Land protection in Madison County and a milestone for INHF


Roslea Johnson, left, touring her property with For Land’s Sake.

When Bob and Roslea Johnson donated part of their Madison County farm to INHF, they had no idea that their generosity would help INHF reach a major milestone: 150,000 acres protected statewide.

Since 1979, INHF has worked to protect Iowa’s land, water and wildlife in a variety of ways: through the expansion of publicly-owned lands, the placement of conservation easements on privately-owned lands, the piecing together of miles-long trail projects. It is the foresight and dedication of private landowners like the Johnsons that make the work possible. Continue reading

Hagie Heritage Award presented in Decorah


On Friday, Nov. 13, INHF presented the annual Lawrence & Eula Hagie Heritage Award to Mary Lewis and Beth Lynch at Phelps Park in Decorah, Iowa.

The Hagie award recognizes Iowans who devote outstanding personal service to Iowa’s natural heritage and who encourage others to do the same. This year’s recipients showed a dedication to conservation with their efforts to remove invasive garlic mustard from Decorah-area parks.

The ceremony began at 4 p.m. with over 60 people in attendance. A reception was then held at T-Bock’s Sports Bar and Grill.

“It was a chance for people of similar passion for the environment to connect, get excited, exchange ideas,” said Mary Lewis. “It’s so good to have the work recognized and let people know it really is possible to restore our woodlands. This is a huge honor for me and Beth, and rightfully belongs also to all the people who have helped over the years in this effort.”

Lynch and Lewis are current and former Luther College biology instructors, respectively, and have dedicated their time inside and outside the classroom to many causes, including the removal of garlic mustard from Decorah parks.

“The Hagie Award often recognizes volunteers, but it can also go to conservation professionals who are going above and beyond their professional duties,” said Brian Fankhauser, INHF’s blufflands program director. “Beth and Mary are a perfect example of that. Not only do they teach students about biology, ecology and other conservation subjects, they also saw a need in the community and took it upon themselves to do something about it. And they’ve inspired others to do something as well.”


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.


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.



Elevate: Creating an Environment of Action Conference


Credit: Iowa Environmental Council

The Iowa Environmental Council is hosting it’s 2015 annual conference this Friday Oct. 2 at Drake University. The theme of this year’s conference is Elevate: Creating an Environment of Action. It is also the 20th anniversary of the conference.

The keynote speaker is Chad Pregracke, CNN’s 2013 Hero of the Year. He is founder and president of Living Lands and Waters, a river clean-up and conservation nonprofit. Pregracke is best known for his care of the Mississippi River, but Living Lands and Waters has organized over 800 river clean-up sessions across the nation.

Other notable speakers include: Dennis Keeney, first Director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Dr. Jerry L. Hatfield, Laboratory Director, USDA–ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture & the Environment; and Jacqui Patterson, Director, NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program.

Breakout session topics include “Protecting Water, Air and Land with Legal Tools” and “Communicating the Climate Opportunity.”

The conference will begin at 8 a.m. with registration and exhibitors, and ends at 4 p.m. Breakfast and lunch are included in the registration fee. The full schedule can be viewed here.

Registration is available online. Special rates are available for students and Iowa Environmental Council members. This conference is also approved for 3.75 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) credit.

We hope to see you there to talk, learn, and take action!



McGovern to lead tour of Kossuth County prairies

The sun sets over Wildin Prairie.

The sun sets over Wildin Heritage Prairie. (Photo by Joe McGovern)

INHF President Joe McGovern will lead tours of three prairies in Kossuth County on Saturday, June 27. The field trips will last from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and are co-sponsored by INHF, the Iowa Native Plant Society and the Iowa Prairie Network. Continue reading

Monitoring for mollusks

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The Iowa Pleistocene snail is a considered a glacial relict species.

The Iowa Pleistocene snail (Discus macclintocki) is a small mollusk indigenous to the north central United States.

Unfortunately, it’s an endangered species.

Fortunately, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and INHF have teamed up to protect these little guys.

Six natural resources technicians will be monitoring the snails’ habitat on public and private land in the Driftless Area of Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois and the Lost Mound Unit of the upper Mississippi. This is part of an effort to conduct surveys of potential habitat and to monitor all of the historically occupied sites–there are 31 of them–to document the current status and distribution of snail colonies.

Read on for more Pleistocene snail facts:

As herbivores, the snails prefer to munch on birch and maple leaves.

They live on (typically north facing) algific talus slopes. Algific slopes occur where air circulates over underground ice, which produces a constant stream of cold moist air through vents on the slope. The vents are usually covered with a layer of talus (rock debris) and leaf litter.

Because the rock debris is so unstable on the slopes, it’s possible that shifting can crush these snails. The technicians hired will monitor the snails while being minimally intrusive.


Conservation & Cocoa

Three miles east of Indianola, Bank Swallow Bend is part of the Federal Wetlands Reserve Program.

Three miles east of Indianola, Bank Swallow Bend is part of the Federal Wetlands Reserve Program. (Photo by Garry Brandenburg)

Warren County Conservation Board is celebrating 40 years in 2015! INHF has partnered with Warren CCB on many projects, including the Great Western Trail, Rolling Thunder Prairie and Bank Swallow Bend.

Saturday, Feb. 7, kicks off their full year of celebrations: 40 events for 40 years. “Conservation & Cocoa” will be an open house at the Annett Nature Center complete with a hot cocoa bar–of course–and cookies. CEO of Iowa’s County Conservation System Tom Hazelton will speak about the history of county conservation boards in Iowa, IWILL and the importance of these entities to the citizens of Iowa. Participants can also learn how to win prizes by attending more of the board’s 40 events in 2015.

Kids are welcome, too! During the presentation, naturalists at the center will be hosting a live animal program for any children in attendance.

Created in 1974, Warren CCB now manages over 2,220 acres of public land, which houses a variety of wildlife, improves water quality and provides great outdoor memories for many:

Countless school groups have gotten muddy trekking through the trails and investigating the natural beauty around them. The Friends of Warren County Conservation, a non-profit group, was formed to garner local support for environmental education. Families have bonded outdoors while camping or enjoying public programs, reunions, weddings and other events in our parks. … It’s safe to say thousands upon thousands of outdoor memories have been made here in the last four decades.

And here’s to 40 more years!


Nature & The Naturalist

Our friends at the Dallas County Conservation Board released their winter newsletter recently, which included a piece by Naturalist Chris Adkins that we found especially beautiful and in tune with our work at the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. With Chris’s permission, we’re sharing his meaningful column with you in hopes that you, too, will connect with his words and experiences. – KS


ReWilding – How, then, am I to find you, if I have no memory of you?
The not-so-whimsical words of a wee-one.

Chris Adkins, Environmental Education Coordinator/Naturalist, Dallas County Conservation

If you have not taken the occasion to read Laura Zaugg’s, DCCB Naturalist, article in our 2013 Fall Equinox newsletter – please pause now and enjoy it – Whimsical Words of Wee-ones. These gifts from the wee-ones are one of the many blessings afforded to a naturalist learning in the wilds with these young souls. Sometimes however, the wisdom of the wee-one’s words are not whimsical – but instead profound and life changing.

Continue reading