Tall Grass Prairie Restoration Follow Up

Tall Grass Prairie Restoration Follow Up

Chris Taliga at Wild and Scenic Film Festival Presented by Prairie Rivers of Iowa

NRCS PLANTS Data Team Plant Ecologist Chris Taliga, a featured presenter at our Wild and Scenic Film Festival, shared with the audience a little about the restoration of prairie on her family’s farm. I recently followed up with Chris to learn more about the restoration and what best practices she suggests for those wanting to get started with a similar project of their own!

PRI: Can you summarize what efforts you and your family have taken to restore your 160 acres of Iowa land into a prairie?

Chris: We bought this farm 22 years ago seeking to restore tall grass prairie and to develop a conservation approach that is in harmony with life on the farm and the environment.

We began by bringing back fire on the parts of the farm that were pasture (roughly half of the land area) in an effort to see if we could find remnant native vegetation. We also immediately seeded down eroded waterways, contour buffer strips and filter strips (to a mixture of native prairie species) on the parts of the farm that were leased for farming.

We also thoroughly inventoried the vegetation. We knew early on that conserving our soil and water resources and enhancing the environment for all life on the farm were top priorities for us which is why we committed to using organic practices in our restoration efforts. We have been managing this farm organically for the past twenty years and were first certified organic in 2006. We have felt all along that this approach would help us protect our natural resources.

Taliga Family Farm Prairie Restoration

After our farming lease expired we enrolled roughly 1/3 of the farm into the Conservation Reserve Program and have slowly added additional acreage into the Conservation Reserve Program over the years.

Along with prescribed fire we also mowed, chopped, pulled, and sawed non-native invasive species. We collected seed, purchased seed, and inter-seeded areas after our prescribed fires. Most seeding was done by broadcasting and some of the seeding we hired out with a no-till drill. In areas we did not seed, we recognized native grass like (graminoid) species, mostly native upland sedges, which had persisted in our pasture in a few areas less than 0.1 acres in size with some remnant flowers such as pale purple coneflower but very little other native vegetation.

Over the years we have continued to burn and seed and have been rewarded with large stands of native tall grass prairie vegetation throughout the farm.  We now collect seed and sell our certified organic prairie seed geared mainly to the home landscape as we deal in very small quantities.  There is always more work on the farm, besides seed collection we are also working on addressing some issues along the banks of two of the streams traversing our farm.

PRI: How long have you been at it?
Chris: Since 1999.

PRI: What three best practices would you recommend to others wanting to get started with a similar prairie restoration on their land?
Chris: Identify and tackle the most critical areas first, either areas you need to seed down to address soil erosion or a weed issue, this allows you to start small and learn from your experience.

Persistence & patience, native vegetation takes time, be sure you stay on top of the mowing and weed care a native seeding requires. Establishing a native plant community also requires patience as you observe the plant community developing over time.

Continue the learning process by monitoring your work, talking to others doing similar work, develop a support community, and trusting your instincts

PRI: What steps have you taken or hope to take to put into practice perennial crop alternatives to your acreage?
Chris: We have explored a number of options over the years and currently certified organic hay and native seed are our main perennial crops.

PRI: What improvements/benefits have you seen over time because of your efforts?
Chris: We have seen reduction in soil erosion, and multifold increase in native plant biodiversity and increased abundance of wildlife including native grassland birds and pollinators. We also see signs of better water quality in our creeks and ponds.

PRI: Do you have any additional thoughts you would like to share with our readers? 
Chris: Our family has learned so much from our restoration efforts which are ongoing. We express our love for Iowa and its natural resources through our stewardship on our farm. It is wonderful to see our daughter engaged in this landscape ethic which is beyond any of our dreams when we started this endeavor.

Chris Taliga and Family

You can find Chris and Her Family on Etsy @BurtalFarmSeed.

Wild and Scenic Film Fest Presented by Prairie Rivers of Iowa Screening on Friday, October 1

Wild and Scenic Film Fest Presented by Prairie Rivers of Iowa Screening on Friday, October 1

Ames, Iowa — The Ames, Iowa, not-for-profit Prairie Rivers of Iowa is presenting its Second Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival — Where Conservation Gets Inspired. This unique event takes place on Friday, October 1 from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Ames City Auditorium.

Tickets are $20 per person with children under 12 free. Sales are limited so pre-purchase is recommended online here or at the Prairie Rivers of Iowa office located at 2335 230th St., Suite 101, in Ames. Tickets can be purchased at the door the night of the event as available.

Wild and Scenic Film Festival Presented by Prairie Rivers of Iowa

“Many of the festival’s six films take a look at safe and sustainable practices for farming and fishing while addressing soil and water quality challenges,” says Prairie Rivers of Iowa Event Coordinator Lisa Cassady. Anyone who enjoys the outdoors and wants to be proactive towards improving the environment will enjoy attending.

Ecologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service National Plant Data Team, Chris Taliga will share a presentation about her avocation and conservation efforts that have come together during her family’s restoration of 160 acres of Iowa land into a prairie.

The festival’s finale film is the Iowa PBS documentary Iowa Land and Sky: Iowa Cities, Towns and Waterways, which explores how Iowa’s largest cities and smallest towns are often defined by waterways, flooding, and environmental challenges in the 21st century. A special presentation from one of the film’s producers Travis Graven follows.

Light food and drinks by Wheatsfield Co-op will be available for purchase and a silent auction will be held to benefit Iowa’s natural resources. Organizations working to improve Iowa’s environment will be on hand to share information and ideas with attendees.

This event is made possible by the generosity of Gina McAndrews Real Estate Team, Friends of Ada Hayden Heritage Park, City of Ames, Outdoor Alliance of Story County, Alluvial Brewing and Wheatsfield Co-op.

As a bonus, seven days of online streaming following the festival (excluding the special presentations) are included for ticket holders unable to attend in person or for those who are inspired to watch it again and again!

This event is part of the three-day Ames River Town of the Year Celebration starting on Thursday, September 30 with a lecture and book signing by conservationist, CNN’s 2013 Hero of the Year and Living Lands and Water founder Chad Pregracke and then ends with a river and stream cleanup on Saturday, October 2 in Ames.

Enjoy the End of Summer on the Byway!

Enjoy the End of Summer on the Byway!

by Iowa’s Heritage and Scenic Byway Coordinators

Can you believe that summer is already coming to a close? There’s no better way to end the season than with a tour around the most scenic overlooks and hiking spots all throughout the state of Iowa. Whether you’re traveling with family, friends or by yourself – these are locations you won’t want to skip! 

In addition, the Iowa State Fair is set to begin on August 12 and run through the month, but there are several other events happening on and around each of the Scenic Byways in Iowa, too. Pick an event, pick a byway or pick a destination… you won’t be disappointed. 

Ledges State Park

Ledges State Park Boone, Iowa

Overlooks & Scenic Views

From east to west and north to south, our state is filled with the most beautiful locations and hidden gems. Take a look at each of these featured spots along all of the Iowa byways. Where are you going next?
Click Here for August’s Featured Locations!

There’s town celebrations, farmers markets, and fun scheduled all month long. Take a look at the calendar of events for what’s coming in August. Click Here for August Events!

Endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Species Found in Story County

Endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Species Found in Story County

7/30/2021 (Ames, Iowa) — An endangered rusty patched bumble bee was recently found in Ames, Iowa by Prairie Rivers of Iowa Watersheds and Wildlife Coordinator David Stein. This is significant as it is the first photographed find in Ames since the last verified sighting occurred back in 2018.

“I am beyond excited we were able to find such a rare species, especially after a few years of not having any verified records,” said Stein. “The Ames and Boone population of rusty patched bumble bees is smaller and more isolated than those in Eastern Iowa. They’re on the edge of its natural range making rescue and conservation efforts for them in Central Iowa vital,” Stein relates.

Rusty patched bumble bee found in Ames, Iowa

On January 10, 2017, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service placed Bombus affinis, commonly known as the rusty patched bumble bee, as the first bee species in the continental United States on the endangered species list. The species has declined by about 87% during the last 20 years and now only inhabits 0.1% of their original range. According to Stein, the main drivers for the decline are habitat loss, pesticide use and pathogens.

As a major part of our programming efforts, Prairie Rivers of Iowa is working with landowners, local government and other organizations to restore bumble bee, other pollinator and wildlife habitat. “Now that we know that the rusty patched bumble bee is still here and where its range might extend, we are stepping up our outreach and educational efforts to insure more habitat is in place,” Stein explains.

Prairie Rivers has pollinator garden planning services available to landowners throughout the year and seasonally operates a free native seed bank. Another related effort to encourage Ames citizens to plant native vegetation and restore habitat is the city’s cost share rebate available through their Smart Watersheds program. “This is exciting news. We enjoy working with Prairie Rivers and their pollinator program to increase native vegetation and habitat throughout Ames, including in our parks and storm water projects,” says City of Ames Municipal Engineer Tracy Peterson.

According to Stein, “Planting their favorite flowers along with several species that can bloom between March and October is necessary to care for the rusty patched bumble bee. They have an affinity for Joe-Pye weed, bee balm and both yellow and anise hyssop and seem to prefer areas near rivers and streams.”

On Friday evening August 20 Prairie Rivers of Iowa is hosting the event “Butterflies, Bees and Brews – Oh My” at Alluvial Brewing in Ames to celebrate the organization’s 21st birthday and raise funds to help with their habitat restoration efforts for the rusty patched. Alluvial Brewery is making a specially crafted blueberry hydromel mead made with locally sourced honey for the event that is being featured along with live music by Sandy Clark – The Signing Scientist, prairie walks lead by Stein, a raffle, local food truck vendors and more. To learn details about the celebration and to purchase tickets visit prrcd.org.


Prairie Rivers of Iowa Unveils Two Interpretive Panels Showcasing History and Geography Along the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway

Prairie Rivers of Iowa Unveils Two Interpretive Panels Showcasing History and Geography Along the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway

by PR & Marketing Coordinator Mike Kellner and Development and Event Coordinator Lisa Cassady

The Prairie Rivers of Iowa Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway™ – A National Scenic Byway program recently facilitated the design and installation of two interpretive panels as part of a ten-panel project using grant funding from the Union Pacific Railroad Community Ties Giving Program and Humanities of Iowa along with a cash match courtesy of The Burke Heritage Foundation. The panels offer travelers and their families safe, fun, educational and engaging activities while road tripping along the Byway.

Travelers driving through Belle Plaine can discover a treasured legacy that has stood for more than four generations. In celebration, the Preston’s Station Historic District and the Prairie Rivers of Iowa unveiled a new interpretive panel on May 1. Visitors viewing the panel will learn about the district’s history and see the faces behind its 100 plus year legacy.

“We are honored to be one the sites to have been selected to install an interpretive panel,” says Preston’s Station Historic District owner Mary Helen Preston, “This panel showcases four generations of Prestons that began in 1913 when my great grandfather followed the Union Pacific to Belle Plaine for work and while watching the Lincoln Highway be rerouted through the town.”

Preston's Station Historic District Interpretive Panel

Mary Helen Preston and her husband Garry Hevalow shown here with the new interpretive panel telling the story of Preston’s Station generational legacy.

From great grandfather to grandfather, to father, to daughter Mary Preston and her husband Garry, the family has remained Preston Station’s caretakers preserving the property and telling the story of how important the railroad and the Lincoln Highway have been to Belle Plaine.

Located at 402 13th Street in Belle Plaine, Preston’s Station was listed to the National Register of Historic Places in September 2020. It comprises an old gas station, a garage and motel. Visitors can appreciate what travel was like during the past along the Lincoln Highway while experiencing vintage gas pumps, signage and memorabilia.

A second panel featuring the Missouri and Mississippi Divide near Arcadia, Iowa along the Byway. The site marks the point where the water flows either east to the Mississippi River or west to the Missouri River.  It was unveiled on June 10 during a ceremony featuring remarks form Arcadia’s Mayor John Kevin Lieschti. “The Great Divide Road Side Park symbolizes the importance transportation has played in shaping our small town and its unique geographic location,” said Mayor Lieschti. “Arcadia’s location along the Lincoln Highway has also played an important role in bringing travelers and people to our town.” The town will be celebrating its 150th Birthday on Labor Day Weekend with a parade on Saturday, September 4.

M & Divide Interpretive Panel Unveiling

M & M Divide interpretive panel marks the point where the water flows either east to the Mississippi River or west to the Missouri River.

The Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway – A National Scenic Byway in Iowa is managed by Prairie Rivers of Iowa in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Transportation. Prairie Rivers’ mission is to preserve its history and tell the hundreds of stories from along its 470 miles running east to west, river to river through 43 communities in 13 counties in the state.