9 great conservation projects happening right now

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From trail connections to wetland restoration to important wildlife habitat, INHF
is working on some great projects. With your help, we can protect, restore and connect these places that are so important to Iowa’s natural beauty.

Burr Wildlife Area Addition — This addition of 411 acres to the Burr Wildlife area has many people encouraged. Besides the beauty of the rolling hills, prairie and oak trees, this addition means 600 acres of public land along this corridor will be protected, allowing for increased habitat and water protection.
Support this project


BruceMorrison-Oxbow-OtterCreekOtter Creek Wildlife Area Addition — 67-acre property is adjacent to the 275 protected acres of the Otter Creek Wildlife Area in Sioux County Conservation Board ownership and will expand the size of the habitat available to area wildlife. The land will feature restored prairie and wetland areas, prime for wildlife viewing and hunting. Reestablishing native grasses will provide nesting and winter cover for birds.
Support this project Continue reading

All I Want for Christmas is $180 million


As we head toward the start of the 2016 legislative session, (Monday, Jan. 11) our thoughts turn away from the whirlwind of shopping, wrapping, cooking and family gatherings consuming our attention toward what could be the most important gift we could give ourselves, the funding of the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.

This is a gift that would give year after year, protecting our water, preventing the loss of precious topsoil and providing habitat for our diverse wildlife. This gift would support quality of life initiatives like trails and parks, which contribute to making Iowa, its economy and its people, thrive.

This is a gift we owe ourselves, our children and our grandchildren, and we need to do it NOW. Continue reading

Hawk Watch on the High Trestle Trail

Join us at the High Trestle Hawk Watch! Professionals and novice alike are invited to attend this family-friendly event. Naturalists form Dallas and Boone counties, the Iowa DNR, Iowa Audubon and the Iowa Wildlife Center will be on hand to answer questions and identify species. In past years, attendees have seen up to 171 raptors and 45 other bird species!

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When: Oct. 10, 2015 | 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Where: High Trestle Bridge’s main viewing platform on the west side of the bridge and the new shelter on the East side of the bridge.

Binoculars and viewing scopes will be provided, but we encourage you to bring your own binoculars, refreshments, and lawn chairs. The event will occur rain or shine.

For more information, contact Marlene Ehresman of the Iowa Wildlife Center at mehresman@iowawildlifecenter.org or 515-291-3000.


History Lesson: Raccoon River Valley Trail

Here’s your history lesson for the day. Throwback to when the Raccoon River Valley Trail wasn’t even a trail! Check out the story of how an old railroad right-of-way became one of Iowa’s most popular recreation destinations.RRVT2 (1)

In the late 1870s and early ’80s, a railroad route was built to connect Des Moines with the northwest corner of the state. The line became popular, and after changing hands a few times, the “Milwaukee Road” railroad company took over and widened the track to standard dimensions.

For over half a century, the route was a success. But in the early 1950s, when cars became the preferred method of travel, the Milwaukee Line was discontinued for passengers.

The line stayed in use for freight trains, and was bought out once again by the Chicago and Northwestern Transportation Company in 1982. After some economic misfortune, however, the company considered abandoning the route.

That’s when the Central Iowa Energy Cooperative (CIECO) stepped in. They purchased the right-of-way in 1987. After collaboration with the county conservation boards, CIECO agreed to develop a multi-use trail on the tracks, so long as the need for a new railroad didn’t arise.

The trail came together piece by piece, and it now stretches 89 miles—with more additions on the way. INHF helped the county conservation boards purchase the right-of-way from CIECO in 2001.

The Raccoon River Valley Trail is a destination for bikers, skiers, birdwatchers or any Iowan looking to enjoy the great outdoors. Though its history may already linger far in the past, there is still plenty to be written.


Wellmark grant to restore and build Iowa River Trail

UntitledThe Wellmark Foundation approved a $75,000 match grant to TRAILS Inc. to help build and renovate the Iowa River Trail. Local support and contributions equal to the amount of the grant will be needed by December 15 in order to receive the grant.

The Wellmark Foundation selected the Iowa River Trail project as one of only 17 that were approved.

In awarding the match grant, Stephanie Perry, The Wellmark Foundation manager said, “We applaud TRAILS, Inc. for launching the Iowa River Trail project. The trail will make it easier and safer for everyone to become more physically active through access to new hard surface recreational trail and its connection to the already existing trails.”

GiffordSept2The 34-mile Iowa River Trail will connect Marshalltown, Albion, Liscomb, Union, Gifford, Eldora and Steamboat Rock. The former rail corridor has been secured, and local volunteers and agencies are now seeking public grants and private contributions to begin constructing the trail surface and re-fitting bridges for safe use by cyclists, hikers and more. The trail will provide ample opportunities to locals and visitors alike for recreation and exploration throughout the year.

Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) is a major partner in the Iowa River Trail project along with TRAILS, Inc., Hardin County, Hardin County Trails Board, and the City of Marshalltown.

“We need the continual support from individuals and families, businesses and organizations to make the project become a reality,” said Terry Briggs of TRAILS Inc. “Now is the time to donate and pledge your support. This segment of the trail development will make it easier and safer for everyone to become more physically active through access to a new hard-surfaced recreational trail and its connection to already existing trails.”

Gifts can be directed to the Iowa River Trail project through Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, and online giving is available at the INHF website.


INHF is a statewide nonprofit conservation group that works with private landowners and other partners to protect Iowa’s land, water and wildlife. Since its founding in 1979, INHF has helped protect nearly 150,000 acres of Iowa’s wild places in 95 Iowa counties.

Iowa trail advocate, Tom Neenan, passes away at 92

Iowa lost one of its trail pioneers last week.

Thomas Neenan Sr., 92, passed away Tuesday, September 8, after a short battle with bone cancer. Tom’s lifetime boasted a wealth of achievements, but it’s his dedication and passion for Iowa’s trail systems that will be most remembered.


The route along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.

Tom served on the Linn County conservation board for 10 years, and is often credited for bringing the American Discovery Trail to Iowa. He also formed and sustained the Iowa Trails Council and aided in their efforts of establishing over 1000 miles of trail on former railroad right-of-way.

Anita O’Gara, Vice President and Development Director of INHF knew Tom personally, and admired his work at a time when INHF and the Iowa Trails Council were both pioneers in trying to establish recreational trails. “His drive, his passion, his energy—that really drove it,” O’Gara said. “He had a lot of vision and persistence.”

Over the course of his career in conservation, Tom earned several awards and received recognition for his work, including the Lifetime Service Award from American Trails in 1998 and an induction into Iowa’s Volunteer Hall of Fame in 1995. He was also nominated for INHF’s Hagie Heritage Award in 2003.

Tom is survived by his five children, and in lieu of flowers, the family asks that those in remembrance find one hour to give back to their community.

A full obituary can be found here.

Sign Up for MATAG before Sept. 18


The early-bird registration deadline for the 2015 Mid America Trails and Greenways (MATAG) conference is Friday, September 18. Register now before prices go up!

From it’s inauguration in 1999, MATAG has focused on sharing information and protecting Midwestern trails. Representatives from each of the nine heartland states organize the conference, and promote learning through classroom sessions and off-site workshops. This year’s theme is Healthy People, Healthy Places.

The conference will be held Oct. 25-28 at the Embassy Suites in downtown Des Moines. Regular registration deadline is Friday, Oct. 9.

Register now for MATAG 2015!

More information, including a schedule of events and speakers, can be found at www.matag.org.


Take a bite of summer


(Photo by Evan Feekes)

Are you ready to pie-cycle your way across Iowa? For a tasty treat during RAGBRAI, consider making this fun pie! While pie is always in season, summer brings a multitude of fruit for fillings. One of the new staff favorites here at INHF is this raspberry pie with chocolate crust. Continue reading

RAGBRAI route on Iowa By Trail

The IBT crew gets excited at RAGBRAI.

The IBT crew had a blast at last year’s RAGBRAI.

RAGBRAI is almost here, and Iowa By Trail is ready! We’ve added the route to the app, featuring points of interest along the entire stretch, including restaurants, museums and INHF public projects. Plus, we’ve added all the locations from Team Brewhaha’s unauthorized and unofficial bar guide XLIII.

And make sure to come say hi—we’ll be at RAGBRAI all week! We’ll have a booth at the expo and the overnight towns. Preview some of the merch we’ll be selling here. Continue reading

Biking the Amana Colonies

Kolonieweg in Amana, by Eric Utterback

The Kolonieweg trail running through Amana means “Colony Way.” (Photo by Eric Utterback)

Looking for somewhere new to explore on two wheels this holiday weekend? Check out the new gravel bike routes in the Amana Colonies! The two new routes allow riders to immerse themselves in the histories of Middle, High and West Amana. Continue reading