Ames Pollinator-Friendly Practices Pilot Project Completed

Ames Pollinator-Friendly Practices Pilot Project Completed

How can homeowners in Ames be encouraged to increase pollinator-friendly practices in their yards? That was the question addressed by former Prairie Rivers of Iowa Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Coordinator Shellie Orngard in a recently completed pilot project using Community Based Social Marketing strategies. Now that the pilot is completed, the project will move forward in 2023 to explore ways to apply what was learned to increase pollinator habitat along Iowa’s Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway.

Community Based Social Marketing was developed by Canadian psychology professor Doug McKenzie-Moher, author of Fostering Sustainable Behavior. It is used in developing and implementing community programs that make use of scientific knowledge of human behavior in effecting change. Community programs such as composting and conserving water and energy have used it to increase participation.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 70 to 80 percent of Iowa was once covered by prairie, producing rich agricultural soil and a lush environment for pollinators. Now, with 90 percent of Iowa’s land in agricultural production, less than one percent of Iowa’s prairie remains, simultaneously reducing pollinator habitat. “Doing this project I learned strategies to encourage pollinator-friendly practices that can be employed along Iowa’s byways,” says Orngard. “We are now exploring applying these strategies to make the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway a pollinator-friendly byway from the Mississippi to the Missouri Rivers. Some of Iowa’s other 13 byways have also expressed interest.”

Visitors to Jennett Heritage Area prairie near Nevada Iowa during Prairie Rivers Bees and Berries Family Adventure Day
Urban Pollinator Garden

While a number of groups (including Prairie Rivers) have focused on encouraging farmers, other large landowners, and local governments to improve pollinator habitat, this project will also include urban areas, businesses, and homeowners.

An initial survey was conducted to determine the perceived barriers and benefits of creating a pollinator garden. The results show that homeowners can face some big barriers such as knowing what types of plants to grow that provide diverse and useful habitat during all seasons. Additionally, by implementing pollinator-friendly practices, homeowners may, in some cases, go against societal norms of having a yard consisting primarily of well-groomed turf.

This project focused on strategies to encourage a paradigm shift in what landowners consider desirable, resulting in such practices as reducing pesticide and herbicide use, letting grass grow longer before mowing, and leaving leaves for overwintering insects.

To encourage year-round pollinator-friendly practices, Orngard worked with Xerces Society Farm Bill Pollinator Conservation Planner/NRCS Partner Biologist Sarah Nizzi to create The Pollinator Friendly Yard: A Seasonal Guide informational flyer. Homeowners were asked to commit to increasing their pollinator-friendly practices according to their comfort level.

As a final strategy, Orngard worked with local artist Naomi Friend to create a charming yard sign homeowners can use to educate passersby about why some leaves are being left to provide habitat for overwintering insects.

Pollinator Garden Sign

Pollinator-friendly yard signs are available by contacting our office.

Orngard summarizes the pilot project as a success that will guide Prairie Rivers Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway and Watersheds and Wildlife programs, local community partners, homeowners, other byways, and communities throughout Iowa as they move forward with education and on-the-ground practices geared towards improving the environment for pollinators in our state.

This project was made possible in part by Resource Enhancement and Protection Conservation Education Program (REAP-CEP) funding along with coaching support from the E Resources Group’s Dr. Jean Eells, a frequent Prairie Rivers of Iowa collaborator, and Rebecca Christoffel. The REAP-CEP funding also allowed Orngard to attend an online workshop by Doug McKenzie-Moher on Community-Based Social Marketing and Resiliency and Adaptation to Climate Change and the Iowa Conservation Education Coalition Winter Workshop.

Shellie Orngard also contributed to the content of this article.

Meet Our New Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Coordinator

Meet Our New Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Coordinator

On the surface Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s new Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway (LHNHB) Coordinator Jonathan Sherwood radiates a friendly, yet quiet demeanor. Already it has become apparent he knows how to bring people together as a great listener with empathy and thoughtfulness. Despite his calm exterior, digging deeper, we have quickly learned he has a deep passion for historic preservation and community development.

Something else everyone should know about Sherwood is that he was born for his new role being from, and now once again living in, the Lincoln Highway community of Nevada, Iowa. Some of his earliest memories include enjoying spirited parades during Lincoln Highway Days. “Nothing compares to the quality of life in Central Iowa and growing up one house off the Lincoln Highway,” he relates.

In his new role, Sherwood is taking on the often gargantuan task of bringing together governments, businesses, civic organizations, tourism officials, history buffs and transportation enthusiasts together as Prairie Rivers continues a new chapter of Byway management. According to Prairie Rivers of Iowa Executive Director Penny Brown Huber, “Jonathan is an excellent listener which is a skill that helps when reaching out to so many different community leaders.”

As byway coordinator, Sherwood’s duties will encompass working across the 13 Iowa counties and 43 towns that stretch along the Lincoln Highway in Iowa, river to river, east to west from Clinton on the Mississippi to Council Bluffs on the Missouri.

Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Coordinator Jonathan Sherwood

Prairie Rivers of Iowa LHNHB Coordinator Jonathan Sherwood during a recent visit to the historic Reed Niland Corner at the intersection of the Lincoln and Jefferson Highways.

He is committed to restoring, protecting and preserving the cultural and natural resources in Iowa. “This work provides the opportunity for me to work on some of the things I’m most passionate about, people, transportation, and the environment,” says Sherwood.

According to Huber, some of the reasons Sherwood was hired for the position include his degree in community and regional planning from Iowa State University and his previous work experience in transportation and rural communities with an emphasis on geographic information systems (GIS). “His time working with communities to utilize trails for economic development activities made him an excellent fit to be the LHNHB Coordinator,” states Huber.

Sherwood is a member of the Institute of Certified Planners (ACIP) and is currently pursuing a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) degree at ISU. He is replacing Shellie Orngard as the new LHNHB Coordinator who is now focused on Prairie Rivers special projects including an evaluation of properties along the Lincoln Highway that are on, or should be, on the National Register of Historic Places. To contact Sherwood email him at

In his spare time, Sherwood enjoys gardening and traveling to Iowa’s state parks. Be sure to keep an eye out for him along the Byway!

Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway in Iowa

The Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway is Iowa’s longest and most historic byway, traveling through more than 460 miles of history, recreation, and welcoming Iowa communities.

Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s LHNHB program is a community-driven statewide historical effort to preserve the story of the places and people of the byway. We are committed to the conservation, preservation, and responsible use of all of the byway’s natural, historical, cultural, and community resources while building upon local assets strengthening and sharing its economic vitality. 

Please join us and thousands of other travelers along the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway – Iowa’s section of America’s original Main Street. 

PRI Iowa Water Quality Specialist Awarded as a New Voice in Water Quality

PRI Iowa Water Quality Specialist Awarded as a New Voice in Water Quality

The Conservation Learning Group, a think tank based at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has announced the 2022 winners of its New Voices in Water Quality Awards. Prairie Rivers of Iowa Water Quality Specialist Dan Haug is one of 15 Iowans being awarded. Haug was recognized for his excellence in youth and/or community water education.

In a recent Conservation Learning Group release, its director Jacqueline Comito said, “Each of these individuals was nominated by peers and recognized for their efforts, achievements and passion for improving and restoring water quality.”

The Outdoor Alliance of Story County (OASC) has worked with Prairie Rivers of Iowa, and particularly Haug, on a number of projects. In their nomination letter, the board cited Haug for his expertise at analysis and reporting, his role as an outstanding communicator and his leadership during water quality monitoring and creek cleanup events. “We recall a cold April morning when Dan trained volunteers on identifying macroinvertebrates from Ioway Creek. His enthusiasm was infectious, and the volunteers had fun collecting and examining the samples despite the very cold water,” the OASC further states in the letter.

Volunteers Searching for Macroinvertebrates

Volunteers searching for macroinvertebrates.

Water Quality Monitoring Instruction

Haug teaching water quality testing.

Iowa State University (retired) Teaching Assistant Professor of Agronomy Laura Merrick said of Haug, “Dan has been my closest collaborator starting in 2017 on a variety of citizen-science and community-based water quality monitoring and watershed-centered coalition-building initiatives. He has grown to serve in a central guidance role to transform the nature of community collaboration for monitoring and sustainable improvement of our regional water quality in surface rivers and streams and to promote youth and community water education.

Among Haug’s many accomplishments, starting in the spring of 2020 he was instrumental in assembling in Story County a 24-member planning team that developed a 10-year water monitoring plan with Haug as its primary author. He then subsequently authored its first annual report.

“As nice as it is to be recognized by the Conservation Learning Group as part of this dedicated group of water professionals, it was even more gratifying to know that nine friends and colleagues in seven different organizations sent nomination letters on my behalf.  It really speaks to the level of collaboration we have around water monitoring and watershed projects,” Haug modestly relates.

According to Prairie Rivers of Iowa Director Penny Brown Huber, “Trying to solve critical water quality problems takes dedicated people to understand what is happening. Dan is a key link to helping the public build their understanding so change can happen to improve water quality.”

To meet all the New Voices in Water Quality Award winners visit

Water quality Education at City of Ames Open House

Water quality demonstration at water plant open house.

Dan Haug During Ioway Creek Cleanup

Haug helping with Ioway Creek cleanup.

Watershed Education at Eco Fair

Watershed education at Ames Eco Fair.

Prairie Rivers of Iowa Participating in Iowa Gives Green – A Day of Giving

Prairie Rivers of Iowa Participating in Iowa Gives Green – A Day of Giving

This article was produced in conjunction with the Iowa Environmental Council

The natural beauty of Iowa is a gift to behold. We have a picturesque landscape like no other. We have incredible soils. We’ve had a stable climate. We’ve had diverse flora and fauna in the tallgrass prairie. The Iowa of today may look different than it did 200 years ago, but our state remains a beauteous marvel that deserves to be celebrated.

Too often in Iowa, we’ve put productivity ahead of beauty. We’ve put efficiency ahead of diversity. On August 3 nearly 30 environmental organizations across the state, including Prairie Rivers of Iowa and the Iowa Environmental Council will participate in Iowa Gives Green, a day of giving that shows Iowans’ commitment to our environmental promise.

PRI board member and founder Erv Klaas teaching Iowa youth water quality testing

Prairie Rivers of Iowa board member and founder Erv Klaas working with youth to teach water quality monitoring as part of our efforts to address water quality issues in the state. 

This environmentally-focused day of giving empowers diverse groups to work together to support conservation, preservation, and recreation, and to engage Iowans on the same day with intentional action to support those efforts.

Gifts to Prairie Rivers Iowa and other organizations participating in Iowa Gives Green clean and protect Iowa’s waterways.  During Iowa Gives Green and throughout the month of August a gift to Prairie Rivers will have twice the impact due to a matching gift by one of its founders and well-known and respected champion for the environment ISU Professor Emeritus of Animal Ecology Erv Klaas.

Ag leadership has been touting the same ‘solutions’ for Iowa water quality, without results to show for it. Our environmental and conservation groups have ideas to bring to the table. Your support will help these groups implement new ideas and practices to deliver real results.

  • protect and invest in habitat and landscapes. Iowa is one of the most changed landscapes on the planet. By supporting the efforts of groups that are preserving and rebuilding ecosystems through land management and conservancy helps, you can help to build rural economies and critical pollinator and wildlife habitat.
  • provide recreation and education opportunities. Iowa offers incredible recreation opportunities, but our state ranks one of the lowest in the nation for public land. Your support can help these organizations to expand and improve our recreational spaces.
  • take action on climate. Extreme weather events in Iowa are no longer the exception, they are the norm — hotter summers, intense but erratic rain events, or the December 2021 tornadoes. We need to address climate change together, now. With your support, organizations across Iowa can implement their plans and help you to get involved.
  • Grow clean sources of energy. Our state is a wind energy leader and solar power is poised to grow exponentially. These groups seek to improve the landscape for clean energy development, so our state can transition to true, 100% clean energy 24/7.
  • Address environmental injustices in Iowa. Right here at home, the majority burden of pollution from fossil fuels damages the health and well-being of lower-income and minority communities. Drinking water across the state is threatened by polluting chemicals, lead pipes, and aging infrastructure. Rural Iowans struggle to gain access to transportation improvements, recycling initiatives, and other environmental efforts. All Iowans stand to benefit when we address historical injustices.

Iowa Gives Green helps to create an environmental movement that makes access to Iowa’s natural beauty available to all Iowans regardless of their economic status or the communities where they live. Join us in celebrating and supporting Iowa’s environment on August 3 for Iowa Gives Green by coming together to show how much Iowans truly care about our environment at

Iowa Gives Green/Erv Klaas Challenge

Thirteen Earth-Friendly Stops Along the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway

During the early 20th century visitors along the Lincoln Highway used travel as a new way to connect with nature while creating new adventures! Today travelers are still making connections with natural, scenic, and recreational opportunities whether it’s during a short day trip or a full drive along  460 miles across 13 counties along the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway in Iowa.

For a complete breakdown,  be sure to view and download our Activity and Recreation and Camping Guides!

Mississippi River Eco Tourism Center Aquarium
Recreation and Camping Guide

As you enjoy the outdoors this year, and as we recognize Earth Day later this month, it is a good time to review your outdoor ethic. Please be responsible, protect our natural world, and be considerate of other visitors and the landscape. Remember to always check local regulations and guidelines. Here are some universal outdoor ethics worth following: The 7-Principles.

There are so many grand views to see, hikes to take, fish to catch, bike trails to ride, and nature’s treasures to discover we can’t name them all! Below are thirteen earth-friendly stops along the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway you should not miss (one for each county along the Byway)!

3942 291st St, Camanche, IA

  • 8,000-Gallon River Fish Aquarium
  • Wildlife of the River Eco-System
  • Turtle Island Display
  • Giant Cottonwood
  • Iowa State Record Fish Display
  • Touch Tank
  • Riverbank Display
Mississippi River Eco Tourism Center Aquarium

Randy Justis/Boyd Fitzgerald Imaging Solutions Photo

Hound Dog Rock Shop – Cedar County
115 Lombard Street Clarence, IA

  • Collectables From Around the World
  • Minerals, Gems, and Fossils
  • No 2 Stones Alike
  • Efforts Made to Ethically Source
  • Custom Made Jewelry
  • All Ages Welcome
  • Rock On!
Hound Dog Rock Shop

Hound Dog Shop Photo

Mount Trashmore – Linn County
2250 A Street SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

  • Former Landfill Transitioned to Recreational Site
  • Hiking
  • Walking
  • Mountain Biking – Wear a Helmet!
  • Educational tours
  • Picnicking
  • Some Steep Grades
Mount Trashmore Trails

Solid Waste Agency – Cedar Rapids/Linn County Photo

Jumbo Well – Benton County
Commemorative Plaque, Corner of 8th and 8th, Belle Plaine, IA
Exhibit, Belle Plaine Area Museum Henry B. Tippie Annex

  • Known as the Eight Wonder of the World
  • Artesian Well That Ran Loose for Over a Year in 1886
  • Known to “Sing” Until Silenced by Engineers
  • Gushed 3 Million Gallons a Day
  • Took 130 Barrels of Cement to Cap
  • Now an Aquifer Less Than 200 Feet Below Belle Plaine
Jumbo Well Belle Plaine Iowa

Iowa Adventurer Photo

Otter Creek Marsh – Tama County
One Mile NW of Chelsea, IA on E66

  • 1,200-Acre Wetland
  • Viewing Platform
  • Migrating Waterfowl
  • Aquatic Wildlife
  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking, Canoeing, Small Boats Allowed
Viewing Platform Otter Creek Marsh

Cindy Hadish/Homegrown Iowan Photo

Marietta Sand Prairie Preserve – Marshall County

1744 Knapp Avenue, Albion, IA

  • Rare Sand Prairie
  • 56 Acres of Sand Prairie Remnant
  • 210 Acre Seep Wetland Addition
  • Wildlife and Flora Viewing
  • Rare Plant Species Unique to Sand Prairies
  • Includes Some Threatened or Endangered Ferns
  • Hunting
Marietta Sand Preserve Volunteers

Iowan Natural Heritage Foundation Photo

Reiman Gardens – Story County

Reiman Gardens
1407 University Blvd., Ames, IA

  • 17 Acre Site
  • Indoor and Outdoor Gardens
  • Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing
  • Lake Helen
  • CoHorts Dancing Chimes Plaza
  • Bald Cypress Allee
  • Hughes Conservatory
Reiman Gardens

Reiman Gardens Photo

Ledges State Park – Boone County

1515 P Ave, Madrid, IA

  • One of Iowa’s Most Historic and Scenic Nature Destinations
  • Sandstone Ledges Above Des Moines River
  • Pea’s Creek “Canyon”
  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Streamwalking/Wading
  • Boating
PRI Kids Camp Ledges State Park

Prairie Rivers of Iowa Photo

Raccoon River Valley Trail – Greene County

507 E Lincoln Way, Jefferson, IA

  • Trailhead for 89-Mile Long Multi-Use Recreational Trail
  • Biking, Walking, Hiking, Snowmobiling, Cross Country Skiing
  • Woodland, Prairie, Wildflower and Agricultural Scenic Views
  • Camping, Restrooms, and Shower Facilities
  • 600 Foot Long Trestle Bridge
  • Parking
  • User Permit Required (18 Years and Older)
Raccoon River Valley Trail Trailhead in Jefferson

Raccoon River Valley Trail Association Photo

Swan Lake State Park – Carroll County

22676 Swan Lake Trail, Carroll, IA 

  • Camping
  • Biking, Walking, and Hiking
  • Bird Watching and Wildlife
  • Fishing
  • Boating, Canoeing & Kayaking
  • Swimming
  • Horseback Riding
American White Pelican Carroll County Iowa

Matt Wetrich Photo

Yellow Smoke State Park – Crawford County

2237 Yellow Smoke Rd, Denison, IA

  • 358 Acre Recreation Area
  • Biking, Walking, and Hiking
  • Bird Watching and Wildlife
  • Fishing
  • Boating with Concrete Ramp
  • Beach Swimming and Bathhouse
  • Camping
Yellow Smoke Park

Crawford County Conservation Photo

DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge – Harrison County

1434 316th Lane, Missouri Valley, IA

  • 8,365 Acre Refuge
  • DeSoto Lake (Oxbow Lake)
  • Migratory Bird Corridor
  • Tallgrass Prairie, Bottomland Forest, and Wetland Habitats
  • Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center
  • Steamboat Bertrand Archeological Exhibit
  • Rare Glimpse of What Pre-Settlement Iowa Looked Like
Heron at DeSoto Bend Wildlife Refuge

Troy Hugen Photo

Hitchcock Nature Center – Pottawattamie County

27792 Ski Hill Loop, Honey Creek, IA 

  • Rare Wind-Deposited Loess Hills
  • Walking, Hiking, Camping
  • Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing
  • Seasonal Migrating Raptors and Pollinators
  • Observation Tower
  • Archery Range
Badger Ridge in Loess Hills Harrison County Iowa

Pottawattamie County Conservation Photo