Gearing up for Bike Month

May is National Bike Month.

May is National Bike Month.

April showers bring May flowers–and May brings out the bikes! Celebrate Bike Month Iowa with the Des Moines Bicycle Collective. With the support of local sponsors, including INHF, the Collective has planned a full calendar of events for Iowa cyclists to “change Greater Des Moines two wheels at a time.” Continue reading

Gifts to Iowa’s future

There are moments in the life of each INHF project in which the staff tries to pause and reflect — maybe even celebrate a little — before moving onto the next one. It could be a formal dedication, such as the Paint Creek Valley Addition to Yellow River State Forest on May 7. Or it could simply be transferring ownership of a property from INHF to a public agency.

Gunderson land May 2010 024

Mary Lou and Bob Gunderson.

Earlier this week, INHF transferred 12 acres to the city of Eldora in Hardin County. The land had been donated by Mary Lou and Bob Gunderson, and it will be known as Gunderson Nature Park. A trail loop, prairie and savanna reconstruction, butterfly habitat and a nature-scape play area are planned by the city. The transfer was another step in permanently protecting this place’s land, water and wildlife — the ultimate goal of every INHF project.

The Gundersons have a long history of conservation work in Iowa, especially along the Iowa River Greenbelt. They were one of 18 individuals, families and organizations honored by the state of Iowa last month at Gift to Iowa’s Future Day. Twelve of this year’s honorees worked with INHF to find the right options to permanently protect their land. Dave Mackaman, INHF board 1st vice chair, took some time to reflect on the ceremony:

“Attending the Gift to Iowa’s Future recognition event at the state capital was a memorable pleasure. The selfless and forwarding thinking actions of these land and easement donors were without doubt inspirational, and to have elected and public officials, INHF representatives, family, friends, and admirers there to thank these individuals was heartwarming. 

“After the formal recognition event, members from the INHF team hosted a luncheon for those donors with whom the Foundation had the privilege of working. During the luncheon the attendees all shared personal perspective around an individual, a memory, or a place that sparked their own passion around nature and conservation.

“The stories flowed with emotion, at times eliciting laughter and beaming smiles from the group, and at other times drawing out gentle tears. In all cases, the stories united us in the room around the power of our connective passion for our state and its wild places. As I listened to the stories, I imagined a group of people gathering in the future, somewhere, sometime down the road, knowing that it could well be the people in this room that would be featured in that group’s stories of who sparked the passion for nature and conservation within them, and knowing that INHF will be there to help keep it going.”

Learn more about those honored at Gift to Iowa’s Future Day here.

Nature Walk: Silver Maple Samaras

“Silver maples are one of the most common species of maple found in the eastern US.  They are fast growing trees, thus widely planted in towns and native to bottomlands along streams and rivers.  The fruits or seeds are called samaras.  After they mature and fall from the trees they are a food source for critters such as chipmunks and squirrels.” – Carl Kurtz

“Silver maples are one of the most common species of maple found in the eastern U.S. They are fast growing trees, thus widely planted in towns and native to bottomlands along streams and rivers. The fruits or seeds are called samaras. After they mature and fall from the trees, they are a food source for critters such as chipmunks and squirrels.” – Carl Kurtz

If you are interested in purchasing a print of this photo or requesting information on possible use of any of our “Nature Walk” photographs, please contact Carl Kurtz at cpkurtz@netins.net. View our other Nature Walk posts!

Taylor_Author_Banner_New

Spring volunteer events

Spring Beauty

Spring is here! Meet us outside.

April 18: RAVE at Ventura Cove

10 a.m. | Ventura Cove Woods

INHF joins Clear Lake Earth Days once again! Join us to remove trash from Ventura Cove Woods. Learn more here.

April 25: RAVE on the Wabash for Conservation

3 p.m. | Wabash Trace Nature Trail Trailhead, Council Bluffs

INHF’s RAVE program joins the Trace’s annual fundraiser for a conservation ride! Collect a piece of trash, redeem your prize. More information here.

May 2: Friends Against Garlic Mustard

9 a.m. and 1 p.m. | Palisades Park, Decorah

INHF and the Friends of Decorah Parks combat Garlic mustard – all hands needed on deck as a single plant can produce over 500 seeds! Learn more here.

May 16: “Into the Wild & Out with the Mustard!” 

8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. (lunch at 12 p.m.) | Heritage Valley

Meet others, enjoy the view and feel good about saving the Northeastern woods. Lunch and other refreshments provided. Learn more here.

May 19: Taco RAVE

5 p.m. – Sundown | Great Western Trail

Join INHF, Polk County and Warren County Conservation as we promote conservation along the Taco Ride, a ride that attracts hundreds of bikers to the Great Western Trail every Tuesday. Learn more here.

May 29: Great Race Against Shrubs & Shade!

9 a.m. – 12 p.m. | Turin Prairie

Join INHF, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy and other partners to remove cedars from a large hillside prairie. This is a high-energy, impactful event. Learn more here.

Questions? Want to sign up for an event? Contact INHF Volunteer Coordinator Mary Runkel at mrunkel@inhf.org or call 515-288-1846.

Learn more about INHF’s volunteer program.

HOST YOUR OWN RAVE!
Anytime, anywhere

RAVES, or "Random Acts of Volunteering for Earth," have become
extremely popular in the last six months. People across the state
are hosting their own events to get their friends, family and
community excited about taking care of the land. Interested in
hosting one? Let INHF help. It's simple, rewarding and lots of fun.
Check out more info here or contact Mary.

Taylor_Author_Banner_New

Nature Walk: Great Blue Heron

“Great Blue Herons nest in colonies and build stick nests located in the tops of tall trees.  Their colonies are often located near woodland stream corridors, in forests or near lakes.  They may fly for miles to favorite feeding areas, which provide them with fish, insects, frogs, small birds and small mammals.” – Carl Kurtz

“Great Blue Herons nest in colonies and build stick nests located in the tops of tall trees. Their colonies are often located near woodland stream corridors, in forests or near lakes. They may fly for miles to favorite feeding areas, which provide them with fish, insects, frogs, small birds and small mammals.” – Carl Kurtz

If you are interested in purchasing a print of this photo or requesting information on possible use of any of our “Nature Walk” photographs, please contact Carl Kurtz at cpkurtz@netins.net. View our other Nature Walk posts!

Taylor_Author_Banner_New

An early Earth Day celebration

IMG_1318

INHF staff and volunteers collect seed at Turin Loess Hills State Preserve and Wildlife Management Area in Monona County.

According to an article in The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Earth Day started in 1970 when San Francisco activist John McConnell and Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson separately asked Americans to join in a grassroots environmental demonstration. McConnell chose the spring equinox, March 21, 1970, and Nelson chose April 22. Millions of people participated, and today Earth Day continues to be widely celebrated with events on both dates. Continue reading

Volunteer spotlight: Folks at Faulkes Heritage Woods

Walking through snow in Iowa in early March turns into a rewarding experience for these 17 volunteers from INHF, Trees Forever, the City of Marion Parks and Rec. and Winding Pathways, LLC. The group cleaned Japanese barberry from Faulkes Heritage Woods near Marion.

One of the best kept secrets in Linn County is the 110-acre Faulkes Heritage Woods – located on the Cedar Rapids/Marion border just south of Highway 100 and east of I-380.

On a snowy Saturday in March, 17 volunteers from INHF, Trees Forever, the City of Marion Parks and Recreation and Winding Pathways, LLC, enlisted hand saws and loppers to spring clean the invasive Japanese barberry from the area. Continue reading

Nature Walk: Take Off

“The Northern Shoveler is in the dabbling duck family with the mallard, blue-winged and green-winged teal.  Like the mallard, they have a green head, but have brown sides, a white breast and an oversized bill. As with other dabbling ducks, they feed on the surface or just below the surface of the water by tipping up. Their abrupt take-offs can create a dramatic disturbance as they launch directly up and out of the water.” – Carl Kurtz

“The Northern Shoveler is in the dabbling duck family with the mallard, blue-winged and green-winged teal. Like the mallard, they have a green head, but have brown sides, a white breast and an oversized bill. As with other dabbling ducks, they feed on the surface or just below the surface of the water by tipping up. Their abrupt take-offs can create a dramatic disturbance as they launch directly up and out of the water.” – Carl Kurtz

If you are interested in purchasing a print of this photo or requesting information on possible use of any of our “Nature Walk” photographs, please contact Carl Kurtz at cpkurtz@netins.net. View our other Nature Walk posts!

Taylor_Author_Banner_New

The restorative powers of a prescribed burn: Part 1

Snyder burn1

INHF Land Stewardship Specialist Ryan Schmidt carries a drip torch during a prescribed burn at Snyder Heritage Farm in Polk County.

Wild fires are an integral part of our natural landscape because they allow prairie grasses to renew and invigorate soil, according to Ryan Schmidt, INHF Land Stewardship Specialist.

Historically American Indians and Mother Earth’s lightening shows took care of burn projects by turning vast prairie lands into dark, barren landscapes that allowed new, fertile spouts of grasses and wild flowers to emerge. The large-scale roar of ancient fires gave prairies and woodlands the time and space to repopulate as natural habitats and to naturally remove invasive species.

This year INHF staff members are tentatively planning 20-25 burns from March through May. Burns, covering areas smaller than an acre or plots larger than 200 acres, should be completed by mid-May.

The ecological restoration of oak savannas through prescribed burns also brings opportunities for growth from natural seed banks, according to Erin Van Waus, INHF Land Stewardship Director. She said oaks are tolerant of prairie fires and their naturally expansive canopy offer protection for the bottom layer of the savanna.

The INHF land stewardship staff checks over an oak savanna shortly after a prescribed burn in Polk County.

The INHF land stewardship staff checks over an oak savanna shortly after a prescribed burn at Snyder Heritage Farm in Polk County.

To picture a savanna, think of Little House on the Prairie’s Pa Ingalls selecting a cool oasis of Bottle Brush and Big Bluestem grasses dotted with Columbines and Sweet William flowers and protected by a stand of majestic oak trees. Though the definition of an oak savanna is debatable, one resource says if more than one-half of the ground of a forested area is in the sun at noon in midsummer, the vegetation is a savanna. If the canopy has greater than 50-percent tree canopy coverage, the vegetation is a woodland or forest.

According to an article by Molly McGovern published in the Iowa Natural Heritage Magazine in Summer 2003, savannas were nearly eliminated in the Midwest within 50-80 years of European settlers arriving on the land as the trees were either cleared for plowing or logged for building.

Van Waus noted that a prairie burn is a two-part, interchangeable process. After staff members identify undesirable plants like Mulberry, Ironwood and Multiflora Rose that need to be eliminated, they can either remove the brush and invasive species from the area and then plan the burn or burn the area according to safety and ecological needs and then clear the brush of the unwanted plants.

Wind direction and velocity are important safety factors involved in orchestrating a prairie burn along with having humidity in a 30 percent to 45 percent range, according to Schmidt. Other concerns to keep in mind are reliable water sources, adjacent land, animals and building locations and, of course, crew members tuned into the overall structure of prairie burns.

Check back soon for Part 2 and see more pictures and video from our prescribed burn at Snyder Heritage Farm in Polk County. 

Cathe_Author_Banner

Nature Walk: Beaver Cutting

“Cottonwoods, willows and silver maples are three of the most common lowland tree species utilized by beavers. Branches from these and other trees species are used for the construction of dams across rivers and streams; however, small branches, fresh bark and buds are also an important food supply.” – Carl Kurtz

“Cottonwoods, willows and silver maples are three of the most common lowland tree species utilized by beavers. Branches from these and other trees species are used for the construction of dams across rivers and streams; however, small branches, fresh bark and buds are also an important food supply.” – Carl Kurtz

If you are interested in purchasing a print of this photo or requesting information on possible use of any of our “Nature Walk” photographs, please contact Carl Kurtz at cpkurtz@netins.net. View our other Nature Walk posts!

Taylor_Author_Banner_New