Iowa Natural Heritage Fall 2018

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Protecting and restoring Iowa’s land, water and wildlife.


Meet the sportspeople making a big impact for Iowa’s wildlife 14

Great Lake love

Protection on the north shore of Big Spirit is big news 20

Ever-flowing Protecting a special farm in northeast Iowa 12

FALL 2018



Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation Protecting and restoring Iowa’s land, water and wildlife.

Game Changers

Sportspeople do more than hunt Iowa’s protected land — they’re also some of the leaders behind saving it. Hunters, anglers and recreationists are reshaping the state’s landscapes.

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505 Fifth Ave., Suite 444 Des Moines, Iowa 50309 | 515-288-1846 | STAFF


Joe McGovern

Chair Susan Shullaw, Iowa City 1st Vice Chair Garth Adams, Des Moines 2nd Vice Chair Michael Daugherty, Dunkerton Secretary Donald Beneke, Pocahontas Treasurer Wendy Wiedner, West Des Moines


Jodi Baker

Finance Director

Ross Baxter

Land Projects Director

Andrea Boulton

Trails and Greenways Director

Jered Bourquin

Blufflands Associate

Jessica Riebkes Clough

Winging it Get to know the nine species of owl that can be found in Iowa.

Blueprint for connection Mason City had a vision for a more connected community. A new trail may achieve that goal.

Ever-flowing Ed Wiemerskirk loved his land — ­­ and entrusted his woodlands, trout streams and pasture to INHF to care for into the future.


Land Projects Assistant

Carole Teator

Will Anderson, Des Moines Peg Armstrong-Gustafson, Waukee Woodward G. Brenton, Des Moines David Brown, Des Moines Cindy Burke, Central City Ed Cox, Centerville Mike DeCook, Lovilia Paul Easter, Des Moines Vern Fish, Waterloo John Fisher, Des Moines John Gray, Sioux City Greg Grupp, Dakota Dunes, SD Rob Hall, Harlan Neil Hamilton, Waukee Kirsten Heine, Decorah Thomas Hoff, Iowa City Robert Jester, Des Moines Christopher Lindell, Marion Jeff Lockwood, Bettendorf Jan Lovell, Clear Lake David Mackaman, Des Moines Paul Morf, Cedar Rapids Liz Neumann, Des Moines Scott Raecker, Des Moines Richard Ramsay, Des Moines Carole Reichardt, Clive Susan Salterberg, Iowa City Travis Young, Waterloo

Brian Fankhauser Blufflands Director

Diane Graves

Administrative Assistant and Receptionist

Erin Griffin

Donor Services Coordinator

Katy Heggen

Communications Associate

Lisa Hein

Senior Director for Conservation Programs

Joe Jayjack

Communications Director

Heather Jobst

Senior Land Conservation Director

Melanie Louis

Volunteer Coordinator

Derek Miner

John and Shari Paule worked for years to restore their land in Madison County. Now, they’re protecting it well into the future.

Land Stewardship Associate

Big news for Big Spirit

Conservation Easement Specialist

A major land protection project on the north shore of Big Spirit Lake is bringing two families, the community and INHF together.

Land Stewardship Director

Anita O’Gara Vice President

Tylar Samuels Ryan Schmidt Kerri Sorrell

Communications Specialist

Tim Sproul

Loess Hills Land Conservation Specialist


Eastern Iowa Program Manager


Opening Thoughts

22 Looking Out for Iowa

Abby Hade Terpstra



Through Your Lens

23 Get Outdoors

Erin Van Waus

Joe Jayjack Editor/Publisher Kerri Sorrell Managing Editor


Donor Relations Director Conservation Easement Director

Field Notes

Kari Walker

Administration Director

ON THE COVER Autumn leaves cover the ground at Dolliver Memorial State Park outside of Fort Dodge. Photo by Robert Buman


Iowa Natural Heritage

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Logan Wood

Blufflands Field Assistant

Iowa Natural Heritage is published quarterly by Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for its members and friends.

Circulation 10,000 Articles appearing in Iowa Natural Heritage may be reprinted with permission of the publisher.


Planning for Iowa’s future


hen I was driving my daughter to school recently, we stopped so I could take a few pictures along the way. We had received a heavy rainfall the night before, which has been pretty common this fall.

J O E McG OV E R N President

In one field, there was a river of brown water rushing through the harvested bean field, carrying precious topsoil along with it. Just downstream on a neighboring field the water was flowing just as heavy, but it was streaming through a wide grassed waterway, coming out clean and leaving the soil in the field. My daughter asked “Why aren’t all waterways like that?” Not wanting to bog our morning ride down, I said, “It’s complicated, but it mostly comes down to finances.” She wasn’t satisfied. A little planning can go a long way toward making our landscape more resilient, saving our precious natural resources. But we have to make sure Iowa’s landowners and farmers have the technical services, funding and tools they need to make it happen. In this issue, you’ll read about a project that is improving soil health, water quality and pollinator habitat at Iowa’s Great Lakes, how hunters and anglers are helping to fund conservation on a large scale and the story of a generous man that entrusted a slice of heaven in northeast Iowa (his precious land) to INHF. The common thread between these stories is that they all start with people that want to protect and restore a natural piece of our state, making our shared home a better place. We are honored to work with landowners and partners to make this protection possible. But the truth is that these projects aren’t happening as fast

or as often as they need to be. Iowans deserve more. And no one can do them alone. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of positive things happening on the landscape like watershed work, sustainable agriculture and natural land restoration, but Iowa lacks the necessary funding to deliver the progress at the scale needed. The good news is that Iowa voters, in 2010, already created the first step of the solution, The Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. But the next step — funding — is up to the legislature and governor and remains unfulfilled, even with recent polling that seven out of 10 Iowans approve of raising the sales tax 3/8 of a cent to fund it. That action would dedicate over $180 million per year for natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation. It is up to our elected officials to make that happen.

INHF is implementing conservation practices like a prairie buffer, cover crops and more perennial crops at the Wallace & Bowers nature area on the north shore of Big Spirit Lake. Iowa needs to scale up conservation practices like these if it wants to meet the challenges we face around soil loss, water quality and wildlife habitat. Photo by Emily Martin, INHF

So between now and Nov. 6, please ask your candidates and elected officials if they support saving our soil, cleaning our water, protecting wildlife habitat and getting people outdoors. Ask them to fund the Natural Resource and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. We have waited long enough. The time is now. Thank you for your support,

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“The radio announcers often speak of the fall colors in the hills this time of year, and people drive miles to see them, but I always appreciate the subtle prairie colors too.” - Linda Hasselstrom It seems counterintuitive to retreat to a treeless place in autumn.To look past the burst of fall leaves and settle on a more open landscape. But for many reasons, fall can be the best time to find yourself among the grasses and forbes. Changes happen here, too: Small animals start building their winter homes, grasses turn golden with age, blooms transition from bright displays to harvestable seeds. If you’ve never smelled an autumn prairie, you haven’t lived. The changes are subtle but rewarding. Each fall, INHF volunteers take to the prairie to collect prairie seed. The seed they gather ensures that after the cold months, more living things can come back to us. It’s an investment in the future, and for a lot of folks, in the present. — KERRI S ORRE L L,

Communications specialist


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Former INHF land stewardship intern turned volunteer Samantha Ramsay harvests seed from a compass plant during a volunteer seed harvest at INHF’s Snyder Heritage Farm. Volunteer-harvested seed is used in prairie plantings and reconstructions across the state. Photo by Derek Miner, INHF

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Green Hill Ranch Open House Green Hill Ranch, near Council Bluffs Join INHF and The Nature Conservancy in Iowa for a sneak peak at Green Hill Ranch, 506 acres of cascading peakand-saddle hills, oak savanna and remnant prairie the two organizations protected together. RSVP requested.

George and Trish Patrick of Ames win INHF’s Hagie Heritage Award George and Trish Patrick of Story County have been selected to receive the 2018 annual INHF Lawrence and Eula Hagie Heritage Award. The award recognizes Iowans who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to conservation and improvement of the natural environment. “I know Story County’s outstanding and diverse conservation program wouldn’t be what it has become without the leadership and active support of people like George and Trish Patrick,” wrote Steve Lekwa, former Story County Conservation Board director. Lekwa was one of the nominators of George and Trish for the award. “They are, indeed, the kind of people that the Hagie Award was created to recognize.” George and Trish were nominated for their conservation leadership in Story County and their work on prairie restoration statewide. George previously served on the Story County Conservation Board and played an integral role in securing a rail corridor for the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail and creating a successful REAP (Resource Enhancement And Protection) plan, which was used as a model for other counties. Both George and Trish are actively involved in annual Iowa Prairie Network meetings, and collect and distribute seed from their own


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Recognizing their extensive volunteer efforts in Story County and statewide, George and Trish Patrick are the 2018 winners of INHF’s Hagie Heritage Award honoring Iowans with outstanding committment to conservation in Iowa. Photo courtesy of George and Trish Patrick

prairie to help diversify and support prairies throughout the county. “There are a lot of conservation issues facing Iowa, and the Patricks understand that education around native biodiversity and restoration play a big part in addressing those,” said Mike DeCook, an INHF board member. “Their long-term efforts to promote conservation in Iowa make them worthy recipients of this award.” More than two decades ago, the Patricks helped start the monthly prairie walks at Doolittle Prairie in Story County, which are led by Lloyd Crim. They continue to help coordinate and publicize the walks and can often be found helping people learn about the prairie plants found there. The Hagie Heritage Award was established by Janice Hagie Shindel of Florida and Ila Jeanne Hagie Logan of Moville, IA in honor of their parents, Lawrence and Eula Hagie. The Hagie Heritage Award recipient receives $1,000 and a hand-carved acorn sculpture made by INHF members Dennis and Linda Schlicht of Center Point. A ceremony will be held Oct. 29 in Ames to recognize George and Trish Patrick’s efforts.

OCT. 25

INHF Member Reception Hitchcock Nature Center, Pottawattamie Co. Meet fellow INHF members and INHF staff and board for an evening of partnership and celebration as we look at INHF’s work in western Iowa. RSVP requested.

NOV. 2-3

WFAN Annual Conference Des Moines, Polk Co. Explore farming and food issues with the Women, Food and Agriculture Network at their annual conference this fall. The year’s theme is Stepping into Action: Changing Foodscapes through Individual and Community Power. Register online at

For more information, visit


INHF conservation easement helps create complex of protected habitat near Sioux City Just across the street from Stone State Park in Plymouth County, INHF has completed a conservation easement on 59 acres of wildlife habitat and open space owned by Ruth Rose and Luis Lebredo. The private property, which contains grassland, oak savanna and patches of remnant prairie, adds to a growing complex of protected land in the area. Located within the Loess Hills landform and the Plymouth South Special Landscape Area, the property provides excellent wildlife habitat for birds, pollinators and reptiles and is a high priority area for protection in the state. Sioux City city limits border the property to the south. The conservation easement, a voluntary permanent protection agreement, will ensure that development pressure won’t impact the scenic space and habitat on the property. “We were excited to work with Ruth and Luis to protect this important piece of the Loess Hills landscape,” said Erin Van Waus, INHF conservation easement director. “With Stone State Park, Mt. Talbot State Preserve and another INHF-held easement nearby, we’re seeing a great progression for habitat protection just outside a major Iowa city.” Adding to a complex of protected public land and wildlife habitat in Plymouth and Woodbury counties, INHF recently completed a conservation easement on 59 acres (outlined in red) on the border of Sioux City. INHF holds another easement to the north. Map by INHF PLYMOUTH COUNTY

New trail around Easter Lake named after former INHF president Mark Ackelson

To be completed this fall, the Mark C. Ackelson Trail will line six miles of Easter Lake in southwest Des Moines. The last phase of the project is the construction of a 445-foot pedestrian bridge on the west side of the lake. The trail is named for former INHF president Mark Ackelson. Map courtesy of Polk County Conservation

This fall, construction will be complete on a new six-mile trail around Easter Lake on the southeast side of Des Moines. The Ackelson Trail, named for former INHF president Mark C. Ackelson, will provide cycling, skating and hiking opportunities. On the lake, visitors can fish, canoe, kayak and paddle board. Polk County Conservation plans to offer bikes, canoes, kayaks and fishing equipment for rental beginning in 2019. The trail project is part of a larger restoration initiative at Easter Lake.

“Ackelson’s devoted passion for conservation and outdoor recreation helped provide hundreds of miles of trails across the state, supporting local trailside communities and getting Iowans outdoors,” said Adam Fendrick, park planner for Polk County Conservation. Ackelson worked at INHF for 33 years, becoming president in 1994. In his time with INHF, Ackelson served as a visionary for Iowa’s trail system and oversaw the development of some of the state’s most popular trails, including the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, the Wabash Trace Nature Trail and the Raccoon River Valley Trail.

Mt. Talbot State Preserve Rose CE

Stone State Park Sioux City WOODBURY COUNTY

The Ackelson Trail is being completed in three phases, which include improving water quality to the lake through rain gardens and a bio retention cell. The last phase includes construction of a 445-foot pedestrian bridge on the west side of the lake, to be completed this fall. “Mark’s leadership was instrumental in creating trails in Iowa,” said Lisa Hein, INHF senior director for conservation programs. “We’re proud to see him honored this way.”

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BY SA M A N T H A J O N E S Communications intern |


owa is home to an impressive array of bird species, including owls. While some species only visit Iowa during their migratory treks, others live year-round in the state. To celebrate National Geographic’s Year of the Bird, learn more about the nine owl species that call Iowa home.

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Iowa Natural Heritage

Barn Owl

State Endangered

Barn owls are medium-sized with a heartshaped face and brown eyes. Their head, back and the upper part of their wings are buff and gray while their face, body and underwings are white. Barn owls like to nest in dark, secluded spaces — typically tree cavities, caves, cliff ledges and in abandoned buildings and barns. With the disappearance of grasslands and wetlands in Iowa, Barn owls are losing much of the grassland habitat they use to hunt for prey. Listen for their distinctive call: They don’t hoot like most owls, but instead make a long, harsh screech. Photo by Raymond Barlow, AKM Images

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Eastern Screech Owl


Great Horned Owl


The Eastern screech owl is the smallest permanent resident owl in Iowa — about the size of a robin. It is either gray or reddishbrown, with complex patterns that camouflage well with foliage and tree bark. The Eastern screech owl’s ear tufts are often raised, giving it a distinct silhouette. Unlike its name suggests, the screech owl rarely screeches — instead, its calls mainly consist of soft, low hoots or trills. The Eastern screech owl can be extremely difficult to find, especially during the daytime when its feathers camouflage it almost perfectly amongst the dense woodland cover it sleeps in. Photo by Raymond Barlow, AKM Images


Great horned owls are large, thick-bodied birds with prominent tufts on the top of their heads. Their bodies are a mottled gray-brown color, with tan faces and a white patch on their throat. Great horned owls typically live in wooded areas, particularly those interspersed with open spaces. Instead of building their own nests, they occupy nests built by other animals such as hawks and squirrels, laying eggs and raising their young there. They eat


a wide variety of species — some larger than themselves — including rabbits, squirrels, skunks and other owls. Great horned owls are adaptable and can be found in cities and suburban neighborhoods in addition to rural areas all across the state. Most are permanent residents of Iowa, but some may migrate to warmer locations in winter. Photo by Raymond Barlow, AKM Images

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Barred owls are mottled brown and white with dark eyes and brown and white stripes on their wings and tail. A little smaller than the Great horned owl, the Barred owl has a rounded head with no ear tufts. They live in mature forests, particularly those with both deciduous and evergreens, often nesting in locations near a water source. They eat mice, voles and occasionally other birds. Listen for their barking “who cooks for you?” call — it may sound like a large dog from a distance. During the day, you may get lucky and spot one roosting in a tree. Photo by Ron Huelse



Barred Owl

Short-Eared Owl State Endangered

Short-eared owls are medium-sized owls, with rounded heads and tiny “ears” — in reality, small tufts of feathers. The Short-eared owl is spotted brown with buff and white on its upper parts. Its face is pale with yellow eyes surrounded by black outlines. These owls live in grasslands and open spaces, perching on low trees or on the ground. During daylight, the Short-eared owl hunts by flying low over the grass to look for rodents. They’re most often spotted in winter, either sitting on the ground or flying low as they hunt for prey. They often fly in a crisscross or circular pattern, so if they disappear out of sight, don’t give up — they may reappear soon. Photo by Eric Williamson


Long-Eared Owl State Endangered

Long-eared owls are slender, medium-sized owls with long ear tufts that stick straight up and large yellow eyes. The coloring on its wings and body is a complex black, brown and buff pattern, and its facial disks are an orange or buff color. While Long-eared owls hunt

and forage in grassland or open spaces, they require dense shrubs for nesting and roosting. During winter, Long-eared owls roost in large groups, making them easier to spot. Look on the ground for gray, cylindrical owl pellets around the bases of dense pine trees — this may be a roosting site. Photo by Raymond Barlow, AKM Images


Northern Saw-Whet Owl


Snowy Owl


Burrowing Owl


Northern saw-whet owls are only eight inches tall, with large heads and catlike yellow eyes. Their feathers are mottled brown and white with white streaks on their head and a distinctive white “V” between their eyes. They live in dense forests, typically nesting in the cavities of cedars and other coniferous trees during the winter. Listen for their sharp, rhythmic “too-too-too” call on quiet nights in forests, or watch for songbirds — they will kick up a racket if they discover a roosting Sawwhet. Photo by Raymond Barlow, AKM Images


This owl is the heaviest North American owl with mostly bright white plumage and sporadic brown spots. Its head is rounded with no ear tufts, and it has dense feathering on its legs. Snowy owls breed in the arctic tundra, but occasionally visit Iowa in winter. If you’re extremely lucky, you might see one along lake shorelines, in agricultural fields or in open spaces. Photo by Raymond Barlow, AKM Images


This owl is small and long-legged with mottled brown and white feathers, yellow eyes and a yellow bill. The head is rounded with no ear tufts. A very rare nester in Iowa, Burrowing owls live in open spaces with sparse vegetation, hunting close to the ground for insects and small animals. They primarily nest in ground burrows made by badgers. Pay attention to burrow entrances in wide-open areas, where they will often stand when not hunting. These owls tend to be most active in early morning and late evening. Photo by Becky Matsubara

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Blueprint for connection

Mason City had a vision for a healthier, more connected community. A new trail could help achieve that goal. BY SAM A N T H A JON E S Communications intern |


or years, Mason City has been a community passionate about public health and outdoor recreation, providing opportunities for active transportation and green space to its residents. Now, they have a new project to be excited about — an eight-mile, partially elevated multi-use trail zipping through the heart of the city.

The Blueprint

In 2012, Mason City was one of ten cities in Iowa selected to participate in the Blue Zones Project, an initiative designed to help cities and towns implement healthy choices into the routine of its residents. As part of the initiative, cities were encouraged to make changes in their communities that influenced health and wellness. Immediately, Mason City knew it wanted to capitalize on the city’s already-flourishing biking community by creating a system that incorporated an active lifestyle into daily activities. They commissioned RDG Planning and Design, a Midwest-based company, to draw up plans for new bike routes and pedestrian spaces. “One thing that really impressed us about Mason City was the number of people outdoors on a given day,” said Cory Scott of RDG. “It’s full of people walking around; it’s part of the Running through the heart of Mason City, the future High Line Trail will serve as a connection to community attractions and natural areas. The route follows the abandoned Union Pacific rail line and features several elevated overpasses. Photo by Andrea Boulton, INHF


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Lime Creek Conservation Area and Nature Center

Mason City knew it wanted to capitalize on the city’s alreadyflourishing biking community by creating a system that incorporated an active lifestyle into daily activities.

Highland Park Golf Course

Macnider’s Woods Park

East Park



Lester Milligan Park Georgia Hanford Park

culture, the DNA of the city, and that’s not something you see every day.” As they drew up the plans, RDG took to the streets, covering Mason City on bikes to determine where and how people were navigating the city. They discovered that, while the city had several recreational trails, getting from one location to the next via active transit was challenging — many of the trails did not connect to points of interest around town. “We looked at where people were wanting to go, and then developed a network of routes to get people from where they live to where they want to go,” said Marty Shukert, principal of RDG. “We wanted a destination-based model, connecting neighborhoods to key parts of the city — schools, businesses and recreational areas.”

The High Line

During this time, another exciting possibility presented itself. Two discontinued railroad routes running through the center of the city had the potential to be transformed into a multi-use trail. Much like New York’s famous High Line trail, the discontinued corridor features elevated railways, including one bridge around 100 feet wide, that could become a popular recreation area. For years, Mason City leaders negotiated with the owners of the two rail companies to purchase the discontinued corridors. In 2016, the city reached out to INHF to help negotiate a purchase price and to assist in starting the federal process to buy the two corridors.

“A lot of times, these discontinued railroad corridors are the last areas in urban locations to find available green space,” says Andrea Boulton, INHF trails and greenways director. “Railroads often came before development, so these are some of the last places where we can find remnant prairie or wildlife habitat. Turning them into multi-use trails not only maintains the transportation use and enhances recreational opportunities, but also provides the city with a chance to reconstruct or steward the natural ecosystems there.” One day, the unused railroads will become an eight-mile trail stretching through the city — joining the bicycle wayfinding system, bike and pedestrian lanes and 10 new bike routes Mason City implemented as part of the Blue Zones project. These connections offer not only recreational space for residents, but also an opportunity to engage visitors in the Mason City community.

Future High Line Trail Existing trail network Mason City bike network Mason City city limits Public recreation land

Running the length of the city, the future High Line Trail in Mason City will create a north-south boulevard accessible by bike and walking. The new trail will connect into the existing bicycle infrastructure the city has spent years planning and building, and will connect through the Lime Creek Consevation Area on the north side of town. The High Line Trail is a rail-trail project and will be built along the former route of a Union Pacific railroad line. Map by INHF

“Trail use in Iowa continues to grow, and that can be a great opportunity to introduce people to a community,” Boulton says. “Having these multi-use trails provides free activities that are healthy and enjoyable, and it gives visitors a chance to see the community, explore the city and potentially realize they want to live there and invest in the community.” inhf.o r g


Ever-flowing Two of the state’s best trout streams flow through Ed Weimerskirk’s farm. With a ripe future, INHF is committed to honoring Ed’s wishes. BY KAT Y H E GG E N

Communications associate |


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ive miles west of Bellevue lies Ed Weimerskirk’s farm, 484 acres of woodland, pasture and working land. Winding through it is a pair of streams, a combined 2.1 miles of what has been called some of the best trout fishing in the region. “To have a property with two different trout streams on it, that’s kind of a big deal,” said INHF Blufflands Director Brian Fankhauser. “To have two trout streams of that high a quality? That’s pretty rare.” Per DNR Fisheries Bureau surveys, well over 900 brown trout per mile have been documented on both sister streams, each supporting its own self-sustaining population — an uncommon thing in a part of the state where regular restocking is common. Big Mill Creek is the larger of the two streams. Much of the waterway has been ditched for agricultural purposes over the years, severely impacting its quality. However, approximately two-and-a-half of the uppermost miles of the creek — including the 0.6-mile stretch that passes through the Weimerskirk farm — remains largely undisturbed and capable of supporting cold water species year-round. Spilling into Big Mill Creek is Storybrook Hollow Creek, the majority of which also meanders through the farm. “From what I’ve heard from other folks, that’s the one (Storybrook Hollow Creek) Eddie really liked,” said Fankhauser. “He was always proud of that stream, its spring and being able to have that natural reproduction of brown trout on his property.” The farm is also home to 180 acres of woodlands, 165 acres or working lands and 139 acres of pasture, as well as several other small springs and seeps. It’s situated near several other protected lands including the DNR-owned Big Mill Creek complex and two Ed Weimerskirk’s farm in Jackson County is an impressive mix of eastern Iowa landscapes, including two quality trout streams. INHF will own and manage the farm into the future. Photo by Brian Fankhauser, INHF

INHF-held conservation easements. Together, these properties provide over 1,600 acres of protected land in rural Jackson County.

Weimerskirk Farm Jackson County

A future of possibilities

For years, people who knew Ed or had heard about his land speculated about what would eventually become of it. The bachelor farmer was proud of his home and had spoken with several friends — including Iowa DNR and INHF staff — about his intentions for the property, but no one seemed to know for sure exactly how he would protect it. “We’d had ongoing conversations with Eddie over the years, but didn’t know for sure what he’d decided,” said Fankhauser. At the age of 91, Ed passed away. It was at this time that staff learned that Ed had left his land to INHF, and that it was his wish for INHF to own the land long-term, protecting the trout streams and managing the woodland for additional income to advance INHF’s conservation efforts. “As we begin to make decisions about the future of this place, our number one goal is to uphold Eddie’s wishes,” said Fankhauser. As Ed intended, INHF’s top priority will be protecting the farm’s incredible water resources. The woodland and working lands will also be stewarded in a way that aligns with Ed’s vision and INHF’s conservation values. “We’re excited to step into the next phase for Eddie’s farm,” said Fankhauser. “But we’re not going to rush into this. We’re going to take time to really evaluate what this land needs, where we can make the most impact ecologically and how to best honor Eddie’s wishes. That’s the way he wanted it.” Just as Ed’s land sustained him all those years, these waters, woodlands and working lands will continue to sustain not only this landscape and the life it supports, but other special places around Iowa. The effect will be ever-flowing — steady, clear and true.

LAND: 484 acres of woodland, pasture and working land SPECIAL FEATURES: Big Mill Creek and Storybrook Hollow Creek trout streams, springs and seeps, working woodland PARTNERS: Ed Weimerskirk, INHF

“We’re going to take time to really evaluate what this land needs, where we can make the most impact ecologically and how to best honor Eddie’s wishes.” - BRIAN FANKHAUSER, INHF BLUFFLANDS DIRECTOR inhf.o r g




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Sportspeople do more than hunt Iowa’s protected land. They’re also one of the leaders behind saving it. BY KAT Y H E GG E N

Communications associate |

red Long remembers getting his first pheasant like it was yesterday. “I was born and raised in Carroll County and grew up on a 400-acre farm we rented,” said Long, 69. “There was a big grove in the back full of rabbits and pheasants. I got started shooting rabbits in that grove, and somewhere around the age of 11 or 12, my uncle took me pheasant hunting. I’ve been hunting ever since.” Long’s story is not atypical. Uriah Hansen, who grew up in Hampton and now lives in Ankeny, and Jeff Vanderbeek, who did most of his growing up in and around Oskaloosa, have similar stories about how they got their start hunting with family and friends at a young age. It was through these experiences that each developed a deep and lasting love for Iowa’s outdoors and a desire to give back to the land. There are thousands of sportswomen-and-men like Long, Hansen and Vanderbeek in Iowa, each of them with their own connection to the land. Their collective voices, support and work is a driving force for conservation in the state, and without their contributions to wildlife habitat protection, improvement and restoration, Iowa would look very different.

Investing in the land

Though the relationship between hunters and the land extends well beyond the days of Teddy Roosevelt, Ding Darling and the early U.S. conservation movement, it was during this time that the connection between the two took on new meaning, most notably with the passage of several landmark pieces of legislation. Perhaps the most prolific was the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, known to most simply as PittmanRobertson. Created in response to the near-extinction of numerous

INHF has a long history wildlife species including whiteof partnering with sports tailed deer, wild turkeys and groups to protect wildlife wood ducks, Pittman-Robertson habitat. Sportspeople and recreationists significantly redirected a excise tax on the sale contribute to conservation of sporting arms and ammunition projects across the state. Photo by Ross Baxter, in the United States from the U.S. INHF Treasury to the Secretary of the Interior to be redistributed to the states for wildlife management and restoration. Funds are allocated based on a formula that takes into account the number of licensed hunters and the area of the state.

In Iowa, Pittman-Robertson funds are distributed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Funds are used for research, surveys and inventories, protection and improvement of wildlife habitat, introduction of wildlife and hunter education programs. Pittman-Robertson remains one of the most significant sources of funding for conservation across the country. A similar act, the Dingell-Johnson Act, which derives funds from excise taxes on fishing tackle, watercraft and a portion of motorboat fuel taxes, is also a significant supporter of wildlife and habitat protection. In Iowa, sportspeople also provide critical support for wildlife habitat through the purchase of licenses and the Iowa Wildlife Habitat Stamp. These funds are used to support wildlife-related research, education, management and protection. “Hunters and anglers are the No. 1 funders of conservation in Iowa,” said Iowa DNR Habitat Programs Coordinator Kelly Smith. “The majority of funds generated are used for projects and programs that benefit all kinds of conservation, not just game conservation. We prioritize protection that provides multiple benefits for water quality, wildlife habitat, hunting, angling and public access. The relationship between hunters, anglers and conservation is very reciprocal.” inhf.o r g


Uriah and Ashley Hansen pose with their dogs Willy, Mazi and Layla after a successful partridge hunt. Uriah is involved with the Northern Polk Pheasants Forever chapter, just one of the many sporting groups INHF has partnered with for land protection. Photo courtesy of Uriah Hansen

This sportspeople-supported funding provides a needed boon to the state’s natural resources. However, the need for additional funding far outpaces the available resources. The state has identified over $670 million in unmet, shovelready projects that are ready to go once funding is available. Over the last two decades, Iowa has lost more than 1.6 million acres of habitat suitable for pheasants and other small game. Less than 10 percent of the state’s wetlands remain and roughly half of Iowa’s waters fail to meet basic water quality standards. While the need is great, so too are the opportunities. In Iowa, outdoor recreation generates $8.7 billion in consumer spending, $2.7 billion in wages and salaries, supports 83,000 direct Iowa jobs and $649 million in state and local revenue tax. Many sportspeople have joined the chorus of Iowans calling upon the state’s elected leaders to increase funding and support for the state’s natural resources, like funding the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund and Iowa’s REAP program. And they’re leading by example.

Increasing access, leaving a legacy

While no two groups are exactly alike in their approach, many hunting and angling groups in Iowa — like Pheasants Forever (PF), Ducks Unlimited (DU), Whitetails Unlimited (WTU) and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) — place a strong emphasis on raising money, awareness and public support for land protection projects that expand access and improve wildlife habitat in Iowa. The effect is


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significant, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to projects across the state. Vanderbeek, Hansen and Long are all active members of their local PF chapters — a significant, long-time partner of INHF — and Vanderbeek sits on the Iowa Pheasants Forever State Council. While each has their own motivations for getting involved, all point to a need for more public land, quality habitat and a responsibility to ensure these resources are available for future generations. “There’s not a whole lot of public access anymore,” said Vanderbeek. “When I was growing up, I could go knock on any landowner’s door and get permission to go hunting. It’s not like that anymore. Over the years, public access has slipped away.” Not only does a lack of access impact where people can hunt, fish and explore, it influences who gets to experience these things, and how. “I grew up hunting public ground and continue to mainly hunt public ground,” said Hansen. “It’s what got me and countless others into the outdoors. We all have nieces, nephews, sons and daughters that we want to grow up having the opportunities to experience what we did.” Over the years, INHF has partnered with PF and other sporting groups on countless land protection projects across the state. This work is driven by a shared love of the land, an understanding and appreciation for the power of diverse partnerships, and unique opportunities that empower people to invest in local projects.

“Hunters and anglers are the No. 1 funders of conservation in Iowa. The relationship between hunters, anglers and conservation is very reciprocal.” - KELLY SMITH, IOWA DNR HABITAT PROGRAMS COORDINATOR

“Growing up, I never thought about where it (the public land) came from,” said Hansen. “You think it just magically appears. Through my experience with PF, I’ve seen all of the footwork — and the hundreds of thousands of dollars — that goes into it.” Increasingly, more groups are investing in efforts to advocate for programs, policies and funding to support habitat, adding depth to the call for increased funding for conservation in Iowa. “I started going down to the Statehouse just to talk to my senators and representatives and it grew from there,” said Long, who serves as the president of the Iowa Conservation Alliance, on the state board of the NWTF, and as a member of PF, DU and WTU. “The anti-public land sentiment amazed me. They (policymakers) have so much power, I felt like they needed to hear our voice.” “If every sportsman and woman out there would stand up and voice their opinions, the landscape of Iowa would be completely different,” agreed Vanderbeek. “Public access is economic development. If there’s good public land and quality habitat, people will travel to those areas and spend money.” Regardless of where or how each group focuses its efforts, it’s undeniable that many projects simply wouldn’t be possible without the support of these diverse partnerships. “Without the contributions of the hunting and angling community, I doubt that we would have protected many of the acres we have,” said INHF Land Projects Director Ross Baxter. “We’re so grateful to have their support — not only in Iowa, but nation-wide.”

Common ground

We all have our own stories about how, when and where we fell in love with Iowa’s outdoors. Maybe it was after hours spent behind a duck blind, up in a tree stand or out on the water. On a walk through the woods, a paddle downriver or a bike ride on the trail.


PROT E CT ION INHF has partnered with sports groups to expand, protect and restore acres for habitat, hunting and angling across Iowa. Here are a few projects that are open to the public:

ROBERTS WILDIFE AREA Buchanan Co. 110 acres of woodland and grassland along the Wapsipinicon River, one of Iowa’s five Protected Water Areas, along the Buchanan and Black Hawk County line. The property is part of a complex of nearly 1,500 acres of public land and wildlife habitat along the river. Sporting Partners: Buchanan County Wildlife Association, Iowa Whitetails Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, Tri-County Waterfowlers, Pheasants Forever (PF) State Council and PF chapters from Buchanan, Black Hawk, Linn, Clayton and Delaware counties.

NORTH RACCOON WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA Greene Co. 135 acres of riparian woodland, tree plantings and swamp white oak timber along the North Raccoon River. The property lies adjacent to another INHF-protected complex of public land now owned and managed by DNR. Both properties increase protected land along the river corridor and provide quality habitat for riverine species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Sporting Partners: National Wild Turkey Federation

FEN VALLEY ADDITION Clay Co. 235 acres of pasture, high quality remnant and restored prairie and oak savanna southeast of Spencer. One mile of Elk Creek, a tributary of the Little Sioux River, runs through the property. This land lies adjacent to Fen Valley Wildlife Management Area, expanding the complex of protected public land in the area. Sporting Partners: Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever – Clay Co. Chapter

But in the end, what matters is not why we love the land, but how that love drives us to protect, restore, explore and share it with others. “You think, ‘This is ground that’s going to be here when I’m gone,’” said Vanderbeek. “‘Not just for my kids, but for everyone’s kids, it’s there for the entire state of Iowa. And I’ve been part of making sure they can experience that.’” inhf.o r g



Paule conservation easement Madison County

BY SAM A N T H A JON E S Communications intern |


hen John and Shari Paule purchased 40 acres southwest of Cumming in 2007, it wasn’t much to look at. Littered with rusting farm equipment, the rolling hillsides snarled with multiflora rose, the property seemed more like a lost cause than a future prairie and savanna restoration site. “It was just engulfed in invasives,” John remembers. “The barn was a mess, the land was a mess, the for sale sign had fallen down in the ditch. But above the ridge, you could see the crowns of the bur oaks—and I just knew there was something there.” At the time, John and Shari were relatively new to woodland management, developing a deep interest in it after John took a master woodland managers class at Iowa State University. As they began restoring the pasture land to oak savanna, prairie and wetland, they invited friends, including INHF President Joe McGovern, to look over the property and provide guidance in their next steps. “I remember Joe telling us that it was the biggest 40 acres he’d ever seen,” Shari said, remembering the praise and excitement their farm received each time someone visited. “It contained a meadow, savanna, prairie and


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wetland all within that space. You don’t find that kind of diversity on 40 acres anywhere!” One area of the Paule property that drew high praise from conservationists and land management experts was the sedge meadow — a rare wetland ecosystem in Iowa made up of grass-like plants that have sharp, triangular stems. Due to water pollution and sedimentation, sedge meadows degrade quickly, making the diversity and high quality of John and Shari’s sedge meadow unparalleled. “Sedge meadows can be rare because tiling and drainage have converted most of them to agricultural land,” said Dr. Thomas Rosburg, a biology professor at Drake University who surveyed the property in 2012. “The Paules’ sedge meadow seems to be relatively intact and although nonnative reed canary grass did invade and cause degradation, it has not been able to displace native species.” For many years, John and Shari worked hard at managing the land, but their efforts weren’t always rewarded with immediate success — after trying to restore

LAND: 92 acres just south of Cumming SPECIAL FEATURES: Restored prairie, oak savanna and woodland, sedge meadow PARTNERS: Shari and John Paule, INHF

Found on Shari and John Paule’s land is a sedge meadow, a rare wetland ecosystem found in Iowa made up of grass-like plants that have triangular stems. Photo by Marc Brault, INHF

the remnant prairie and seeing dismal results, they were advised to start afresh. But over the years as fewer invasives reappeared and were replaced with a diverse population of native species, the Paules say their work has more than paid off. Since purchasing the original 40 acres, the Paules have added surrounding land for protection. “There’s just a different feel to it,” Shari said. “On the ridge, there’s this sense that you’re looking out over everything around you, like it’s this whole other place. You see the sky change, you see the storms rolling in. And when you look at what it was, compared to

“On the ridge, there’s this sense that you’re looking out over everything around you, like it’s this whole other place. When you look at what it was, compared to where it is now, there’s this immense feeling of satisfaction.” - SHARI PAULE

where it is now, there’s this immense feeling of satisfaction.” In 2017, John and Shari chose to donate a conservation easement on 92 acres to INHF, protecting it from being developed or converted from its natural state. The easement also protects the water quality of the nearby North River and builds into a complex of protected land in the Emergency Wetland Reserve Program, providing significant wildlife habitat. “After years of working so hard on it, we knew we didn’t want to see all of that undone,” says John. “Our kids don’t live here; if they choose to sell it at some point, this way we know the future landowners will be people who care about the land and will continue what we’ve started.”

John and Shari Paule signed a conservation easement on their land in Madison County this summer, protecting the 92 acres they’ve worked years to restore. The property is home to a wide variety of classic Iowa landscapes, like prairie, oak savanna, wetland and a sedge meadow. Photo by Joe Jayjack, INHF

“The generosity of John and Shari is something that protects more than just their property,” said Erin Van Waus, INHF conservation easement director. “We’re protecting corridors, and private landowners are a big part of helping us move the needle towards better water quality, habitat, stewardship and overall conservation benefit through their easements.” inhf.o r g



BIG SPIRIT BY ANI TA O’GA R A Vice president |


owa’s largest natural lake is getting some much-needed protection — and a key site near its shore is becoming a new home for wildlife and community interest.

Lake. INHF will own the land long-term, but the protection wouldn’t be possible without the neighbors and families of the soon-to-be Wallace & Bowers nature area.

Water that flows into Big Spirit Lake is just beginning a long journey through the Iowa Great Lakes system. It flows into East Okoboji and West Okoboji, through smaller lakes and ultimately into the Little Sioux River. What happens to Big Spirit affects many waters that Iowans treasure.

“When we sold Mom’s property after her death, Bert suggested we look for something important to do in memory of her and Dad,” Mendenhall said. “Conservation land seemed like the right thing for all of us. Bert and Abby insisted it should be land in Dickinson County. This project seemed especially right — perfect, actually.”

A year ago, two Iowa families with deep roots in the area each independently asked INHF how they might protect land at the Lakes. Jeff and Elizabeth Wallace and the children of Clifford and Sheila Bowers (Barbara Mendenhall, Bert Bowers and Abby Adams) all wanted to make an impact. At the same time, leaders of the Shore Acres neighborhood asked how INHF might help conserve land adjoining their 66 homes on the north shore of Big Spirit Lake — and improve the water that runs past their homes into the lake. This summer, the pieces fell into place for INHF to help turn both visions into reality. Thanks to the support of the two families, INHF was able to purchase 160 acres just off the north shore of Big Spirit


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The Bowers tribute gift came through a special fund at The Nature Conservancy in Iowa. Similarly, Jeff and Elizabeth Wallace, introduced to INHF by board member Bob Jester, were looking for a project that would help preserve the water quality in the Lakes area. “We’re both conservation-minded, at home in California and here at the Lakes,” Jeff said. “We want to help preserve and protect the natural resources and beauty of the Lakes.” “We couldn’t be more grateful to the donors whose amazing generosity puts us in a position to restore and care for this land long into the future,” INHF President Joe McGovern said. “We’re also grateful to the John McDonald

Land on the north shore of Big Spirit Lake will be owned and restored by INHF. Initial restoration will begin this fall and will focus on improving the water quality of the water that passes through the property. Future restoration plans are in the works. Photo by Emily Martin, INHF

Trust, which owned the property, for deciding to sell their long-time family land for conservation.” INHF staff has begun to gather background and ideas from neighbors, community leaders, agriculture innovators, educators and conservation peers about this site and its potential. Initial restoration plans are in the works and are beginning to be implemented as early as this fall. INHF hopes to see the preserve become a hub for research, experimentation and community involvement. “Our primary focus is to reduce the amount of soil and nutrients entering the lake, but we’re hoping to do much more than that,” said McGovern. “We hope it will be a place for learning, experiences and innovation that will serve generations of Iowans. We’re intent on making decisions and future plans for this land that benefit conservation, wildlife and the community.” Gifts to the Big Spirit Lake project will support restoration and permanent protection at this site. Contact Abby Hade Terpstra at or 515-288-1846 to learn more or to pledge support.

INHF’s initial goals for restoration at the Big Spirit Lake property will begin this fall. The first restoration plans focus on reducing water flow, soil loss and nutrient runoff into Big Spirit Lake.



Iowa Lakeside Laboratory (ILL) will study the Wallace & Bowers nature area over time — and see the impact the area’s restoration has on health of the land and lake. ILL is a state-owned campus studying Iowa’s natural health and providing research opportunities for university students. Students and professors will monitor how the soil and water improve as changes are made at the area over time. INHF is very excited to provide a permanent place for long-term study. What’s learned here can be widely shared, helping Iowans make better strategic decisions for improving Iowa’s land, water and wildlife.

McClelland Beach WMA

Wetland restoration will take place in the northwest corner of the property, where flooding is a continuing issue (see photo above). On the southern border of the property, a native prairie buffer will be planted using locally sourced, diverse prairie seed. Next to the prairie, alfalfa buffers will help with soil and water retention after rain events. Not shown on the map, cover crops were planted this fall and the crop ground will transition to no-till management. Map By INHF

Trickle Slough WMA


Wallace & Bowers natural area Wetland reconstruction Native prairie buffer Alfalfa buffer Public recreation land inhf.o r g





A simple stamp to help habitat protection

A simple sentence

In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, a bill requiring that all waterfowl hunters over the age of 16 must buy an annual Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp — or, as it’s commonly known today, a Duck Stamp.

Robert Eller of Cedar Falls was a traveler, a career-long A/V instructor at the University of Northern Iowa and a member of Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for fifteen years. When he passed away in February of 2016, he remembered INHF with a simple, straightforward bequest in his will: a cash donation for “land acquisition purposes for a worthy heritage project.”

But hunters aren’t the only ones who can purchase the stamp, and its many wildlife-supporting benefits make it an easy way to aid in wildlife protection all over the country. Each year, one artist’s work is featured on the Duck Stamp, depicting a specific waterfowl. The first Duck Stamp was designed by Iowa’s famous illustrator Ding Darling, whose commitment to environmental issues was a major catalyst for national conservation and wildlife protection efforts. Ninety-eight percent of the sales of Duck Stamps go toward the Migratory Bird Stamp fund, which is used by both the Department of the Interior and individual states to purchase and lease wildlife and wetland habitat. Since its creation in 1934, Duck Stamp revenue has contributed over $800 million to the Stamp fund, protecting over 5.7 million acres of wildlife habitat. Duck Stamps can be purchased at many local post offices, at national wildlife refuges and many sporting goods stores, as well as online.

Mr. Eller’s interest in experiences abroad were balanced with a dedication to home. His bequest found a resting place at Heritage Valley, 1,200 stunning acres along the Upper Iowa River in Allamakee County that INHF intends to own and manage forever. A simple sentence has made possible the protection of a complex masterpiece of nature. We think Mr. Eller would be pleased to know that he helped protect a place that is a destination itself, welcoming paddlers to Iowa’s wild, scenic beauty. — A BBY HA DE TERPSTRA, Donor relations director

Annual Duck Stamps are a simple way to support wildlife habitat conservation. Since 1934, funds from stamp sales have helped protect 5.7 million acres of habitat across the US. Photos courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Leave a legacy of clean water, healthy soil and beautiful outdoor places for future generations. To see how including INHF in your will or trust can help make your vision for Iowa a reality, contact Anita O’Gara at or 515-288-1846.

TRIBUTE GI F TS IN MEMORY OF Gabe Blaskovich Jim Cavanaugh Molly Claypool Harry Dahl III Paul Davis Marcia N. Even Don Feeney Wade Franck Norman Johnson


Iowa Natural Heritage

Dallas Landt Joseph F. McGovern Ronald D. McGrew Mary Naeve Dorothy Porter Vance Bob Ray Kermit Robertson Isabelle & Earl Salterberg Gilbert Sanders Kent Sheeley

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Lois Slye Raymond Smith Lyle Taiber Paul “The Dude” Whipple Richard Winter

IN HONOR OF Mark Ackelson Blufflands Stewardship Interns 2018 Abby Bowers Jane Emge Alan Fredregill Loretta and Stephen Hanson 50th Wedding

Jan Lovell Miranda Meek Dave Moeller’s 75th Birthday Donald Neff and Amy Cox Janet Sutherland Travis Young


Find more Iowa places to explore at


Lost and found

BY SA M A N T H A J O N E S Communications intern |


s the humid air of late summer fades into cool autumn breezes, Iowa’s landscapes are ripe with opportunities for exploration. This season, fine-tune your outdoor skills by learning to navigate using natural clues and special tools in your surroundings. Iowa landscapes are full of hints that can point you in the right direction. Trees and plants tend to grow in the direction of the most sunlight, sprouting more branches and leaves on the south-facing side. Moss can also be an indicator of direction, as it likes to grow on the shady north side of surfaces. Just be careful to assess the situation — moss will always grow in moist areas, regardless of cardinal direction, so look for it growing on dry, vertical surfaces a few feet off the ground when navigating. Compasses and topographical maps are also useful tools in navigating. Take a bearing by marking your location and intended destination. Then, align the straight edge of your compass between the two points and turn the bezel housing until the north marker

matches due north on the map. As you walk, keep the needle of the compass within the marker (red in the shed) and do not turn the bezel—this will guide you in the direction of your destination. Want to put your navigating skills to the test? Public orienteering courses such as the Ashton Wildwood County Park in Jasper County consist of a start, a series of control sites and a finish. Orienteers must visit each of the control sites in a specified order using a detailed map of the course and a compass. The Iowa DNR and REI also frequently provide navigation classes to fine-tune your outdoor skills and dig deeper into the art of orienteering.


Remember: Always be safe when heading out into the wild. Let someone know where you’re headed and your approximate timeline. If you’re new to navigating Iowa’s wild places, go with someone more experienced or start small, making sure you’re familiar with compass and map reading.

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505 5th Ave., Suite 444 Des Moines, IA 50309



What would Iowa look like without funding for outdoor recreation? If it weren’t for programs like Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) and State Recreational Trails (SRT), one of Iowa’s most iconic outdoor attractions would be nothing more than 22 concrete pillars in the Des Moines River valley. These programs are vital to making projects like the High Trestle Trail happen, but they have been severely under-funded in recent years. This fall, ask candidates and elected officials if they value outdoor recreation. Ask them to fund the programs that make it possible.