Prairie Rivers Wins Grant to Help Pollinators and Farmers

Prairie Rivers Wins Grant to Help Pollinators and Farmers

Prairie Rivers of Iowa has been protecting Iowa’s natural resources for over 20 years. We recently received a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to support our work! The grant is awarded through the Monarch Butterfly and Pollinators Conservation Fund. Prairie Rivers of Iowa is one of 18 organizations to receive this grant, including The Nature Conservancy, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, and the Pollinator Partnership.

Helping with Habitat
Prairie Rivers’ project, titled Pollinator Patchwork: Enrolling Private Working Lands into Monarch Butterfly Habitat, focuses on providing technical assistance to farmers and landowners motivated to help pollinators while receiving on-farm benefits as well. Our project, in particular, focuses on women landowners and farm operators, a group that has been historically left out of conversations and under-recruited for beneficial programs for decades. This group is also an un-tapped source for converting low-quality cropland out of production and into beneficial pollinator habitat. To address this issue, Prairie Rivers is creating general and women-specific field days, webinars, and effective outreach materials while partnering with area experts to accomplish these tasks! Our partners include Story County Conservation, Dr. Jean Eells of E Resources Group, area farmer Jim Richardson, Boone and Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the Story County Water Quality Monitoring Planning Team.

Dr. Jean Eels during a Women Caring for the Land event in 2019.

Dr. Jean Eells is excited to partner with Prairie Rivers of Iowa for this project. Eells received her PhD in Agricultural Education and is highly experienced in effectively creating field days and outreach materials for women:

“This funding will allow us to hold events for landowners that will answer their questions and let them see directly how monarch and pollinator habitats can be created on their acres. I’m especially excited to hold meetings for women landowners where they can get their questions answered in a very friendly forum, whether they are very experienced or just beginning to make space for monarch butterflies.”

Jim Richardson, as a grain farmer and president of the Hamilton County Conservation Board, holds unique insight into farmer attitudes:

“As a farmer, I always like to participate in programs that are a “win-win,” relates Richardson, “I consider Prairie Rivers’ new project to be a “win-win-win.” It’s a win for the landowner who will get maximum revenue off of low-productive ground. It’s a win for the tenant, who will not have to put expensive inputs into marginal land. Lastly, it’s a huge win for our monarchs and all of our pollinators, who will find food sources where they have never been able to before.”

PRI Pollinator Conservation Specialist Jessica Butters

“UPDATE 2023-03-31: Prairie Rivers of Iowa is currently hiring for a pollinator conservation specialist to manage the project. Jessica Butters, outgoing pollinator conservation specialist and lead grantwriter had this to say about the potential of the project.

“It is exciting to start pollinator-focused projects in rural areas.  Prairie Rivers has started many successful pollinator projects in urban areas. Given that over 85% of Iowa is agricultural land, pollinator conservation on farmland is an enormous piece of the puzzle in supporting monarch butterflies and pollinators. Creating pollinator habitat in agricultural areas will allow us to connect pieces of pollinator habitat together, allowing monarch butterflies and other pollinators to move throughout the state.”

A Year of Pollinator Progress!

A Year of Pollinator Progress!

With your help, Prairie Rivers of Iowa accomplished many pollinator goals in 2023! From mobilizing a city-wide plan to improve the plight of pollinators to receiving a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, we have been working hard to educate the public and serve our community! Besides creating over 30 educational social media posts, providing in-person presentations, and educating at events such as the City of Ames EcoFair, this program has achieved several significant milestones this year:

Mobilizing the Ames Pollinator Plan

This year, we brought the Ames Pollinator Plan to life! Prairie Rivers led the formation of small groups and started projects for pollinators in Ames! Some interesting projects include drafting educational messages about how to support Ames butterflies, understanding how city policy can help residents create more pollinator-friendly yards, and identifying research methods to determine “who”, in terms of pollinators, live right here in Ames! Understanding which pollinators are present will allow us to appreciate and understand the immediate needs of pollinators in Ames. Read our plan that started it all here!

Monarch Magic!

Prairie Rivers of Iowa hosted its first monarch tagging event this year, “Monarch Magic!”. This event pulled many dedicated partner organizations together to create a fun-filled educational event! We had attendees ranging from infants to senior citizens, with over 95 families and groups attending! Together, we tagged 146 monarch butterflies to help scientists track the monarch migration route, their migration timing, and other data to understand how these magnificent butterflies survive one of the most arduous migrations in the animal kingdom. Read more about this event and our incredible partners and sponsors here!

NFWF Grant to help Monarchs and Women!

Most of Iowa’s land is in agriculture (over 85% as of 2021). This fact alone makes it imperative to have farms that mitigate harm and actually benefit Iowa’s natural resources! To achieve this, Prairie Rivers has created a new project, which was recently awarded a grant by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Our project will plant more monarch butterfly and pollinator habitat on farms by reaching out to all farmers but with a particular focus on women landowners and producers. Women landowners and farmers have historically been left out of many beneficial farm and conservation programs due to dated outreach efforts and cultural assumptions. They are an under-utilized group that is very likely to install acres into conservation practices, especially after learning more about pollinator decline! To provide higher-quality outreach and services to these women, we are partnering with Story County Conservation, Boone and Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Story County Water Monitoring Planning Team, local grain farmer Jim Richardson, and agricultural education expert Dr. Jean Eells. With this team, we will construct messages that are inclusive and compelling to all farmers and landowners, including women, create field days of learning specifically for women, and raise women’s awareness of opportunities for cost shares and conservation programs. We hope this project will not only get more pollinator habitat on the ground, but that it will also create peer and mentor networks for women in agriculture and also set up an effective and sustainable communication system between women and the NRCS (National Resource Conservation Services). Our project will focus on reaching farmers and implementing conservation practices within Story, Boone, and Hamilton counties.

THANK YOU again for supporting Prairie Rivers of Iowa and our pollinator program! Together, we are creating a lasting, positive impact for the people and pollinators in Iowa!

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