Gaining Momentum

Gaining Momentum

What drives a project forward? Is it the idea to create a project? Is it the motivation behind the project itself? Is it one person who acts as a project champion? Is it a group of people led by a dynamic individual? ...or something else? The driving force behind a project can vary depending on many factors. The goal of the Outdoor Learning Environments program at Prairie Rivers of Iowa is to bring those factors together and to support communities in developing an appreciation for the outdoors and community by creating or enhancing an outdoor learning space together. Expectations were unknown in originally creating and launching the Pilot Outdoor Learning Environment Grant Program in partnership with the Living Roadway Trust Fund. The first applicant inquiry came from Kate Zimmerman who is the Executive Director (and only full-time employee) of Ringgold County Conservation. She is also the only applicant to make it to the implementation phase in the first year of the grant...
Read More
Outdoor Learning Environments: Workshop Opportunities!

Outdoor Learning Environments: Workshop Opportunities!

Here are a few opportunities available to meet and learn about Outdoor Learning Environments November 18, 2017 10AM-12PM at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge 9981 Pacific St, Prairie City, IA 50228 Come and learn about Outdoor Learning Environments and how to get projects started in your community. There will also be a presentation from Patrick Bryant, People for Pollinators Coordinator at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge about prairie seed identification and cleaning. This workshop is kicking off a "DIY Prairie Garden Series" at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge that will take place on the second Saturday each month through July 2018. Make sure to come dressed prepared for the weather and being outdoors! Register for this event by emailing Annie Fangman at afangman@prrcd.org. Other Questions? Contact Patrick Bryant at patrick_bryant@fws.gov or 515-994-3402   November 30, 2017 1-3PM at the Dragoon Trace Nature Center Poe Hollow Park 2434 State Hwy 2 Mount Ayr, Iowa 50854 Join us at this workshop to experience the brand new Dragoon Trace Nature Center...
Read More
Inspiration from Master River Stewards

Inspiration from Master River Stewards

Prairie Rivers of Iowa in partnership with Story County Conservation had the opportunity to host a wonderful group of river stewards through an 8-week course focusing on the whole river ecosystem. Session 1: Introduction/Watersheds The first week we began by getting to know each other and hearing from each group member on what inspired them to join the class and how they like to interact with rivers. We heard a lot of stories of frequent paddlers, wading, and general river exploration from youth to current times. We quickly realized we had a very professionally diverse group that all had a similarity of being passionate about river life and water quality. Our first speaker was one of the program founders, Jim Pease.  He gave an inspiring introduction to the course. This was followed by Prairie Rivers of Iowa's Watershed Educator, Dan Haug. Dan presented on the basics of watershed concepts and led an activity on how to delineate a watershed. Upon completion of the activity we went...
Read More
Bringing People Together Can Be a Dirty Job

Bringing People Together Can Be a Dirty Job

  If you haven’t heard of Project AWARE, it’s time to listen up. For the past fifteen years, the Iowa DNR has successfully implemented a week-long river trash cleanup that most would consider too much of a logistical nightmare to even attempt. This past week however, marked Project AWARE’s (A Water Awareness River Expedition) fifteenth birthday. From July 10th to the 14th, over 500 people from all over the country, came together to paddle over 55 miles on the Cedar River, picking up literally tons of trash along the way. On just my two years having participated in AWARE, I’ve witnessed the group effort of digging out a speedboat from a sandbar, countless tires removed from the river bottom, and been up to my knees in river muck just to grab a single can or piece of plastic from the shoreline. It’s a dirty job, and although I’d like to say that someone has to do it, that’s just not true. People...
Read More
Benefits of Prairie Roots in the Iowa Landscape

Benefits of Prairie Roots in the Iowa Landscape

Prairie Rivers of Iowa is now the proud owner of a prairie root display, grown by the University of Northern Iowa Tall Grass Prairie Center. The display boasts five foot tall Big Bluestem and Butterfly Milkweed roots. These examples of fibrous and tap prairie roots will help PRI staff engage the public in conversations about the importance of prairie roots in the Iowa landscape. The massive root systems of prairie plants hold soil in place, increase infiltration, and trap pollutants while building rich, absorbent, flood-resilient soil. Prairies are also an essential part of Iowa’s native wildlife habitat and ecosystem both above and below ground. Diverse communities of organisms are found in the extensive root systems. These communities may include ground squirrels, many types of fungi, invertebrates such as earthworms, and also symbiotic bacteria. Above ground, the ecosystem is ideal for an array of birds, mammals, and pollinators. Come see our prairie root display in action! Prairie Rivers of Iowa will be at...
Read More
Prairies… They aren’t weeds!

Prairies… They aren’t weeds!

  All too often when referencing a prairie or natural area, the comment, "That's just a bunch of weeds" is inevitable. To be fair, a lot of natural areas, roadsides. and prairie plantings are plagued by invasive and typically non-native species that are weeds. Including wild parsnip, giant ragweed, amaranth, button weed, certain thistles, reed canary grass, and many more. However, a diverse and established prairie would not feature these common weedy species. The main problem is that the native Iowa Prairies which once covered around 99% of the landscape have been disturbed by many land-use changes over the years. The types of plants that do best in disturbed landscapes are generally weedy species that easily colonize and take over areas. The difficultly lies in re-establishing these native prairie roots and plants in order to create the productive habitat that once existed and provides the base of Iowa's native ecosystem that supports wildlife, healthy soil, and clean water. Native prairie plants include species...
Read More
Outdoor Learning Environments Advisory Board

Outdoor Learning Environments Advisory Board

We have put together and Advisory Board to support the Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE) Program. The group includes a good mix of professionals from different backgrounds and from across the state. They are meant to help inform the decision-making for the program and advise on best management for outdoor learning environments. As a way to meet the board members we will highlight a few of them each quarter for the OLE Newsletter. This month we will highlight Nan Bonfils, Education Coordinator at the Iowa Arboretum and Bambi Yost, a Landscape Architecture Professor at Iowa State University. “I must have missed something,” my mother used to tease. “Were you born under a tree?” She was alluding to a delight in all things outdoors that accompanied my childhood and adolescence. It exploded with my independence. I went directly from grad school to backpacking the southern half of the Appalachian Trail. Mother nature sustained me across three decades of teaching and sharing my passion for her with youngsters...
Read More
Outdoor Learning Environments Resource Guide

Outdoor Learning Environments Resource Guide

Spring has sprung, and so has the Outdoor Learning Environment Program here at Prairie Rivers of Iowa! We have a lot of 'buzz' going about outdoor learning environments and several groups in progress in developing plans for their spaces. (Yes, pollinators including native bees will love your outdoor learning environment! BUZZZZ...) We are offering our three-phase grant program in partnership with the Living Roadway Trust Fund. The three phase process helps groups in putting their community of supporters together for the project and then leaping into the planning and design. This allows for plenty of planning and organization time before implementation. We have identified that a proper planning and design process is crucial to long-term success for these projects. We now have a handy resource guide that shows the steps of the grant process and has a good list of other resources with links to other programs and groups. Click on the link below to view and/or download the resource guide. You can click...
Read More
Master River Steward Program Starting May 2017

Master River Steward Program Starting May 2017

    Have you been wanting to know more about rivers including wildlife, water quality, and stream bank restoration? We are offering the perfect course to do so this Spring! We are coordinating a Master River Steward Program in collaboration with Story County Conservation. The program includes 8 in-depth and hands-on learning sessions led by local experts over the course of several weeks. This program is meant to be an adult-education course for people of various backgrounds to gain a better understanding of river and water related issues. At the first session, you will receive a textbook and a flash drive containing all the course readings. Upon completion of all 8 sessions, and a group volunteer project of your choice, you will receive a certificate of completion and Master River Steward patch!      ...
Read More

Soil Models at ISU Sustainability Day

On October 20th, the ISU Live Green club hosted the annual Sustainability Day on ISU campus that was attended by over 600 students. We decided it was a great opportunity to use our new soil models to teach people about conservation practices and how they affect soil and water quality. The soil samples were taken from 3 different fields. The one representing cover crops was taken from a field that is on a rotation of corn/soybeans and planted with an alfalfa cover crop during the off-season. The model is planted with a cover crop mixture from Lacrosse Seeds. It was seeded in September. It is amazing to see the root growth that has happened in a short amount of time. The saturated buffer model soil was taken from a prairie area. It was planted with a little bluestem plant which has started putting out new roots. The corn/soybean soil model was taken from a field that has been farmed with corn...
Read More
12