Iowans get to know Turin Prairie

This is yours now, Iowa. Get outside and enjoy it.

Turin Prairie in Monona County

Turin Prairie in Monona County

More than 75 people gathered Saturday to help dedicate Turin Prairie in the Loess Hills of Monona County. A project years in the making was opened to the public on National Public Lands Day, as ownership and management of Turin Prairie was turned over from Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Continue reading

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

Loess Hills Prairie Seminar

The sun sets over the Loess Hills in Monona County. (Photo by Robert Buman)

The sun sets over the Loess Hills in Monona County. (Photo by Robert Buman)

“Honoring Prairie and the Hills”

Whether avid prairie enthusiast or curious nature lover, you’re invited to join INHF at the 39th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar from Friday, May 29, to Sunday, May 31. Events will be held at the Loess Hills Wildlife Management Area northeast of Onawa and in Onawa at West Monona High School.

The Northwest Area Education Agency sponsors the seminar annually and invites educators, students, park and conservation persons, community leaders, and citizens. A living memorial to found Carolyn Frerichs Benne, a Western Hills Area Education Agency environmental educator, the prairie seminar brings together 300 people of all ages every year to promote conservation, environmental and science education.

Events for families and Iowa citizens of all ages are scheduled throughout the weekend, including campfires on Friday and Saturday nights, a silent auction and breakout sessions about birds, plants, insects, photography, history, soil, geology, ecology, prairie management, journaling, Native American heritage, landscaping and more

INHF members will lead two of the breakout sessions on Saturday, May 30, at the Outdoor Seminar Site:

8:15 a.m. | Landowners’ Conservation Options
INHF Land Stewardship Director Erin Van Waus will shed light on how and why people choose permanent protection for land they own. An introduction to land donations, bequests and conservation easements will be given, as INHF serves landowners who face these decisions.
10:15 a.m. | Place, Purpose and Prairie
INHF Loess Hills Land Conservation Consultant Tim Sproul and INHF Volunteer Coordinator Mary Runkel will tell the tale of INHF using the story of Turin Prairie. They will share how and why we do what we do.

Volunteer at G.R.A.S.S. (the Great Race Against Shrubs and Shade)


Remove woody species to keep Turin Prairie beautiful.

Join INHF, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy and other partners during the Loess Hills Prairie Seminar to explore and volunteer at Turin Prairie on Friday, May 29, at 9:00 a.m.

With thoughts of energy and impact, watch the land transform before your eyes at this annual event. Participants will work in teams to remove brush from the large hillside prairie, which may involve use of chainsaws, loppers and handsaws.

Questions about the prairie seminar should be directed to Dianne Blankenship at Questions about G.R.A.S.S. volunteer event should be directed to Mary Runkel at


An early Earth Day celebration


INHF staff and volunteers collect seed at Turin Loess Hills State Preserve and Wildlife Management Area in Monona County.

According to an article in The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Earth Day started in 1970 when San Francisco activist John McConnell and Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson separately asked Americans to join in a grassroots environmental demonstration. McConnell chose the spring equinox, March 21, 1970, and Nelson chose April 22. Millions of people participated, and today Earth Day continues to be widely celebrated with events on both dates. Continue reading

The Importance of Native Prairie

Turin Prairie lies in the heart of the Loess Hills, adjoining a state preserve, viewed from a national scenic byway.

Turin Prairie lies in the heart of the Loess Hills, adjoining a state preserve, viewed from a national scenic byway.

This latest blast of winter weather has us dreaming of spring. It won’t be long before the snow is gone and the year’s early bloomers – pasque flower, prairie smoke, early buttercup – are lighting up our native prairies. Won’t that be nice?

Until then, we can look forward to a great educational prairie-themed event. The Bur Oak Land Trust of Johnson County is hosting the 32nd Annual Prairie Preview on Thursday, March 12, at the Celebration Farm just outside Iowa City. This event is a great opportunity to meet fellow nature lovers.

The program will include information and displays from various local environmental organizations and agencies, including INHF. Conservationist Jim Kessler’s talk, “Why Planting Local Natives and Restoring Habitat Matter,” will focus on the importance of native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, sedges and grasses.

This year’s theme is “The Importance of Native Prairie.” INHF has worked both to restore and to preserve native Iowa prairie land through projects such as Razor Prairie, a prime site for harvesting native prairie seed, and Turin Prairie, a major expansion of the Turin Loess Hills Preserve and Wildlife Management Area.


Wordless Wednesday: Turin Prairie

IMG_7436This photo of Turin Prairie was taken at this past weekend’s Loess Hills Prairie Seminar. The seminar consisted of nearly 100 people who got a taste of what this 425-acre project is about. About 65 volunteers donated their time to clear out Cedar trees from a steep, prominent hill for the Great Race Against Shade (G.R.A.S.S.) to foster the health for native prairie. The volunteers included our land stewardship interns and staff, Nature Conservancy interns, the DNR trails crew, plus DNR staff and assorted volunteers including our own board member Greg Grupp.

Photo by INHF Land Stewardship Assistant Ryan Schmidt



2014 Loess Hills Prairie Seminar registration open


Spring is an exciting time at INHF. The land stewardship staff gets back out on the land, we get to tour our favorite properties on field trips and Iowa comes alive with blooms and green spaces. Spring also means it’s time for one of our favorite events—The Loess Hills Prairie Seminar.

Information about this year’s seminar was just released. It’s a time for prairie and Loess Hills enthusiasts alike to gather and work toward making the land we hold dear better through trainings, discussions and a field day. Continue reading