Jim and Rose Sime protect and restore Snow Bottom Natural Area


The Snowbottom Natural Area (SNA), consisting of 20,900 acres of southern Wisconsin forests, pine relics, prairies and savannas, highlights the foresight and energy of Jim and Rose Sime, who own and manage four tracts in SNA in the spirit of Aldo Leopold’s philosophy.

Their tireless efforts in applying the theory and practice of ecological restoration in Snowbottom, as well as making the public aware of the value of such work, have contributed to their earning this year’s John Nolen Award for Excellence in Ecological Restoration Practices.

“As active conservationists, very few people put their minds, muscles and money where their mouth is like the Simes do,” observes Jesse Bennett, president of the Southwest Chapter of The Prairie Enthusiasts.

The Sime’s interest in restoration goes back at least to The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) volunteer work parties at Spring Green Prairie in 1972, long before they retired as school teachers and had become nearly full-time volunteers in ecological restoration, participating in countless work parties and mobilizing others in the cause of restoration.

Because it covers a diverse landscape encompassing some of the most significant remaining pine relics in Wisconsin as well as other plant communities, the SNA includes one endangered species, seven threatened and 20 of special concern. More than 400 plant species—an extraordinary number—have been identified on the property; one can find some northern plants that had been hiding since pre-glacial times, and 11 species of orchids reside here.

Rose and Jim Sime understand that large, complex restoration projects result from the collaboration of many people, particularly landowners and other locals. For the Simes, the ecological community and the local community of people are all part of the same restoration program.

They are quick to mention that their efforts have had the support of a variety of partners who have played an important role in the Snowbottom project. They are: the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, The Prairie Enthusiasts, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited Nohr Chapter, Mark Martin, Doris Rusch, Matt Zine, Gary Eldred, Jesse Bennett, Jaye Maxfield, Steve Carpenter, Dave Fritz, Jake Pluemer, Bill Wisler and Steve Richter.

Judges’ Note: The work of the Simes in acquiring and restoring significant acreages was just one part of their impact in the formation of the Snowbottom Natural Area. Their influence has been far reaching in terms of engaging volunteers, creating learning opportunities, volunteering their time … working with professionals, and skillful engagement of neighboring land owners in valuing and protecting the natural communities of their adjoining lands.

Written by Jacky Kelley; photo by Bill Arthur.

Located between Lake Wingra and the West Beltline Highway at 1207 Seminole Highway, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum features the restored prairies, forests and wetlands of pre-settlement Wisconsin. This 1,260-acre arboretum also houses flowering trees, shrubs and a world-famous lilac collection. Educational tours for groups and the general public, science and nature-based classes for all ages and abilities, and a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for groups, families and individuals are available.