Members of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation land stewardship staff and statewide and blufflands land stewardship interns attended the fourteenth Iowa Prairie Conference in mid-July.
This year, the biennial event was hosted by the Biology Department at Luther College. Conference attendees gathered July 18 – July 20, 2013, on the Luther campus in Decorah, Iowa.
The conference began with an opportunity to visit one of two prairies nearby Decorah. Dr. Mike Osterholm hosted some of the conference guests on his property, Prairie Song Farm, on which INHF has a conservation easement. The Winneshiek County Conservation Board also offered guests a chance to visit Chipera Prairie.
On Friday, during the day, there were seminars about prairie management given by experts, including Brian Fankhauser, INHF’s bluffland program manager. Fankhauser discussed his work in prairie management in northeastern Iowa. Mary Jane Hatfield, an insect expert, spoke about a potential new species discovery in the prairie. Another seminar focused on using goats as a means of managing invasive species. That evening, conference goers enjoyed a banquet.
On Saturday attendees spent a day in the field exploring three conserved areas within a 45 minute drive of Decorah. Prairie conference participants visited Sand Cove, Heritage Valley and the Mile Long/Solitaire Ridge Prairie, which are all located in Allamakee County. Two of the locations, Solitaire Ridge and Heritage Valley are INHF properties.
INHF land stewardship staff and interns were exceptionally excited about the chance to visit Heritage Valley, an INHF property where the interns pulled invasive species from planted prairie earlier this summer.
In all, the conference was an especially unique opportunity for the land stewardship interns.
“The prairie conference is a really good learning and networking opportunity for the interns,” said Melanie Louis, INHF land stewardship assistant.