Prairie planting: Drilling vs Broadcasting a prairie

Planting or restoring prairie has become a common practice at Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Each year, INHF collects and purchases local ecotype prairie seed for restorative projects. You may have seen our video on how to make a healthy prairie a few weeks ago, but there are several different ways to plant a prairie. Two common techniques are broadcast seeding and drilling. INHF has used both techniques in the past.

Broadcast seeding

Using this method, the seeds are spread across the ground either by hand or by using a broadcast seeder mounted on an ATV or tractor.

INHF staff hand scattering seed

INHF staff hand scattering seed

Broadcast seeding isn’t as simple as throwing out seed and hoping something grows. It’s very calculated and requires following a few steps. First, all seeds being used in the prairie seeding must be properly mixed to allow for even distribution across the planting area. Seeds may need to be mixed with a carrier, like sand or annual oats, to add necessary bulk to the mix. This ensures even spread and that you’ll have enough seed to cover an area. Several options are available to use as a carrier, but for INHF, natural debris left in the mix during seed harvest, like prairie stems and leaves, prove a great carrier. Additionally, care must be taken to ensure proper flow of seed out of the broadcast seeder and suitable speed is met, so as to allow the machine to cover the entire seeding area. Distributing the seed too fast or too slow can affect the efficiency of the entire process. Continue reading

Help wildlife this tax season with the Chickadee Check-off

chickadeeThis holiday season, it’s time to give back — to chickadees and other non-game wildlife! On this year’s state income tax forms, you can help non-game diversity programs by checking off your support and contributing a donation. In the past, the money raised through the Chickadee Check-off has sponsored the restoration of the river otter, peregrine falcon and the trumpeter swan. But those are only a few of the many success stories.

The Iowa DNR lists the types of projects that the Chickadee Check-off has sponsored on their website. Here are a few events, projects and programs that the check-off has funded:

  • “Educational Wildlife Appreciation events held all over the state such as: Bald Eagle Watch Days, Pelican Fest and Prairie Chicken Day
  • Designation of Bird Conservation Areas in key areas around the state supporting increased habitat for all types of birds
  • Multiple research projects on birds, butterflies, bobcats, fish, amphibians and reptiles
  • Population monitoring of species status and populations through research projects and volunteer surveys
  • Acquisition of important lands for public use in wildlife watching, hunting, hiking and fishing”
  • Read more here

On the tax form, those wishing to donate can choose the amount they’d like to give to protect and restore non-game species and wildlife. Although still generally called the Chickadee Check-off, today’s Iowa 1040 simply refers to the term “Fish/Wildlife” fund near the end of the tax form. Though the name has changed, the mission is still the same.

For official instructions and descriptions of all the tax check-offs please visit the Iowa Department of Revenue’s website. You may also download a state tax form from their site.


Meet Jodi Baker


Help us give a big, warm welcome to INHF’s new Finance Director, Jodi Baker!

Baker grew up on a rural farm and attended Iowa State University. She graduated with a degree in accounting and then made her way to Des Moines. For the past couple of years she’s been working on her own with temporary contract control jobs, but was eager to get back into the nonprofit world.

In the past, Baker has worked for school districts and has extensive nonprofit experience. When she saw INHF’s mission statement, she wanted to help.

“Honestly,” she said, “when I saw the advertisement it was the mission.” Land and water protection are the things that Baker is most excited about in coming to work for INHF. She says, “I’m ready to do my small part, get used to things, and get in on the ground.”

Welcome to the INHF family, Jodi! We’re excited too!

2016 calendars have arrived!


Each year, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation releases a calendar that highlights Iowa’s beautiful, natural landscapes. The 2016 calendars have arrived!

The calendar is filled with fun: 60 dates of Iowa events like RAGBRAI and the Iowa State Fair, plus lots of nature events for all ages taking place throughout Iowa. The calendar is always designed by a Robert R. Buckmaster graphic design intern. This years designer is Phong Doung, a Drake University recent graduate.

Calendars are $12 and can be purchased online. Members: Use the discount code “acornlove” for 10% off your order!

If you are one of our 7,000+ members and have given $25 or more this year, you will receive your calendar in the mail soon! Continue reading

Seed harvesting by moonlight

On Oct. 24, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and the Polk County Conservation Board hosted their first ever moonlight seed harvest. On a slightly spooky night, the nearly-full moon peaked out of the clouds, leaving only dancing headlamps visible (and seeds, of course).

About 25 volunteers and a few Boy Scout troops came out to Chichaqua Bottoms, armed with headlamps and glow sticks. The group was ready to collect roundhead bush clover by moonlight.


At the end of the night volunteers were treated to a cozy bonfire, complete with s’mores and apple cider.

It was a great event for children and adults alike, and INHF hopes to host more night harvests. “It was a first-of-its-kind event for us,” said Mary Runkel, INHF volunteer coordinator. “The event seemed appropriate for the time of year, and it was a fun way to get kids onto the prairie and learn about species and the prairie habitat.”

Look for more volunteer opportunities on our website, and stay up to date by checking our volunteer schedule!


Gunderson Nature Park dedication

Join the City of Eldora and INHF for the dedication and celebration of the Gunderson Nature Park, Wednesday Nov. 11th at 1:00 p.m. at the entrance of the park. The park is located directly North of the Hardin County Fair Grounds (east end).

Bob and Mary Lou Gunderson have long been involved with Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and conserving Iowa’s land and water. In 2012, INHF presented the Gundersons with the Hagie Heritage Award, a recognition meant to honor Iowans who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to conservation and improvement of Iowa’s natural environment while encouraging others to do the same.

The couple has committed countless hours to conservation efforts across Iowa with much of their work benefitting Hardin County and its surrounding communities. They were founders of the Iowa River Greenbelt Resource Trust in 1987 and have been actively involved in many other projects.


Bob and Mary Lou Gunderson receiving the 2012 Hagie Heritage Award

Earlier this year, the Gundersons were also recognized at the Gift to Iowa’s Future Day, an event hosted by the state of Iowa. The celebration is hosted at the capitol to honor individuals, corporations and organizations that permanently protect land for parks, trails, natural areas, fish and wildlife habitat and other benefits.

The Gundersons were honored by the state because of their 12 acre land donation to Eldora, which is the site of the Gunderson Nature Park. The strategic location of Gunderson Nature Park near city streets and neighborhoods brings the park closer to Eldora residents. A trail loop, prairie and savanna reconstruction, butterfly habitat and a nature-scape play area are planned by the City of Eldora now that it has transferred to them from INHF.

“The Gundersons have not only been incredible supporters of our natural resources through their time and financial support, but they have been instrumental in promoting that mentality to those around them,” wrote John Schuller, Iowa River Greenbelt Resource Trust board member.

Iowa’s land and water are truly better off thanks to the Gunderson’s efforts and inspiration. INHF hopes you will join in on the celebration of two conservation champions.


October volunteer events recap

There’s been exciting work happening with some inspiring individuals this month. The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation frequently hosts volunteer events to clear invasive species, harvest seed for prairie restoration and many more activities. Here’s what we, and volunteers, have been up to.

Mathes Volunteer Day

Mathes Volunteer Day

On October 2 volunteers gathered in Marion County at the Mathes Property near Pella, Iowa. INHF partnered with the Iowa DNR “Keepers of the Land” Program and Central College to harvest wildflower seed and remove invasive species.

“There was little seed to collect, but the property needs love all the same,” Mary Runkel, INHF volunteer coordinator said about the Mathes Property. “It’s important to remember what the land looks like, has looked like and what it can look like again.”

Part of the seed harvest went to the Prairie Resource Center. The seeds will be used to help restore other Iowa landscapes and protected properties throughout the state.

“Anna’s Place” Volunteer Day

NREM Volunteers

On the morning of October 17, graduate students in Iowa State University’s Natural Resource and Ecology Management Department met with INHF staff for what Runkel called an “intense workday” in Boone County.

Starting the morning with some coffee by the fire at Anna’s Place, or the Garner Woodland, students later would hike along the Des Moines River Valley to remove invasive species. There were three hilltop prairies that the group had to clear for autumn olive and cedars. This event was INHF’s sixth workday with NREM graduate students.

“It was the perfect fall day,” recalls Runkel. “Three former INHF interns even came to help us out and they were able to chainsaw for us” to help with species removal.

The group also got to visit the 13 foot diameter oak tree that’s on the property. When oaks grow in the wild without anything to stop their development, they can be just as far wide as they are tall. The branches of this particular oak extend far out from the trunk, and every year the volunteers get to see its progress.

Gardner Oak Tree


Stay up to date with INHF’s volunteer events by checking our volunteer website and our upcoming events schedule.


Making history on Marietta

When settlers came to Iowa, much of the natural wonder of the land was lost to homes and crops. Today, there are few remaining untouched plots left in the state. That was in the 1800s.

The Marietta Sand Prairie State Preserve was one of those plowed landscapes, but some portions survived in their natural state. In 1983-84, a precious 17 acres of native prairie were purchased by Marshall County Conservation and then dedicated as Marietta Sand Prairie State Preserve. Then, in 2004-2006, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and Marshall County Conservation led the effort to add 212 acres to Marietta Sand Prairie State Preserve — including nearly 56 acres more of sand prairie remnant. Since 2005, INHF has been working to restore and revitalize the land through countless seed harvests.

And it’s finally paid off. On Saturday, Oct. 3 upwards of forty volunteers came together for INHF’s second-largest workday of the year. INHF members, volunteers, Iowa Prairie Network board members and Marshall County Conservation board officials were all present and eager to help out.

Marietta Group

Volunteers at the Marietta Sand Prairie State Preserve

“We truly could not have been that effective without the volunteers we had that day,” Mary Runkel, INHF volunteer coordinator said.

Apple Cider

Volunteers making apple cider

Workers collected seed to build up the once-plentiful seed bank within the land. Their efforts are extremely important to conservation as INHF works toward restoring this rare remnant sand prairie.

“It’s so important to INHF that we keep the seeds local,” Runkel said. “The seeds from Marietta will stay to grow at Marietta.”

The volunteer group was treated to fresh apple cider made with an apple press on site.

The seeds from this harvest will be sowed later next year, which will mark the final planting and restoration completion. Planting this final portion at last connects the preserve with prairie remnants and completes INHF’s original vision: To preserve this rare prairie legacy, and to create an extensive interior grassland habitat for songbirds, pheasants and so many other species.



Brush of Excellence awarded to Dinsmores

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Last Thursday, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation awarded Jim and Patricia Dinsmore the Brush of Excellence for their lifetime achievements in conservation and contributions to conserving Iowa’s land and water. The ceremony was held at Big Wall Lake Wildlife Management Area in Wright County, where a gift from the Dinsmores made possible a 130-acre addition to the Big Wall Lake complex.

The award is a framed paintbrush that was once owned and used by famed cartoonist and conservation leader Jay N. “Ding” Darling (1876-1962), whose art and actions helped shape America’s conservation ethic. The brush was given by Kip Koss, Darling’s grandson, to Samuel Koltinsky, the producer of “America’s Darling: The Story of Jay N. Ding Darling”. Koltinsky presented the framed brush to INHF on May 19, 2015.

“Gifting of these brushes — ‘The Brush of Excellence’ — signifies extraordinary stewardship of the land and the wise use of our natural resources. It is with great honor to be able to present this brush in remembrance of both the Darling and Koss legacies,” Koltinsky said during the May ceremony. Continue reading

RBC Wealth Management Helps Harvest Seeds in Polk County

Snyder Seeds Harvested

Pictured: golden alexander, partridge pea, coreopsis, cream gentian, showy tick trefoil, and rattlesnake master

Twenty-two RBC Wealth Management employees with their children volunteered with Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) on Saturday, Sept. 19 on Snyder Heritage Farm in Polk County. Volunteers spent the day harvesting prairie seeds in order to restore and expand other protected landscapes. Seed from Snyder is often used to diversify and plant other prairies in the region.

The species harvested included cream gentian, partridge pea, golden alexander, and several others.

“It was really the perfect morning,” Mary Runkel, INHF’s volunteer coordinator, recalled. “There was a light breeze and you had to hike through some mud and tall grass to get to the prairie.” Continue reading