Winter 2014 Oak Hickory Newsletter

The newest version of  the Oak Hickory News is hot off the press! Take a look at all our upcoming programs!

Buffalo Creek Dam Mitigation Option Chosen

At it’s October 27 board meeting the Linn County Conservation board chose a mitigation option for the Buffalo Creek Dam. The option chosen includes partial dam removal of 5 – 7 feet together with the installation of rock arch rapids to allow fish passage.  Watch for updates regarding this project.

Fall 2014 Oak Hickory Newsletter

As we welcome the cooler, autumn weather we also welcome a great new set of events, lectures and opportunities to explore the outdoors. The lineup for this fall is great! Join us at Wickiup as our naturalists lead bird banding, snowshoe building, and hikes inspired by the underground railroad. Bring your camera to Wickiup and learn from expert photographer Bob Lancaster in the prairie, put on your thinking cap and join Dr. Andrew Kitchen for a timely presentation on human infectious disease, prepare to let your imagination run wild with Mike Havlik as he relays evidence of Sasquatch.  We think fall is a great time to learn, be outside and connect with each other. Read about all the opportunities in our Fall 2014 Oak Hickory Newsletter!


2-Day Loess Hills Bus Trip! Register Now!

Join Buchanan and Linn County Conservation for a fall bus tour of the beautiful Loess Hills in Western Iowa. Stops include the Wells Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor, Broken Kettle Grassland Preserve, Lewis and Clark State Park, Desoto National Wildlife Refuge and Hitchcock Nature Center. Contact Naturalist Gail Barels at 319-892-6485 for more details about this tour. Registration Deadline is September 22nd. Download the printable brochure/registration form: Loess Hills Trip Brochure.


Sunflowers & Winter Wheat for Dove Season

rehrauer sunflowerPictured: Sunflowers at Rehrauer Natural Area

Natural Resource staff have planted several Linn County natural areas with sunflowers for this year’s dove season which kicks off September 1st. Plots are at Chain Lakes Natural Area, Matsell Bridge Natural Area, Rehrauer Natural Area and Wakpicada Natural Area. There is also winter wheat at Goose Pond Natural Area which was planted at the beginning of August and then reseeded today. Staff report seeing lots of doves in all of these locations.

2014_Dove Plot Maps for Linn County Areas
Includes maps for the following:
Chain Lakes Natural Area  – sunflowers
Matsell Bridge Natural Area Map – sunflowers
Rehrauer Natural Area Map – sunflowers
Wakpicada Natural Area Map – sunflowers
Goose Pond Natural Area Map – winter wheat

2014 Fall Releaf Application Available

The application for fall Releaf is now available! Choose from 10 selected species. (You do not need to live in Jones or Linn county to order from these events, as long as you are an Alliant Energy customer.)

Operation ReLeaf is a program to help Alliant Energy customers save energy in their homes using trees to provide shade during the summer and create windbreaks during the winter.  Each household may order up to two trees for $25.00 per tree; Alliant covers the rest of the cost.  Most of the trees retail for between $65.00 and $125.00 per tree.

2014_Releaf Application for Linn Co Distribution

Buffalo Creek Trail Days

Come to Buffalo Creek Park on Saturday, August 23rd from 12:30 – 9 pm for a day of outdoor fun. There will be plenty of great competition (a kayak/canoe bobber hunt, a buffalo chip throwing contest, a watermelon seed spitting contest) as well as good food (Dutch Oven Gathering) and special entertainment starting at 7pm with storyteller Darrin Crow. This event supports walking trails between Savage and Buffalo Creek Park. Check out the details in the 2014 Buffalo Creek Trail Day Brochure

Survey for Indian Creek Watershed
Sharing your opinion gives you a chance to win prizes
The Indian Creek Watershed Management Authority is asking that residents complete a survey. The survey results will be used to help improve the vitality of the Indian, Dry and Squaw Creeks and will assist landowners, farmers, businesses and citizens in their efforts to protect and enjoy water resources.

The watershed is a 93-square mile area of land that drains to Indian Creek (including all of Marion and Alburnett and parts of Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, Robins, and rural Linn County).

Click here to Take the Survey!  




Buffalo Creek Dam at Coggon

Seeking Public Involvement
The Linn County Conservation Board is evaluating alternatives for mitigating the Buffalo Creek dam in Coggon, Iowa. The public is encouraged to attend an informational gathering on Thursday, June 19th at the Coggon Center from 5:30 to 7:30pm. Members of Linn County Conservation, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the consulting firms of Riverwise Engineering and Shive-Hattery Inc. will be on hand to seek input and answer questions. Buffalo Creek is on the state’s Impaired Waters list. The dam currently has safety and environmental issues which need to be addressed. The Coggon Center is the former elementary school at 408 E Linn Street, Coggon, Iowa.

Join Linn Area Photo Club for Wildflower Hike

May Wildflower Photography Walk
At Wickiup Hill Outdoor Area
Sunday May 4th, 4:30 to 7:00pm

Join the Linn Area Photo Club in May as veteran wildflower photographer Bob Lancaster, leads a trek through the Wickiup woodlands, wetlands, prairie and savannah on the afternoon of Sunday May 4th. Meet at the front door to Wickiup and wear your comfortable hiking shoes for an approximately two mile hike. After the hike, you are welcome to stay until sunset (appx 8pm) when the gates close.

Suggested equipment to bring:
Macro lens
Bug spray – keep in mind DEET is great for avoiding ticks and mosquitoes but bad for camera bodies.
Empty garbage bag or similar to lie down onto the grass without getting dirty.

The shoot date will stay as planned unless it is pouring down rain at the start time. This wildflower shoot will still take place even if there is a light mist as the mist would help create beautiful images. This shoot is free to attend for photographers of all skill levels. Links to images can be sent to the email and will be forwarded to Wickiup. Remember to include an ‘Image Rights’ note in your email for your photo donation. If you’d like to check out Bob Lancaster’s wildflower webpage, click the following link:

Summer Camps!

The naturalists at Wickiup Hill Learning Center are excited to offer eight summer camps in 2014 and six archery day camps. Learn how to be a naturalist, survive in the wild, build a fairy house or carve a walking stick! Check out our brochure for this year’s outdoor adventures – Wickiup’s Summer Camps 2014

Summer Oak Hickory Newsletter

The latest Oak Hickory Newsletter has been sent to the printers and should arrive in mailboxes the last week of March. But because we are so excited about the new programs, camps and upcoming events we are including it here – 2014 Summer Oak Hickory Newsletter. There is something for everyone. Learn about spring fungus on a hike led by the Prairie State Mushroom Club in May, build a long bow with expert Gene Winter in June, or go on a virtual expedition for dinosaur fossils in the Canadian Rockies.Check out the spread of summer camps – from fairy house building to woodcarving to outdoor survival – your kids are sure to make great memories outdoors. Cheers to warmer weather!

2014 Environmental Lobby Day

Plan to join fellow Iowans at the statehouse in support of clean water, wildlife habitat, and conservation progress, March 18, 2014!

Where:  Iowa State Capitol rotunda
When:  Tuesday, March 18, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Who:  Open to all Iowans with a passion for protecting our state’s natural resources!

You can tell us you plan to attend at

Plan to wear blue to show your support for clean water! A training for citizen advocates will be held at 8:30 (location TBA); and a press conference on the importance of conservation action will be held during the event.

Last year, 30 organizations and more than 100 Iowans came together in a snowstorm to let legislators know Iowans value the quality of life and economic benefits that come from protecting our natural resources and supporting outdoor recreation.  Now, with a historic opportunity to fund Iowa’s Resource Enhancement and Protection Program at a $25 million level for its 25th anniversary year, members of the Iowa REAP Alliance and Iowa Environmental Council are working together for an even bigger turnout in 2014. Together, we can help “close the deal” for conservation this legislative session!  After an uplifting REAP Congress meeting earlier in January brought delegates together from all over the state to support funding for REAP and Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy, March 18 provides a key opportunity to maintain conservation momentum later in the session.

You are encouraged to “Commit to Attend” the lobby day by registering online at  When you do, you will receive parking information, talking points, and other updates about the event directly in your inbox.

Sign up now at

What to do with Injured Wildlife

By Naturalist Chuck Ungs

As we move towards the return of warm weather once again, I am reminded of the fact that baby animal and injured animal calls are about to ramp up.  As a conservation agency we field lots of calls about what to do with a wild creature that is in distress.

The first and foremost question is whether the critter is in danger.  If the creature is simply sitting in your backyard and appears to be just alone at the time it may be best to simply leave it there and not interact with it.  In countless cases mom or perhaps dad will be out of sight – but that doesn’t mean much, these creatures are exceptionally good at hiding in plain sight. When the time is right the parent will cruise in and feed the little one or escort them to a different location.

If the neighbor’s cat or dog are sniffing around and making contact with injured or young beast then what can or should be done with it?  The quick and easy answer is to attempt to restrain the domestic beasts to allow the wild one to survive.  Of course, there are times when that simply isn’t possible.  In such events it may be best to attempt to place the wild one in a tree to prevent injury from the pet.  Understand that the idea is to minimize the stress put on such individuals by reacting quickly and not having an extended chase to capture them.

Of course with an obvious injury the wildlife could use some assistance.  In that case it would be best first and foremost to contact a trained wildlife rehabilitator.  Locally, you can call the Wapsi River Wildlife Rehabilitation Project members that include:

Michelle at 319-480-6828
Gayla at 319-480-5048
Beth at 319-480-2776
Christy at 319-721-0566
or you may reach them at

If you are closer to Black Hawk County then you can reach the Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project at 319-277-6511.

With each of these numbers you may need to leave a message and wait for a reply.

The best thing for the animal is to observe them briefly and then call the numbers.  You are asked to avoid feeding or watering the animal, however you should keep the animal in a warm, quiet place and do not handle it any more than needed to contain it in a cardboard box or similar container.  Most rehabbers cover the fees involved out of their own pockets so donations are most appreciated and help to ensure the future care of such creatures.  The donations go directly to the care of the animals.

If you have an interest in learning more about what wildlife rehabilitation is all about, you may wish to join us for an upcoming class at Wickiup Hill on Saturday, March 1, from noon to 2 pm.  Attendees will learn what you can do, how to help and not hurt, and what it means to be a wildlife rehabilitator.  Linda Nebbe has been a rehabber and educator for over 40 years.  She and her “co-presenters” will take you behind the scenes. When you leave you will know what to do when you find that distressed animal as well as how you can get more involved with wildlife rehabilitation.  Please call 319-892-6485 to register by Thursday February 27th.  This program is free.


Oak Hickory Newsletter

The latest Oak Hickory is packed with great winter programs! Check out the opportunities in January, February and March for both indoor and outdoor fun. Oak Hickory Newsletter November 2013

Sandhill Crane & Prairie Chicken Bus Tour

Linn County Conservation & Buchanan County Conservation are partnering in 2014 to offer a unique birding opportunity. Have you wanted to go see sandhill cranes or prairie chickens, but aren’t sure where or how to coordinate a trip?
Join birding experts for a complete package bus trip to Nebraska this March 27th – 30th. Leave the driving, scheduling and guide
coordination to us!  To view the trip brochure click HERE

October Conservation Board Meeting Minutes

To see the approved August Linn County Conservation Board Meeting Minutes please click  October Board Meeting Minutes.

Fall Fire

DIGITAL CAMERAPrescribed 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

100-Yard Range to Reopen

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.

click here to register online at Get Me Registered 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.

2) All range users must Log-in & Log-out at the entrance kiosk. 

3) Some important Range Rules have been updated. By purchasing a daily or annual permit, users agree to abide by the full list of range rules. Most notably, target requirements have changed. Targets must now be placed at a height of at least 37 inches off the ground.CLICK HERE FOR RANGE RULES
4) An orientation class for the 50-yard range is no longer required.

September Board Meeting Minutes

The approved minutes from the September Linn County Conservation Board Meeting are available. Click Here to Read