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Madison man named DNR 2020 State Natural Area Volunteer Steward of the Year

John Kessler, of Madison, was named the 2020 State Natural Area Volunteer Steward of the Year...
John Kessler, of Madison, was named the 2020 State Natural Area Volunteer Steward of the Year for his dedication to one of the prairie remnants of the Empire Prairies State Natural Area.(Department of Natural Resources)
Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 9:14 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A Madison man was named the 2020 State Natural Area Volunteer Steward of the Year for his volunteer efforts, the Department of Natural Resources announced Thursday.

John Kessler was awarded the title for his work on the Empire Prairies State Natural Area, which is an 11-acre hilltop prairie. It is one of five remaining sites from a prairie that covered Dane and southern Columbia counties over 200 years ago, the DNR noted.

“This is a precious little gem that’s been left untouched because it is so far from farm buildings, so it has not been grazed or trampled,” said Kessler. “Working out here is soul-satisfying and gives me a place to go for a few hours to soak in nature.”

DNR State Natural Areas Volunteer Program Coordinator Jared Urban described Kessler as a “do-it-all” volunteer and can find projects to do no matter what the season it is.

“His attention to the site has improved the quality and reduced the risk that invasive will take over, which frees State Natural Area staff to work on other Empire Prairie sites,” said Urban.

The DNR continued, saying Kessler has removed brush from around cliffs and works to establish a native plant species there. He has worked year-round on the site and he logged over 250 hours at the prairie last year.

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