18TH NORTH AMERICAN PRAIRIE CONFERENCE
The 18th North American Prairie Conference will be held June 23-27 (not 23-24 as indicated in the winter issue of the Missouri Prairie Journal) in Kirksville, MO at Truman State University (previously Northeast Missouri State Univ.). Kirksville is about 30 miles south of the Iowa border, making it roughly 60 miles south of Ottumwa. The theme of this conference will be "Promoting Prairie", with subtopics that include: prairie biodiversity, restoration and reconstruction, initiatives to preserve prairies, education and outreach, native landscaping, and use of prairies for environmental improvement. For more information see www.napc2002.org or call Sharron Gough at 417-876-5226.
17th NAPC PROCEEDINGS NOW AVAILABLE
The Proceedings of the 17th North America Prairie Conference, held at Mason City in June of 2000, are now available. The 242 page book, edited by Neil Bernstein with artwork by Brian Seger, includes 36 papers about prairie management, restoration, ecology and education. The Proceedings can be ordered with a $20 check made out to: NIACC-NAPC sent to: Carol Schutte, NIACC-NAPC, 500 College Drive, Mason City, Iowa 50401. Contact Carol at 641-422-4319 or email@example.com if you have any questions. THANK YOU!
LOESS HILLS PRAIRIE SEMINAR
From May 31- June 2, Onawa experience Iowa's unique Loess Hills ecosystem at the 26th annual Loess Hills Prairie Seminar, at the Loess Hills Wildlife Area. Workshops, field trips and evening programs help participants get in touch with the natural communities of the Hills, as well as learn about the history, geology and culture of the region. All activities are free. Primitive camping andmeals are available at the site. For details, visit http://www.aea12.k12.ia.us/services/loesshillsseminar/> or contact Gloria Kistner at 800.352.9040, ext. 6083 or firstname.lastname@example.org>.
GRASSLAND RESERVE PROGRAM NEEDS HELP by Cindy Hildebrand The new Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) has great potential to help prairies. Unfortunately, that potential is in peril because of a language change by the Farm Bill conference committee, which stripped "native" from the program (see Farm Bill article). Landowners could potentially be paid for enrolling exotic-species plantings instead of native grasslands. The best way to help is to ask the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to focus the GRP on native grasslands, as the original bill language intended. Below is a sample letter, but any brief message asking that the GRP focus on native grasslands will be helpful. There is no official deadline for letters, but sooner is better. Letters are better than emails, and emails are better than silence. Secretary Veneman's email address is: email@example.com To help further, please send a similar letter to Senator Tom Harkin. For more information, please contact Cindy Hildebrand.
The Honorable Ann Veneman Secretary Department of Agriculture 1400 Independence Ave., SW Washington DC 20250
Dear Secretary Veneman,
I am writing to ask that the new Grassland Reserve Program focus on the protection of native, never-plowed virgin grasslands. Virgin grasslands are among the most endangered and rapidly-disappearing ecosystems on earth, and are irreplaceable. The GRP should benefit landowners who have protected virgin grasslands, especially where grasslands are in the greatest jeopardy, including the tallgrass prairie region. All grassland reconstruction supported by the GRP should be required to use diverse species of genetically-local seed. In Iowa, where the State Technical Committee is commendably concerned about prairies, I ask that the Committee and other organizations with prairie expertise be part of the enrollment priority decision process. Thank you for considering these comments.
A PRAIRIE TO PRESERVE
By Mark J. Leoschke Dr. Ada Hayden, a professor in the Botany Department at Iowa State University, inventoried prairies throughout Iowa in the middle 1940’s in an effort to identify sites worthy of preservation. One of the areas that she inventoried was the valley of Waterman Creek, a tributary of the Little Sioux River in O’Brien County in northwest Iowa. Dr. Hayden recommended that a portion of the prairie in the valley be preserved. The Nature Conservancy of Iowa is helping the Iowa DNR's Wildlife Bureau fulfill Dr. Hayden’s vision. Over 130 acres of prairie will be purchased and added to the prairie already protected in the Waterman Creek Wildlife Management Area. The Nature Conservancy of Iowa obtained a REAP grant to help pay for the prairie, but needs to raise funds to pay for the private match required by the grant. If you would like to make a contribution to help purchase this prairie, make out a check to "The Nature Conservancy of Iowa" and put "Waterman Creek" on the memo line. Mail the check to this address: The Nature Conservancy of Iowa 108 Third Street, Suite 300 Des Moines, Iowa 50309 Thanks in advance.
GARLIC MUSTARD WAR IN ASHWORTH PARK
By Jo Hudson Ashworth Park and an area near the rose garden in the Des Moines Art Center grounds are ideal places to see the devastation unchecked garlic mustard can bring to a beautiful wooded area. For the past two years I have organized volunteers to pull, and last fall the Parks Department did some spraying of the worst areas, but because of scheduling difficulties and uncooperative weather they missed much of the time window for effective spraying. It is going to take their continued efforts plus an army of volunteers to get this invader under control. This year I have scheduled a full workday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., on June 8th, so volunteers can come any time and work as long as they choose. However, because there is more than we can possibly pull in one day--and because there is an IPN field trip scheduled the same day--I will be glad to work with any group, even just two or three people, anytime, any day of the week, from now until the seed pods are ready to dehisce. I plan to be there each Saturday morning at 9:00, but will meet you there any other day if you call me. Even an hour or so will help, and this beautiful park is worth all our effort. Parking is south of Grand Avenue on 45th Street, just south of Ashworth Pool. Call me, 515-276-6359, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information or to arrange a time to work.
We have started a policy of providing extra copies of our newsletter to individuals who are likely to come across people that might appreciate a complimentary copy. If your job or hobby is such that you routinely meet people starting to develop an interest in prairies, have a few questions, don’t know who to contact in their area etc., please let us know- we would be happy to supply extras for you to give out. Contact Inger Lamb (address on the inside back page) and indicate how many copies per issue you think you could use. And thanks- we want to get the "prairie word" out to any and all people even marginally interested, you never know who just might get the prairie bug!
HOW THE NEW FARM BILL WILL AFFECT PRAIRIES
by Cindy Hildebrand For prairies, the new Farm Bill holds both bad and good news. The bad news is that farmers will still be able to plow up never-cropped land, including virgin prairies, without losing farm program benefits. Since the new bill continues the existing strong financial incentives to grow commodity crops, more virgin prairies are likely be lost to rowcropping in the future. The good news is that the new bill eliminates the national Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) marginal-pasture tree planting requirement, which has been damaging prairie remnants. The bill also includes a date-certain clause which will eliminate the ability to plow up non-rowcropped land (including prairies), put the land in subsidized rowcrops for two years, and then enroll the land in the Conservation Reserve Program. A new Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) has been established, which could be very good news for prairies. The GRP would allow farmers to enroll never-plowed prairies and be paid for protecting them. The bad news is that the conference committee removed the language referring to "native" grasslands. This means that the GRP could potentially allow the enrollment of exotic-species grasslands like Eurasian bromegrass. Prairie enthusiasts need to speak out on this point if we want the GRP to protect prairies. (See Grassland Reserve article.) The CRP and Wetland Reserve Program are being increased in size. These programs benefit many species of prairie wildlife, prevent soil erosion, and improve water quality. The downside is that the prairie plantings subsidized by these programs are often of low quality by prairie reconstruction standards, and they seldom use local-ecotype seed, which means they can pose potential genetic threats to nearby prairie remnants and local-ecotype nurseries and plantings.
Several agencies and private groups in Iowa recognize this challenging problem and are commendably working to address it. The challenge for prairie enthusiasts will be to work with these organizations to help maximize the benefits of the CRP and WRP and help lessen the problems. Phone calls, letters, and emails from Iowa prairie enthusiasts have already helped to make the new Farm Bill better for prairies. Thank you! Now there will be important rule-making on the national and state levels, as the new Farm Bill is implemented. The rules will be critical in determining what actually happens on the Iowa landscape. It will help if prairie enthusiasts stay involved, starting with the Grassland Reserve Program. For more information as it becomes available, please contact me and/or check the Iowa Prairie Network website.
CRP COMMENTS NEEDED
by Cindy Hildebrand The USDA is seeking public comments on the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), in order to prepare a draft programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS). The PEIS will provide decision-makers with an analysis of the environmental benefits and potential impacts of the CRP. This is a good opportunity for prairie enthusiasts to comment on how the CRP affects prairies. Comments could include ecotype issues, how CRP rules affect planting quality, prairie remnant pastures enrolled in the CRP, etc. The deadline for comments is May 30, 2002, but comments submitted after that date will be considered "to the extent possible." Comments should be directed to: CRP@mangi.com, or can be sent to: CRP PEIS, P.O. Box 6830, Falls Church, Va. 22046-6830. Comments can also be submitted by telephone, toll-free, at: 1-877-271-3842.
"RESTORATION AND MANAGEMENT OF NATIVE PLANT COMMUNITIES"
An introductory class in "Restoration and Management of Native Plant Communities" is tentatively scheduled for Fall term 2002 at the Urban Campus of Des Moines Community College. Participants will learn a wide variety of landscape scale restoration techniques such as: site analysis based on indicator species; native and invasive plant identification; identification and harvest techniques for local ecotype seed for prairie restoration and reconstruction; restoration of abiotic landscape-scale processes such as hydrology and fire; and monitoring. The class is scheduled to begin in early September, with the first class meeting at Urban Campus and classes thereafter meeting at the Audubon Center's office at Saylorville Lake. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a pro-active supporter in this class and students will be involved in active restoration efforts within remnant plant communities. Priority will be given to prairie and savanna rescue and restoration and some work in reconstructions. Field trips are tentatively scheduled for Iowa State University's World Class Herbarium where students will learn about specimen preservation for future research and also as reference points. Urban restoration projects will be observed, as well as a trip to a local seed processing facility. The theoretical base of this class is anchored in principles of conservation biology and restoration ecology. For more information send email inquiries to: Danielle M. Wirth, Ph.D. Science Dept. - Urban Campus 'Des Moines Area Community College email - email@example.com or call 515-965-6010 ext. 421 The class is scheduled for Thursday afternoons this fall and will be listed on DMACC's web page as Biol. 170. The 3 credits will be divided between 2 hours of lecture and 2 hours of lab. Several individuals have expressed interest in scheduling this class on weekends. If it seems that the interest is there DMACC will make every effort to respond to student demand. SMUTS OF BIG BLUESTEM IN IOWA
by Lois H. Tiffany Big bluestem, Andropogon gerardii, is a dominant plant in both stature and cover in many Iowa prairies. Healthy plants can be up to two meters high and populations may extend for many square meters. Since the late 1970’s, a gradual decline has been observed in big bluestem populations in some native Iowa prairies. This decline seems to be correlated with the presence of a smut fungus, Sphacelotheca occidentalis. This fungus becomes established in the perennial vegetative portions of big bluestem plants and each year invades individual flowers of the flowering culms, (inflorenscences) replacing the ovaries with smut mycelium. Ultimately a gall filled with black spores develops from each diseased flower, hence the common name for the disease is kernel smut. The galls are initially covered by a white membrane which soon breaks, releasing the dry, powdery black spores. Usually all flowers produced on a diseased plant are invaded and no seeds develop. Also, this smut alters the appearance of the diseased plant as each year the inflorescences are reduced in height, often to half of normal height initially with further reduction in height in subsequent years. Flowering culms as short as two centimeters have been seen. Diseased plants do not survive. If the big bluestem population in an isolated prairie is of predominately susceptible plants, the presence of big bluestem could be severely reduced or it could even be eliminated. Kernel smut was first recorded in Iowa in 1978 from Caylor prairie in Dickinson County and from surrounding areas in northwest Iowa. The fungus has been reported on big bluestem from Kansas, Nebraska, and North Dakota. We have monitored the presence of this smut fungus since 1978, as it has increased in amount in the original area and has become more widely dispersed in other prairies. In native prairies, kernel smut has been observed only in northwest Iowa and has had a significant impact on the big bluestem population of Caylor prairie. It has been recorded from planted prairies in other areas of the state, presumably developed from spores carried on seed. Thus, seed harvested from sites with diseased plants have the potential to carry smut spores to new planting sites. We have no evidence that spores can be carried on clothing of prairie visitors from a diseased plant site to a site not known to harbor the smut. However, in our survey visits we are careful not to visit a "diseased" site and then a "healthy" one. Another smut of big bluestem, Sorosporium provincale, causes a disease known as culm smut. Like kernel smut, it invades the perennial portions of big bluestem plants and develops each year in the young inflorescences. However, this smut replaces the entire flowering culm with a long fragile gall. The galls are several centimeters long with a white covering which soon breaks releasing a mass of black powdery spores. The white outer membrane soon weathers away, the spores disperse, and little or no evidence of the presence of the fungus remains. This smut has been observed in native prairies in southern Iowa for many years and more recently in planted prairies in other areas of the state. Some stunting of the plants occurs, but the gall disappears so completely that it is difficult to recognize diseased plants. Thus, it is also very difficult to evaluate the impact of culm smut on big bluestem populations. At this time the distribution of these two big bluestem smuts is distinctly different. Presence of both smuts in a given prairie has been observed only in planted prairies. We are continuing to monitor these smuts and other disease fungi on prairie plants. I would appreciate receiving observations or specimens of either of these smuts or other fungi involved with diseases of prairie plants. Please send them to Lois H. Tiffany, Dept. of Botany, Iowa State University, Ames, IA. 50011.
IOWA ECOTYPE PROJECT BRIEF
Although typically fall is thought of as the harvest season, there are quite a few prairie species setting seed all through the growing season. Some that can be challenging to collect (especially long distance) that would benefit the Iowa Ecotype Project are two spiderwort species, both bracted and Ohio; Canada anemone, and bluejoint grass. Most of these are ripe by mid to late July. Bracted spiderwort is the most challenging because it dries up into almost nothing after flowering, and is usually overtopped by other vegetation…mark the spots well while it’s in flower! See "Contributing Remnant Seed" on the IEP website at: www.uni.edu/ecotype/ for more species, printable seed collection label, and more information. We’re hustling to put in more seed production plots on our new land on the UNI campus, and anxious to move into our new ‘digs’ at the Native Roadside Vegetation Center (currently being renovated from an old warehouse) just a quarter mile west of the UNI Dome on 27th Street in Cedar Falls. The ecotype plots and new facility will be featured as part of the annual IRVM Roadside Conference August 1 and 2. Call for more details.
THE BUENGER / MCADAMS PRAIRIE SEED PROCESSING METHOD By Jim Nedtwig
For those of us who do small amounts of seed collecting, processing and preparing for planting it can be a tedious and time consuming task. Glenda Buenger and Mark McAdams have devised a method of processing seed that is convenient and efficient. They have successfully processed seed by running it through a standard lawn and garden leaf shredder, catching the seed in their kids old swimming pool. The shredder will break up seed heads and scarify some seed. Multiple species may be run through a shredder simultaneously, so species segregation is not required. I wanted to use a shredder in my garage, so I looked for an electric model. A problem with electric shredders is that most of them have only have one speed - too fast! Since I've never found any machine that did exactly what I wanted it to, I bought one anyway (a Black and Decker "Leaf Hog", @ $75, speed = 200 MPH), with the idea of converting it to a variable speed machine. I called a number of electrical contractors (Black and Decker customer service was useless - why do they have those 800 numbers, anyway?), all of whom told me what I feared - that if I tried to convert the shredder to variable speed, I would probably burn up the motor. A wise friend once told me "Some things are too important to be left to 'professionals'". With these words in mind, I decided to crank up my R & D department. I went to the hardware store, and bought a high quality light switch dimmer (the $38 kind), and a heavy duty extension cord. Then I cut the extension cord in half, and installed the dimmer switch in the cord. I plugged the Leaf Hog into it, turned it on, stepped back to a safe distance, and.... to my utter amazement, it worked! The shredder speed is completely variable, allowing very low speeds on fluffy seed, high speeds on species with hard seed heads, and everywhere in between. Tough species, such as pale purple coneflower, may require 2 passes through the machine. I've used the machine for about 10 hours with no motor burn up, no overheating, and no discernible negative affects. This method creates a lot of dust, so if you can't tolerate dust in your processing area, don't use it. A face mask is highly recommended. To contain the seed flying out the end of the shredder, I built a square wood frame about 6 feet tall, enclosed the sides with plastic sheeting, and taped the plastic to the garage floor. Thanks to Glenda and Mark, my seed processing can be completed in a day or two. No more racing to beat the first snow each autumn - now I can put my feet up, listen to Elwin Taylor's latest weather forecast, and determine my planting day accordingly. I love it when things work.
IOWA NATIVE LANDS
A new organization is forming in Iowa, one designed to facilitate prairie work and increase communication between prairie-oriented organizations. This new group, the Iowa Native Lands, is hoping to provide an organizational umbrella to bring together groups already working with various aspects of prairies in Iowa. By providing a forum for communication, there will be increased opportunities for interaction and cooperation among Iowa prairie workers, and greater funding potential for joint projects. An additional priority will be to raise the awareness and appreciation of prairies by the public. Through coalition building, fund raising and education all Iowa prairie interests will be advanced. The INL will not be an individual membership organization, and is not designed to compete with or detract from existing organizations, but instead will create synergistic relationships among those organizations. It will consist of a board of directors representing different aspects of prairie and native vegetation interests in Iowa, and a technical advisory committee composed of representatives from existing conservation organizations.
by Anne Kimber "The American Institute of Architects recently recognized the value of prairie development in sustainable architecture, naming the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities Training & Office Complex in Ankeny one of its "Top 10 Green Projects" for 2002. The award committee cited the association's restoration of a farm field, destined for commercial development, into a Iowa reconstructed tall-grass prairie. They pointed out that the prairie is accomplishing multiple tasks, including preventing soil erosion, protecting water quality in neighboring Carney Marsh, creating wildlife habitat, and providing aesthetic enjoyment for the facility users. IAMU has 11.3 acres of reconstructed prairie, started fall of 1997, using seed from Carl Kurtz. Over 100 species of prairie plants have been identified. Also included on the site is a wetland designed to treat wastewater from the facility. Because of the site's clay soils and high water table, a traditional septic leach field was unworkable. The treatment wetland, using native wetland and prairie species in a subsurface flow system, discharges into Carney Marsh. Monthly monitoring indicates the discharge water is lower in nutrients than the marsh into which it discharges. With 550 member cities, IAMU's goal to use its prairie and wetlands not only to protect neighboring Carney Marsh, but also to demonstrate the use of sustainable landscaping for its aesthetic appeal, low maintenance and low costs, and its benefits for storm water management." Hey Prairie People- In a grand spirit of cooperation The Nature Conservancy, the Iowa Native Plant Society and the Iowa Prairie Network are holding their annual meetings at the same time in the same place: Lakeside Labs (Dickenson County) on Sept. 20-22. The area is so full of wonderful scenery that we are having trouble deciding which areas to emphasize during field trips, but don’t worry, we’ll sort it out. A special trip will be to the Little Sioux Valley, but there will be several other choices for expeditions.We are still working on details of course but the basics will be a short-distance field trip, registration, and evening meet and greet session on Friday, discussion of current Iowa prairie issues in the morning, field trips in the afternoon, speaker and silent auction in the evening on Saturday, and a summary session at breakfast on Sunday. Scenic tours for the route home will be provided! Business meetings will be held at separate times for each organization and will be scheduled during mealtimes. This will allow everyone to focus on one organization at a time, but not compete with or take time out of field trips. Meals will be provided. There is some lodging available at the site, and many hotels in the area. And if you’ve ever had thoughts about girl scout leaders being reserved…then you haven’t met our Cindy Findley (should be Fundley, or possibly even… Funny). She