The Nature Conservancy in Iowa received a $75,000 grant from the Iowa West Foundation in November of 2009 to support the use of prescribed fires in the Loess Hills. The grant allows the Conservancy and partners to further support the prescribed fire efforts already underway by volunteer fire departments and landowners to restore and manage the prairies and oak woodlands which are threatened by invasive vegetation. In addition, it will help fund a new fire coordinator position that will open to applicants next week.
“We are grateful for the generosity of Iowa West and the opportunity they have given us to restore Iowa’s natural prairie landscape,” said Susanne Hickey, the Conservancy’s Loess Hills project director. “Restoring fire to the Loess Hills will improve grazing land for livestock and revive the natural landscape for wildlife and rare species.”
Invasive plants such as eastern red cedars and other brush have infiltrated the Loess Hills’ grasslands and oak woodlands in recent years. According to Hickey, an expanded prescribed fire program will help to reduce their presence and foster the growth of native plants.
With support from the Iowa West Foundation and the Loess Hills Alliance, the grant will allow the Conservancy to hire a prescribed fire coordinator to work with volunteer fire departments and landowners to expand the use of this land management tool. It will also provide opportunities for volunteer fire departments to train existing firefighters in prescribed fire. The Smithland Fire Department southeast of Sioux City, Iowa has already proven successful in implementing prescribed fire for private landowners. The Conservancy and partners, such as the Loess Hills Alliance, plan to sponsor workshops in the Loess Hills for volunteer firefighters, conservation agencies and landowners to learn how to conduct prescribed fires. “This model has sticking power,” Hickey explains, “Prescribed fire will be sustainable for years to come.” Currently, about four volunteer fire departments in the Loess Hills area assist with prescribed fires; a number the Conservancy hopes to double with the help of the new fire coordinator.
For more information on prescribed fire and the new fire coordinator position, visit the Conservancy online at nature.org/Iowa.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.