INHF recently assisted the Iowa DNR in acquiring a 227-acre addition to Stephens State Forest and Soap Creek WMA. The property is located approximately 4 miles northeast of Unionville in Davis county. INHF purchased the property in 2013 and held it until recently when the DNR was able to purchase it and open it to public use.
The area is a mix of habitats with over 100 acres of oak-hickory woodland. Part of the property borders Soap Creek, where restored riverine wetlands protect water quality.
Soap Creek is one of four Iowa Flood Center priority watersheds identified in a project with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Flooding on Soap Creek has been a problem for decades, and the protection of this property with support the goals of the Iowa Flood Center/HUD project, which include:
- Maximize soil water holding capacity from precipitation
- Miniminze severe soil erosion and sand deposition during floods
- Manage water runoff in uplands under saturated soil moisture conditions
- Reduce and mitigate structural and nonstructural flood damage
Between additional wetland restoration and the potential for increasing seeding diversity, the area’s natural resource values are significant.
Several species of bird call the property home — including green herons. But the true star species is the federally endangered Indiana Bat. The DNR received a federal grant for the protection of endangered species habitat. Management strategies include specific habitat work to support bat populations in the area, including a plan to maintain and plant loose-barked trees, such as shagbark hickories, because the bats roost under the bark.