LA FARGE, Wis. -

The Jean Babson family has donated 983 acres of protected Kickapoo Valley land to the Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC).

The Babson family has now donated about 2,700 acres of land in Vernon, Grant and La Crosse Counties, worth $6.1 million.

In 2009, the Babsons donated 1,118 acres to the Mississippi Valley Conservancy. The MVC says it's using that donated land as State Stewardship Fund grant match, allowing the protection of other significant properties.

The MVC now has 2,278 contiguous acres protected on the Kickapoo River.  In addition to the Babson family’s donations, in 2005, Jack and Maggie Lee donated 153 acres. There were also two smaller conservation easement properties donated by Harry and Sylvia Peterson, and Denise Dipert and John Shelby.

MVC's Executive Director Tim Jacobson says protecting the Babson property, known as "Kings Point Farm," "is an astonishing and welcome gift that gives further protection to important ecological features and wildlife on this spectacular part of the Wisconsin landscape."

According to Jean Babson, her late husband James "had a vision, had a love of the land. The whole place meant a lot to (him)…not just the cattle, but being here. It’s such a beloved part of the country that meant so much to me and (my husband), and it’s nice to know it’s going to be in good hands."

The MVC says of the total 2,278 acres protected by MVC at Tunnelville Cliffs, 1,271 acres are open for public access, including hiking, hunting, bird watching, fishing, trapping, canoeing and cross-country skiing.