To see the approved August Linn County Conservation Board Meeting Minutes please click October Board Meeting Minutes.
Prescribed fire is an important tool when it comes to managing Iowa’s prairie and woodland ecosystems. Having evolved under the influence of wild fire for thousands of years, native plant communities not only respond favorably to fire, but in many ways require it to thrive. Today, with so little native prairie left in Iowa (less than one tenth of one percent), wild fire has been removed from the equation. But the fragmented parcels of natural ecosystem still need fire to remain healthy – this is why we “prescribe” fire.
Fire removes excess leaf litter and duff (decaying organic matter) allowing more plants to flower, produce seed, and grow taller. It also increases available nutrients through indirect stimulation of microbial activity in the soil and releasing nutrients from the ash. Burning exposes the darkened soil and allows sunlight to warm the soil quicker and extend the growing season for warm season native plants. Fire favors native plants and helps control invasives. It suppresses many weeds (that would normally grow faster and outcompete the natives) and helps to control cool season invasive grasses like brome and reeds canary grass. It can also damage or kill woody invasive plants like bush honey suckle and autumn olive – both species that would otherwise quickly dominate a prairie system.
Conditions are most favorable for prescribed fire in the early spring (before ground nesting birds lay their eggs) and in the late fall. Linn County Conservation is watching weather conditions and planning for fall burns right now.
Fall burning has some benefits that spring does not. Fall burning is usually conducted after a hard frost when the plants have gone dormant. Burning when plants are dormant eliminates the possibility of damage to early forbs (wildflowers). Burning in the fall also allows for the seeds from forbs to contact the cold moist ground, by eliminating the thick layer of duff build up. Many forbs need a period of cold moist stratification to germinate and grow. Thus, fall burning increases the propagation of new forbs. Fall burning can also be better when trying to suppress certain invasives that may remain active and green later than native species. While fall favors the forbs, spring favors the tall grasses. For this reason, we alternate. We want the prairie to be as diverse as possible.
Whether we are using prescribed fire as a tool in the spring or the fall, we are careful to divide areas into approximately 1/3 sections. Rotating areas ensures habitat cover for wildlife and is not as stressful on insect populations.
The idea of using prescribed fire in woodland ecosystems is less familiar to most people, but like the prairie, the woodland native species derive many benefits. Most of Iowa’s woodlands historically were much more open than they are today, trees were more widely scattered with rich, diverse herbaceous plants growing underneath. The term “savannah” or “oak savannah” is often used to describe this native system. In the past 100 years the suppression of fire has changed the composition of our woodlands. They are more likely to be overgrown with invasive species and less desirable trees such as box elder, silver maple and elm. Many species of oak are built to survive fires of medium intensity. Their thick bark protects them. Less desirable trees and invasive species like garlic mustard are not conditioned to withstand fire and are removed. By removing undesirable plants in the understory of the woodland with fire, competition against native species is reduced and sunlight can penetrate to the forest floor. This aids in the growth of native herbaceous plants, wildflowers and the regeneration of oak trees. Linn County Conservation hopes to complete several woodland burns yet this year.
Dana A. Kellogg
Natural Resource Specialist
Linn County Conservation Reopens 100-yard Gun Range
Following several months of construction, the Linn County Conservation department will reopen the 100-yard gun range at Matsell Bridge Shooting Range. Starting this Friday, November 8th the 100-yard range will be open in addition to the 50-yard range. The 200-yard range and the trap shooting station remain closed.
On the 100-yard range, five vertical baffles and an eyebrow structure have been completed. Other changes have also been made. Users will notice updates regarding the parking lot, signage and fencing. With the reopening of the 100-yard range, there are four important changes:
1) A permit system is now in place.
A paid permit is now required. Citations will be issued for users without valid permits. Daily permits are available on site for $10. Or users can choose to purchase an annual permit for $40 available online only. Annual permit registration is available for individuals and for families. Immediate family is defined as a spouse, significant other, and/or unmarried children under 18 years of age. Linn County Conservation is coordinating annual permits through the GetMeRegistered website. To go to the online annual permit registration you can click the button below.
Please Note: The confirmation email/receipt that is received will serve as the permit. People will need to print it and and bring it with them to the range. There are clips provided at each shooting station for the posting of the permit.
The approved minutes from the September Linn County Conservation Board Meeting are available. Click Here to Read
A Watershed Approach to Community Growth Workshop
A watershed workshop will be offered in Marion, Iowa on November 18th. Participants can expect to learn:
- An overview of watershed issues and their effect on the “triple bottom line”
- Proven plans, policies and practices that enhance watershed planning
- Mapping tools and resources
- The key to building partnerships and leveraging resources
- Cooperation opportunities between communities and agricultural neighbors
- Financial resources dedicated to water resource projects and planning
To learn more: Watershed Workshop 2013
Linn County Conservation Board Slated to Receive LOST Funding
On November 5, 2014, the metropolitan area including residents of the communities of Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, and Marion will vote on extending the local option sales tax (LOST) put in place in 2009. The metropolitan area will vote as a block with a majority vote required within the metropolitan area in order for the measure to pass. Each community decides on how funds that are raised as a result of extending the tax will be spent. Cedar Rapids has indicated that its share of funding will be used for street repair. Other communities have designated how funds allocated to them will be spent. Check the ballot language for how funds raised in your community will be used.
The LOST vote on the ballot in 2012 passed in the unincorporated areas of Linn County extending the tax for 10 more years in rural Linn County. Voters from the metropolitan block did not pass the LOST extension in 2012. Funding from the county’s share of the tax extension funding was allocated 75% to county roads and 25% to conservation projects. There is a state formula that determines how funds raised through a local option sales tax will be divided between jurisdictions.
Annual funding allocated to the Linn County Conservation Board from the local option is projected to raise $200,000 annually if the vote does not pass in the metropolitan voting block on November 5. This annual allocation is projected to be approximately $1.2 million should the local option sales tax be put in place in the metro area.
Funding from the local option sales tax will be used by the Conservation Board for a variety of projects including park improvements such as trails, watershed management and land acquisition. Whether you are in favor of extending the local option sales tax or not, it is important that you exercise your right to vote on November 5.
The Wickiup Hill Learning Center Building Expansion won for Class 1 Park and Recreation Facility. The expansion was recognized for its use of recycled construction materials, geothermal heating and state of the art mechanical systems as well as its innovative hands-on exhibits. It was also held up as an example of wide-reaching support – financial support came from 22 governmental organizations, 4 federal and state grants, 14 community organizations, 12 corporate partners and over 100 private supporters!
The Cedar River Watershed Education Project won for a Class 1 Park and Recreation Program. This program, lead by Linn County’s Deputy Director Dennis Goemaat, was a partnership between 23 county conservation boards.
Watershed education efforts included TV and radio spots, monthly articles, watershed signage and an education program.
On October 3rd residents from Linn, Johnson, Benton, Washington, Jones and Iowa counties can meet to show support for the REAP program and share ideas for the future. This regional REAP assembly will take place from 6-8pm at the North Ridge Pavilion 2250 Holiday Road in Coralville, Iowa.
In 1989, with very strong bipartisan support, the state of Iowa passed legislation for the creation of a Resource Enhancement and Protection program. It was, and still is, recognized as one of the nation’s most responsive and progressive environmental programs . Its formal name is Resource Enhancement And Protection, but most people simply call it REAP. The program is authorized to receive $20 million per year until 2021, but each year the state legislature decides how much to allocate to REAP - which means that every year the public’s voice matters.
In Linn County, REAP funds have a big impact on natural resource protection and environmental education. The Wickiup Hill Learning Center and wildlife refuge are possible in large part because of REAP. Hundreds of acres have been acquired for public use – creating more opportunities for hiking,
bird observation, nature study, and hunting while also preserving valuable natural ecosystems – some very rare. Funds from REAP help Linn County maintain safe and beautiful campgrounds and trails. They help Linn CCB do prairie plantings and natural resource management. The funds make a difference to the quality of life for residents, but also help protect a diversity of plants and animals. They are, absolutely, an investment. And like it’s name suggests, investments like these mean that when we reap what we sow it will be healthier, more beautiful and with an attention to diversity.
REAP was designed to have continued input by the public. To accomplish this there are 18 regional assemblies that take place every two years. Those in attendance hear a review of past accomplishments in their local area and have a chance to suggest possible future projects for funding.
At each REAP Assembly an election takes place to select 5 delegates (there are 18 regions, for a total of 90 elected delegates) to meet at the Capitol Building in Des Moines for the 2013 REAP Congress.
To see the approved August Linn County Conservation Board Meeting Minutes please click August Board Mtg Minutes
Did you know Wickiup Hill has aquariums with live education animals? When you come visit you may notice that one of the tanks appears to be empty. You will need to look very closely to find this critter! Search for what looks like a chocolate chip pancake buried in the gravel. If you are really good at eye spy you may even see a long snorkel-like nose sticking out of the rocks. That pancake with the snorkel is Chip, Wickiup’s new Spiny Softshell Turtle.
In the wild, Spiny Softshell Turtles live in rivers, creeks, and even some lakes. They like any body of water with sandy or silty bottoms. Their shells are very flat which allows them to quickly dig into the sand and hide when predators approach. They long snorkel-like nose allows Softshell Turtles to stay buried in the sand for a long time. They will sit in the sand with only a small part of their head showing, waiting for a fish or other tasty food to swim by. If the water is too deep for their snorkel to reach the surface, they will extend their long necks to break the surface of the water, take a deep breath, and then retract their neck back down into the sand and continue waiting for food.
Around Linn County, turtles just like Chip might be found hanging out on sand bars in the river. Chip has a row of small spines on the very front of his shell, just behind his head. His cousins, the Smooth Softshell Turtles, lack those spines and instead have a smooth edge on the front of their shells. Both types of Softshell Turtles lay eggs in the sand or loose soil. Eggs hatch in 8 to 12 weeks and little quarter-sized babies dig out from the nest and make their way to water. If the weather is too cold, the babies might stay in the nest for the winter, and dig out in the spring instead.
Come meet Chip!
- Don Becker, Local Herp expert
Rain Garden to Take Root
Saturday, September 7th from 8 am to 11 am
Volunteers from Shive-Hattery and Linn County Conservation will be planting over 400 plants this Saturday at Morgan Creek Park’s new rain garden. More volunteers are welcome! This event is open to the public.
On August 19th fourteen volunteers from Rockwell Collins installed short limestone walls, a check dam and lawn edging. With these structures in place, the rain garden is ready for plants. Over a dozen native species were selected for their function and their beauty. Species include: Swamp Milkweed, Black-eyed Susan, Blue Flag Iris, Spiderwort and Pale Purple Coneflower. Located at the southeast corner of the Arboretum’s parking lot, this rain garden is a creative solution to a common problem – managing rain events and storm water. Linn County Conservation hopes that it will serve as an example for residents and business owners.
Interested volunteers should arrive with garden gloves, a trowel, water to drink and a smile. Large shovels will be provided by Linn County Conservation. This event is a great opportunity to learn about rain gardens – both the structure and the plants – and to talk with other passionate gardeners. Morgan Creek Park is located at 7517 Worchester Road, Palo, Iowa 52324. Volunteers will be working adjacent to the parking lot for the Arboretum and will be easy to spot.
Assistant Resource Manager for Linn County Conservation Shaun Reilly says he “never considers a garden totally done” – a sentiment that is sure to resonate with other avid gardeners – but this planting day will certainly give this particular garden a giant leap forward.
Can’t make the planting day? No worries! Come and visit the Arboretum at a later date. With over a mile of walking trail, 250 different species, a butterfly garden and now a rain garden, there is plenty to see.
This exciting project is made possible through partnership. Shive-Hattery donated its services to design the rain garden. Rockwell Collins provided financial support through the Rockwell Collins Green Communities Program. Plants from Cedar River Garden Center in Palo were purchased at a discounted rate.
By Chuck Ungs
Heat is a curious thing. During this week of being reminded that mom nature likes to let us know when school is back in session, we should take a glance at how heat really operates. You may have to drop back to high school physics to recall all this, but heat moves in only one direction. It flows from an item with a greater amount of heat energy to an item with less. How can you utilize this information when one wishes to be cooler, one might ask? Simple – by moving the heat present in your body to an item with a lower amount of heat energy. Or by stopping the flow of addition heat into your body – read on for more information.
Often heat transfers are accomplished by our bodies without even thinking about it. The old saying is that horses sweat, men perspire and women glisten. In fact, this reaction to being overly warm is a very effective method of cooling a body off. It works by transferring the heat of your body into the air via evaporation of your sweat. This is accomplished much more effectively with a breeze speeding up the lifting away of heat – weather that is sent by nature or by a fan depends on your situation at the time. The sweat is able to facilitate the carrying away of heat into the air. When humidity rises then the capacity of the air to lift the sweat from your skin is diminished – there is already lots of moisture in the air so it doesn’t evaporate as easily, this is why we feel fine with a dry heat but uncomfortable in humid conditions.
Another method to remove heat is to avoid direct contact with light that increases warmth – in other words stay in the shade. The infrared radiation present in the daylight adds to the heat we are carrying rather than removing it. So staying in the shade like cattle around the one tree in a pasture on a hot day is a cooler place for us as well as the cows.
The final suggestion would be to reduce your heat energy by contact with cool or cold items or liquids. I recommend a nice tall glass of water or iced tea to help transfer some of that heat away from your body, in a rather effective way to stay cool and hydrated at the same time.
It’s Labor Day weekend and a popular weekend for camping! With heat indexes in the 100s the staff at Linn County Conservation offers some tips to make your camping experience a positive one!
- Be alert to weather conditions. Heat will remain high through Monday and there is a chance of thunderstorms on Sunday. Be prepared for the high temps throughout the weekend.
- Select a campsite that offers plenty of shade if possible. If there is no natural shade available, try creating some shade using a tarp.
- Drink plenty of water. Remember caffeine and alcohol can worsen dehydration conditions. To stay well hydrated, water is your best choice.
- Keep your food safely stored in a cooler or secured area outside of your tent. If food needs to be kept cool, a cooler will help prevent spoiling. With this heat, you will need to check the ice levels often! Keeping food secured will make it harder to critters to disturb! (One cooler for drinks and a separate cooler will food will be best so there is not a constant opening/closing of your food cooler.
- Wear sunscreen and sunglasses. Even on an overcast day, you can get a sunburn! Protect your skin and eyes from UV rays.
- If there is water nearby, many people will want to cool off in the water. Please be careful around water. Everyone should know how to swim and have a life jacket on or nearby.
- At the peak point of heat during the day, consider visiting Wickiup Hill. You’ll have an opportunity to experience nature, but it will be cool and air-conditioned inside!
- Take fans if you have an electric site.
- Dress cool by wearing light colors, water wicking clothes. – wear loose, light-colored, cotton clothing and a wide-brimmed hat that will shade your face. It will also help to lay a cloth soaked in cold water over your head before putting on the hat. Re-wet the cloth any time it warms up.
Here are some non-weather related camping tips:
- When going for hikes on trails, use the buddy system. Take a friend with you and be sure to tell others where you are going.
- Be cautious and considerate about building a fire. Don’t build a fire near tents or other flammable items. Don’t leave a fire unattended and make sure it is extinguished if you decide to depart.
- Be responsible for young children in your party. They too want to have fun, so make sure their environment is safe – don’t run out in front of vehicles, don’t talk to strangers and be extra careful around fire and water.
- Keep all pets on leashes at all times.
- Wear insect repellent and check yourself for ticks! If you find a tick on you, simply brush it off with your fingers.
- Keep any valuables out of sight and in a locked area.
- Follow park rules and regulations. You can find these posted at the registration booth at each campground.
If you have any concerns about campground safety, please contact the campground host or park staff immediately
To see the approved July Linn County Conservation Board Meeting Minutes please click HERE
In July of 2012, Wickiup Hill was awarded a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to complete a water table as part of the Everyone Lives in a Watershed exhibit at Wickiup Hill. After several months of planning with department staff, Boss Display of Columbus, OH is currently installing the water table at Wickiup Hill.
This exhibit is centered on improving watershed management through interactive displays. Following interaction with the exhibit, watershed table, and associated educational materials, visitors will be able to define a watershed, understand that everyone lives in a watershed, identify good and bad watershed practices, and understand that there are actions everyone can take to better manage water and that poor watershed decisions result in flooding and deteriorating water quality.
Watch for additional information regarding when the exhibit will be open to the public.
Program helps improve roadway safety, prevent against invasive species and provide erosion control
LINN COUNTY, IA – July 26, 2013 – Linn County is one of 34 counties in Iowa to receive native grass and wildflower seeds for roadway plantings that will improve roadway safety and habitats thanks to partnerships with the Federal Highway Administration Transportation Alternatives Program, the Iowa Department of Transportation Living Roadway Trust Fund and the University of Northern Iowa Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Program.
The total award for all counties was $255,000.00 to plant approximately 1,140 acres of Iowa roadsides to native prairie. Linn County received enough seeds to plant 100 acres of public road rights-of-way. The value of Linn County’s share of seeds is $34,587. Linn County’s Secondary Road Department Roadside Management Program will be responsible for administering the program in Linn County.
Native right-of-way plantings filter water that runs off road surfaces, provide habitat for pollinators and songbirds, improve erosion control and weed control, and provide surface roughness to retain rolling and skipping snow during winter months thereby reducing the possibilities of roadway icing along wider hard surface roadways.
2013 Iowa counties receiving seed:
Adair, Allamakee, Benton, Buchanan, Butler, Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Dallas, Des Moines, Fayette, Franklin, Guthrie, Hardin, Iowa, Jasper, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Mahaska, Marion, Mitchell, Montgomery, Muscatine, O’Brien, Pocahontas, Palo Alto, Polk, Pottawattamie, Sac, Scott, Shelby, Story, Van Buren and Washington.
For more information about native plantings in roadsides, visit www.uni.edu/irvm.
The Cedar Valley Trail is currently closed from Robins Road to County Home Road for resurfacing work. The work is being completed by ITC to restore the trail to it’s original condition prior to transmission line work took place in spring 2013. The trail is expected to open again by this coming weekend. Once opened, that section of the trail will remain open until August 28th and 29th when it will be closed again for sealing.
Starting in next week, Conservation staff will start a trail crossing reconstruction near the Interstate 380 underpass. This work will involve lowering the trail to meet the new grades on the crossing. This project will take several months to complete. Please continue to watch for additional information from Linn County Conservation regarding the timeline for reopening that section of the trail.
The Linn County Conservation Board is excited to announce the opening of a new trail connecting Pinicon Ridge Park to Central City. The trail is part of an extensive trail network in the park and crosses under Highway 13 into Central City. The City of Central City has been working on developing their end of the trail for the past several years.
The trail is paved through Central City and asphalting of the trail in Pinicon Ridge Park will be completed August 1st. There will be some minor edging and sealing work that will follow once the asphalting is complete. The trail is expected to open to the public in the next few days.