Writing new chapters for Central Iowa trails


The world famous High Trestle Trail provides bikers and hikers breathtaking views of the Des Moines River Valley.

Nearly 40 years ago the Central Iowa trail network got its start with the establishment of the Bill Riley Trail. This short trail links Waterworks Park with Greenwood Park and the neighborhoods near the Des Moines Art Center and the former Science Center of Iowa location. It was a modest beginning named after the famous Iowa State Fair talent scout and television personality who loved trails.

Today the network of trails in central Iowa has grown to include local neighborhood trails
as well as long distance regional trails stretching in all directions. The current plan envisions the regional spine extending 70 miles west to Whiterock Conservancy, 45 miles southeast to Lake Red Rock, 80 miles northeast to Pine Lake State Park, 25 miles south to Lake Ahquabi, as well as existing connections to Jefferson, Martensdale and Ames. Continue reading

Apply Now: INHF’s fall communications internship

Kerri-Lois-cropped-2-239x300Test the waters in all aspects of communications — magazine writing, press releases, photography, social media, websites, blogs and more — with Iowa’s leading natural conservation organization.

Join Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation this fall as a communications intern. You’ll be working on media projects to help promote INHF’s work and mission. Applications are due Friday, August 5. 

Job description
The communications intern writes news releases and magazine articles about INHF projects, assists with special events (like our annual Hagie Heritage Award), writes blog posts, updates our website and social media, and much more. Depending on organizational needs and intern skills, he/she may also assist with public events, photography and occasional graphic design. Continue reading

Now accepting nominations for the 2016 Hagie Heritage Award


Mary Lewis (left) and Beth Lynch (center), were our 2015 Hagie Heritage Award recipients. Lewis and Lynch were recognized for their extensive conservation efforts, including the removal of garlic mustard from area parks.

Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation invites you, your agency, partners or friends to nominate an outstanding Iowa conservationist for the 2016 Lawrence and Eula Hagie Heritage Award.

The nomination process is easy and a great way to bring deserved recognition for your nominee and for the nominating organization(s). Nominations are due Friday, August 5, 2016.

The annual Hagie Award recognizes Iowans “who have demonstrated an extraordinary personal service and commitment to improving the quality of Iowa’s natural environment and who encourage others to do the same.” The award generally goes to volunteers, but professional nominees are eligible if their efforts clearly go well beyond their job duties.

For more information on the Hagie Heritage Award and nomination process, visit the INHF website at www.inhf.org/hagie.cfm or call 515-288-1846 for a printed copy. Please send all correspondence and questions to Katie Bandurski, INHF communications intern, via e-mail at comminternkatie@inhf.org or by mail to:

Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
Attn: Katie Bandurski
505 Fifth Ave, Suite 444
Des Moines, IA 50309-2321

All nominations must be received by August 5, 2016.

Lawrence and Eula Hagie Heritage Award

Recognizes Iowans who devote outstanding voluntary, personal service and commitment to improving the quality of Iowa’s natural environment and who encourage others to do the same.

Winners receive $1,000 cash and a hand-carved acorn sculpture. The Hagie grandchildren inherited a farm in Henry County and income from this farm was used by Janice Hagie Shindel of Florida and Ila Jeanne Hagie Logan of Moville, Iowa, to create an endowment for this award in memory of their parents, Lawrence and Eula Hagie.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Only individuals are eligible — group nominations will not be considered.
  • Nominees must show dedication and commitment to the environment.
  • Letters of recommendation for deceased persons will not be considered.
  • Nominees do not seek recognition as motivation for their work in the environment, but simply believe in what they are doing.
  • Nominees are selected for their personal conservation/environmental accomplishments instead of (or in addition to) professional conservation/environmental accomplishments.
  • Nominees must show a long-term commitment to conservation/environmental projects (issues). Financial contributions are not sufficient basis for nomination.
  • Nominees must be Iowans, but their accomplishments need not be limited to Iowa and can be of regional or national significance.
  • Nominees’ activities and accomplishments must be in line with INHF’s mission: building partnerships and educating Iowans to protect, preserve and enhance Iowa’s natural resources for future generations.

Nomination process:

  • INHF must receive two letters of recommendation for each nominee no later than August 5, 2016.
  • Nominators should coordinate their letters so as to present a well-rounded overview of the nominee’s contributions to the environment/conservation.
  • Nominators must clearly state whom they are nominating. If they are nominating a couple, both letters of recommendation must identify both nominees by name.
  • Letters of recommendation should include the name(s), address and telephone number(s) of both the nominee and the nominator.
  • Letters of recommendation should include a resume of the nominee’s voluntary conservation/environmental accomplishments.
  • Letters of recommendation may be resubmitted in future years if the nominee is not selected.
  • INHF staff are not eligible to be nominated and may not nominate others.

Selection and announcement process overview:

  • All nominators receive a letter confirming receipt of their letters and the validity of the nomination.
  • All nominees receive a letter of congratulations announcing their nomination and the names of the people who nominated them.
  • The names of the nominators will not be revealed to the public, only to the respective nominee.
  • A three-person selection committee comprised of INHF board members and/or advisors is appointed each year by the Chairman of the Board. It is preferable that the committee includes one board member or advisor who has previously served on the selection committee, to provide experience and continuity to the selection process.
  • The committee members review the nominations and meet once to choose the winner.
  • During the informal selection discussion, the committee will remain nonpolitical and no pressure will be applied in the course of choosing the winner. The format of nomination materials should not bias the selection process, as this is a grassroots campaign.
  • The winner and their nominators are notified, and arrangements are made to present the award at a time and place that is convenient and meaningful to them. The award nominators and winner will take the lead on an event. If they do not want to take the lead in hosting, the award will be presented at an INHF Board meeting or other convenient event, such as an Iowa Association of County Conservation Board event.
  • All decisions and conversations of the selection committee are kept confidential until the selection and event plans are announced to the public.
  • INHF arranges for local and statewide publicity when announcing the winner and presenting the award.
  • Nominees who are not chosen are notified.


Meet INHF’s summer interns

Join INHF in welcoming our summer interns! These young conservationists are hard at work in the office and in the field protecting Iowa’s wild places.

New Office Interns

Two new interns have joined our office in downtown Des Moines. Shoot them an email and say hello!

Jessica Riebkes Ι Grant Writing 
Hometown: Cedar Falls, Iowa
School: Central College and Northern Iowa University
Major: Graduated with a B.A. and M.S. in Biology
Favorite native plant/animal: Rough Blazingstar

“I’m looking forward to writing grants to protect properties in Iowa and learn about INHF as an organization.”

Jared Morford Ι Trails 
Hometown: Watertown, South Dakota
School: Iowa State University
Major: Graduated with a B.S. in History and a MCRP (Masters of Community and Regional Planning)
Favorite native plant/animal: Coyote

“I’m looking forward to working with INHF to help expand the trails network in Iowa.”

Returning Office Interns

These two interns will continue their work with INHF this summer.

Katie Bandurski Ι Communications
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
School: Drake University
Major: Magazine journalism, minors in Marketing and English
Favorite native plant/animal: Wild Turkey

“I’m excited to explore Iowa’s natural places and learn more about conservation.”

Kelsea Graham Ι Graphic Design 
Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
School: Drake University
Major: Graphic Design and Advertising
Favorite native plant/animal: Fox Squirrel

“I look forward to designing the INHF calendar.”

Statewide Land Stewardship Interns

These interns travel all over Iowa to manage the land at our projects. Whether restoring prairies, wetlands or savannas, they help protect Iowa’s natural beauty.

Abby Walling
Hometown: Iowa City, Iowa
School: Carleton College
Major: Biology
Favorite native plant/animal: River Otter

“I am excited to learn more about the ecology of my home state and help to protect the environment for generations to come!”

Katelyn Behounek
Hometown: Chelsea, Iowa
School: Simpson College
Major: Biology and Environmental Science
Favorite native plant/animal: Spotted Skunk

“I’m looking forward to traveling Iowa. I’ve seen a lot of the country but not as much of my home state.”


Nick Jackosky
Hometown: Lakewood, Ohio
School: Iowa State University
Major: Global Resource Systems and Environmental Science
Favorite native plant/animal: American Bison

“I am most looking forward to meeting more incredible people who care about healing and restoring our natural resources as much as I do.”

Sean Kenan
Hometown: Grand Junction, Iowa
School: Iowa State University
Major: Animal Ecology
Favorite native plant/animal: Rattlesnake Master and Peregrine Falcon

“I look forward to seeing the unique lands that Iowa has to offer.”

Riley Dunn
Hometown: Martensdale, Iowa
School: Iowa State University
Major: Landscape Architecture and Environmental Studies
Favorite native plant/animal: Indiangrass and American Sycamore

“I’m looking forward to seeing all the prairie plants out in the field rather than in a book.”

Michael Parker
Hometown: Dike, Iowa
School: Iowa State University
Major: Forestry
Favorite native plant/animal: Burr Oak and White-Tail Deer

“I’m looking forward to seeing the great areas of the state.”

Austin Chipps
Hometown: Ankeny, Iowa
School: Central College
Major: Biology and Chemistry
Favorite native plant/animal: Hoary Puccoon and Scarlet Tanager

“I’m excited to explore the diverse Iowa landscape and learn to manage habitat.”

Taylor Didesch
Hometown: Chillicothe, Illinois
School: Iowa State University
Major: Animal Ecology
Favorite native plant/animal: Red Fox

“I can’t wait to see plants and animals in person and meet the landowners that really care about them!”


Sara Vettleson-Trutza
Hometown: Spring Grove, Minnesota
School: Waldorf University
Major: Biology and Psychology
Favorite native plant/animal: Land Snail

“I can’t wait to know all the prairie plants (or close to it). I know this whole experience is a great growing opportunity for me and I can’t wait to see how it changes me for the better.”

Blufflands Land Stewardship Interns

Blufflands interns focus exclusively on INHF projects in northeast Iowa, helping to restore and maintain remnant and reconstructed prairies, woodlands and oak savannas.

Ryan Crum
Hometown: Mt. Horeb, WI
School: Luther College
Major: Environmental Studies, Policy and Politics
Favorite native plant/animal: White-Tail Deer and Indiangrass

“I’m looking forward to learning different restoration techniques, meeting and talking to landowners and  visiting/seeing the different properties.”

Eric Young
Hometown: Lowden, Iowa
School: Upper Iowa University
Major: Conservation Management
Favorite native plant/animal: Dutchman’s Breeches and Blanding’s Turtle

“I’m looking forward to gaining experience in land           management and ecological restoration.”

James Ostile
Hometown: Decorah, Iowa
School: Luther College
Major: Biology
Favorite native plant/animal: White Pine and American Bison

“I’m excited to learn how to properly manage and restore native habitats.”

Karyl Clarete
Hometown: Winnipeg, MB, Canada
School: Iowa State University
Major: Environmental Science and Global Resource Systems
Favorite native plant/animal: American Bison

“I’m really looking forward to learning more about native plants of Iowa and seeing more of its natural areas.”

WORKSHOP: Feeding zoo animals with invasive species

servletJoin Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Trees Forever and other partners for an exciting classroom/hands-on training focused on identifying and removing invasive woodland plants. Volunteers will participate in “upcycling” the invasive plants to be used as food for animals at Blank Park Zoo. Your help is needed to remove these forest invaders and feed the zoo animals! Note: We will not directly feed zoo animals, but pull the plants that will go to the zoo.

Invasive species of Iowa workshop. We will learn how to remove invasives.

Thursday, June 9th from 5:30 – 8: 30 p.m.

Jay Spence Shelter House. This is “up the hill” from Greenwood/Ashworth Park.

No experience necessary. A light dinner is included in your sign-up cost of $10. We will go outside for part of the class to remove invasive plants, so please wear long sleeves, long pants and closed-toe shoes. Bring a refillable water bottle!

For more information or to register, click here.

5 MORE of Iowa’s most invasive species (and how to get rid of them)

We listened to your comments! Here are five more threatening invasive species in Iowa.

Autumn Olive

Autumn Olive

Autumn Olive
Identification: This shrub or small tree holds dark green, oval-shaped leaves, small, yellow or white flowers and bountiful reddish/pink fruits. 
Threat: Autumn Olive can survive in areas with poor soil quality, including along roads, pastures, open woodlands and prairies. The plant can survive without much water and is known to invade woodlands or grasslands.  
Removal: Small, sprouted plants can be pulled by hand, while larger shrubs require cutting. Apply herbicide to the leaves or freshly cut stumps, being careful not to affect native plants.  

Frank Mayfield

Creeping Charlie. Photo by Frank Mayfield via Flickr Creative Commons.

Creeping Charlie
Identification: Round, shiny leaves with a scalloped edge, and small purple flowers.
Threat: Although creeping charlie oftentimes doesn’t pose much of a threat to natural areas, this fast-growing ground cover can easily overtake grass, native gardens and landscaping in your yard.
Removal: There are several different ways to combat creeping charlie, and the best method depends on where the weed is located. In small areas, such as a flower bed, hand-removal can be beneficial, but make sure to completely remove the root system or the plant can regenerate. A thick layer of mulch in between plants can also choke out the weed. For grassy areas, herbicide treatment in fall and spring works well. Direct competition from a native prairie plot or garden has also proven to be successful. Keep in mind that creeping charlie is a persistent plant, and it usually requires a few years to completely eradicate.

Annie Roonie

Wild Parsnip. Photo by Annie Roonie via Flickr Creative Commons.

Wild Parsnip
Identification: Large, celery-like leaves and stems with small, yellow flowers. Usually two to five feet high. 
Threat: Wild parsnip is typically found along roadsides, in pastures and prairies or on field edges. They produce many seeds, which allows the plant to easily spread. The weed’s fluids also contain psoralen, a substance that causes skin to burn when exposed to sunlight. These burns often lead to severe blistering. 
Removal: Before attempting to remove wild parsnip, be sure to cover up any exposed skin. Then, work to eliminate seed production of the plant. This can be achieved through hand-pulling, digging out the roots or repeated mowing when the plant is flowering.  

Japanese Knotweed 1

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed
Identification: Hollow, brown, bamboo-like stems with greenish-white flowers. Mature plants can grow up to 10 feet tall.
Threat: Japanese Knotweed was introduced in the late 1800’s and was used for landscaping and erosion control. The plant has deep roots–up to nine feet–and spreads quickly. Knotweed colonies can grow in such dense clusters that they crowd out any other native plant life. The state of Iowa passed a law in 2013 prohibiting the import or sale of certain invasive ornamental plants, including Japanese Knotweed.
Removal: The plant should be cut down and the stump treated with herbicide. This method prevents re-sprouting, but may need to be done more than once. Small infested areas can also be covered with tarp to hinder growth.

Paw Paw

Leafy Spurge. Photo by Paw Paw via Flickr Creative Commons.

Leafy Spurge
Identification: This branching perennial features smooth stems and yellow flowers. 
Threat: Leafy Spurge shades out other plants, devours available water and nutrients and releases toxins that prevent other plants growth. The herb invades prairies, savannas, pastures, fields and roadsides. 
Removal: Introducing natural insect enemies of leafy spurge has been proven effective in some areas, but this requires professional assistance. Systemic herbicides are also effective, especially when applied in June as flowers and seeds are developing, or when the plant is moving its nutrients to the root in September. 

For more information about these species and other invasives in Iowa, check out the Iowa DNR’s guides.

Looking to learn more about invasive species? Contact Land Stewardship Director Ryan Schmidt at rschmidt@inhf.org or 515-288-1846, ext. 13.


Seeds for the future


Helen Gunderson during 2014 visit to DeElda Heritage Prairie. The prairie planting on Tuesday was on land up the hill to the right.

“Now I truly understand the sense of pride landowners get when seeing projects come to fruition,” Helen Gunderson said to me when we went to Pocahontas County to observe a 70-acre prairie planting on a portion of the 180 acres she recently donated to INHF with a reserved life estate. The property adjoins a 60-acre remnant prairie/pasture Helen previously donated to INHF, called DeElda Heritage Prairie (named after her grandmother, DeElda Lighter Gunderson).


A few of the many bags of Carl Kurtz prairie seed for the May 2016 planting

Helen is an accomplished photographer and videographer and on that day we filmed and photographed Jon Judson planting the prairie seed (grown by Carl Kurtz, a longtime friend of Helen’s and INHF). She and I even got to hand scatter seeds along the terraces where the equipment couldn’t reach.

The 77 acres planted to CRP pollinator habitat surrounds a cornfield under transition to an organic operation by a young woman farmer, Betsy. Helen hopes that the new prairie buffer will help minimize cross contamination of the organic corn, as well as provide critical habitat.

Helen said that she had always thought the land would have more prairie someday, but it’s nice to see it happen during her lifetime.

For me, it was rewarding to be able to fulfill the dreams of a landowner, to support a young woman farmer and to give back to the earth — so that it can sustain the birds, insects, wildlife, water and air necessary for the existence of all life on the planet, for those who follow.

Thank you, Helen….
“Namaste prairie”


3 events, 1 great weekend in the Loess Hills

There’s always a good reason to get outdoors, but this trifecta of events will make it impossible to stay inside. Join Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation in western Iowa over the first weekend of June. We’re celebrating our great state’s natural areas with a combined volunteer event, the dedication of a new Bird Conservation Area and the Loess Hills Prairie Seminar.  Continue reading