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.

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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.

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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.

 

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10 years later, Marietta becomes whole

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Join INHF at the Marietta Sand Prairie on October 3 from 1-4 p.m. to harvest prairie seed, hear the story of this project and drink cider! Volunteers will hand-pick seed to be redistributed throughout the preserve.

The preserve was established in 1984 when 17 acres of native prairie was purchased by Marshall County Conservation. In 2006, 212 more acres were added to the preserve, including 56 acres of sand prairie remnant.

Restoration efforts for the prairie began a decade ago, and with this seed harvest, INHF celebrates connecting the preserve with prairie remnants. This seed harvest completes our original vision: To preserve this rare prairie legacy, and to create an extensive interior grassland habitat for songbirds, pheasants and so many other species. Continue reading

Lending a hand to the land

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(All photos by Lexi Ruskell)

Over 70 people lent a hand to the land on July 15 at Cedar Hills Sand Prairie in Black Hawk County. The event was a collaboration between six Iowa land trusts, including INHF, and the University of Northern Iowa’s Tallgrass Prairie Center, which hosted the Iowa Prairie Conference. The Nature Conservancy’s land stewardship team led the slightly overcast volunteer day, though the weather conditions ended up being perfect for working in the open space of the prairie. Continue reading

Heritage Valley: The little things in life

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An Iowa DNR member presents on a plant species to an attentive volunteer. (Photo by Jessica Rilling)

As I reflect back on our summer seed harvest on July 9 up and around Heritage Valley in northeast Iowa, I think to myself “What a great day!” But I think that I say that a lot—so this time I’ll do my best to answer WHY it was so great. Continue reading

Happy trails at Camp WaNoKi

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INHF acquired the 77-acre Camp WaNoKi property in November 2014. The Webster County Conservation Board manages the land (with help from volunteers like these) to keep it properly maintained.

Saturday, June 27, was a good day.

We’re sure the oak savanna agrees. It’s easy to see why Camp WaNoKi is an American Indian abbreviation for “beautiful land and scenery.” And it’s easy to imagine the fun had in the woods.

Saturday, June 27, was one of those secretly profound days. Nothing huge happened; there wasn’t a celebrity to see or even a grand view. No fireworks. Just people coming together for a cause greater than themselves. Continue reading

Beat the heat with ice cream

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(Photo by Evan Feekes)

Happy National Ice Cream Month! We know you’re in need of a cold, sweet treat as you enjoy the summer sunshine. Consider making your own ice cream with berries and flowers found in Iowa—like mulberries, honeysuckle or multiflora rose. Continue reading

Volunteer spotlight: ISU students volunteer for “magical” day

Six Iowa State University Natural Resource and Ecology Management (NREM) graduate students used their skills to help open up and restore a remnant prairie on a March day this spring on a Boone County woodland just 20 minutes from campus. This is the fifth time ISU’s NREM students have worked on the site.

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Students from ISU’s Natural Resource and Ecology Management department and INHF staffers work with David Marlow to reclaim a hilltop on the Gardner Property in Boone County. (Gifford the dog was a big help, too.)

“What is interesting about this student group,” INHF Volunteer Coordinator Mary Runkel said, “is that even with students flowing through the program and graduating each year, the passion and knowledge never seems to leave because the leadership is handed down and new energy emerges.” Continue reading

RAVE at Ewing Park

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Join INHF, City of Des Moines, and the Central Iowa Trail Association (CITA) on Thursday, June 18, to bring RAVE to one of the coolest mountain biking areas in the Des Moines metro! From 4:30-6:30 p.m., we’ll remove honeysuckle—a harmful and invasive plant—from the woods along an off-road trail at Ewing Park, then all meet for a social hour following. Music will be played, and fun will be had.

All tools and instruction will be provided. Jeans or long pants and closed-toe shoes are recommended. Volunteers should meet in the parking lot south of McKinley Ave.

What is RAVE? Random Acts of Volunteering for the Earth was created to connect people to the land in compact, meaningful ways by partnering to host after-work events in easy-to-find locations. This is an opportunity to make a lasting impact in a time frame that works for your schedule.

Questions? Contact INHF Volunteer Coordinator Mary Runkel at mrunkel@inhf.org or 515-288-1846.

Learn more about INHF's volunteer program. Join the Facebook
event.

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Iowa Prairie Conference 2015

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There will be a “field trip” to Quigley-Slattery Heritage Prairie during the conference. (Photo by Jessica Rilling)

Mingle with other prairie enthusiasts, get educated on the latest developments and network at the 2015 Iowa Prairie Conference from Thursday, July 16, to Saturday, July 18, at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. This year’s theme is “Working Prairies,” which reflects the evolving role of prairie in today’s landscape. Whether a dedicated prairie enthusiast or simply a citizen with curiosity, anyone is welcome to attend. Continue reading

The prairie calls…for volunteers!

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The sun shines on downy painted cup at Heritage Valley, an INHF property.

Looking for a fun and relaxed volunteer opportunity? You’re in luck! Join INHF and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for the a seed harvest in northeast Iowa on Thursday, July 9, from 9 a.m. to noon at Heritage Valley and Solitaire Ridge. Continue reading