WESTFIELD, Ia. — Sliding backward a third time down the snow- and ice-covered hill, Scott Moats decided the only way to see some of the 160 bison that roam Broken Kettle Grassland Preserve was on a four-wheeler.
The massive animals, weighing up to 1,400 pounds, have a job to do on the 6,600-acre prairie remnant, the largest of its kind in Iowa. They graze on grasses and sedges, helping manage the delicate habitat that sits in the Loess Hills.
“We don’t have the prairie to support the bison,” Moats said. “We have the bison to support the prairie.”
The Nature Conservancy assembled the preserve with the help of a little-known state tax credit for Iowans who donate land and conservation easements, said Susanne Hickey, the program’s conservation director.
Between 2008 and 2013, Iowa landowners received $6.3 million in tax credits for donating $19.4 million in land or conservation easements. In all, they gave away 9,200 acres. Even with those donations, Iowa ranks second-to-last nationally in the amount of publicly owned land, experts say…