The Geneva Lake Conservancy and Howard and Bev Zabler completed the donation of 61 acres of the Zabler family farm to the Conservancy in 2020, establishing the Wallace E. Zabler Preserve.
The Zabler Preserve is a well-established conservation farm located in the Village of Rochester in western Racine County. It is a part of a Primary Environmental Corridor and provides habitat for the Blanding’s turtle, a state and federal endangered species, as well as numerous other wildlife.
Originally a family dairy farm, the third-generation of Zabler family owners, Howard and Bev Zabler, envisioned a full land restoration for the conservation of native species as their best stewardship of the land for restoring environmental health and maintaining ecosystems for wildlife. From 1996 to 1998, they restored the cropland to a 36-acre native Wisconsin prairie and 13 acres of wetland and planted 7,500 native trees.
The Conservancy continues to manage it as a private preserve with educational tours and fundraising events for the public at least four times a year. Howard Zabler, who lost his wife Bev in 2022, continues to own the adjacent 16 acres that include the farmhouse, barn and other buildings. When Howard vacates that property, the 61 acres will be open to the public for hiking and wildlife viewing.
“Howard and Bev Zabler have been excellent caretakers of this scenic land and we are honored that they have entrusted us to continue this role,” said Tom Nickols, Vice Chair of the Conservancy. “Their donation protects this land and its high conservation values for future generations and is an invaluable gift to the community.
The Wallace E. Zaler Preserve is “an example of land with high conservation value that should not be developed,” said Karen Yancey, the Conservancy’s Executive Director. It is in the Honey and Sugar Creek watershed, one of the Conservancy’s focus areas, and helps preserve the open lands in the charming community of Rochester, she said. The Conservancy continues to work with other landowners in the Burlington/Rochester area to protect open lands with high conservation value.