efforts, and educational programs.