Iowans work to preserve and restore native prairie

IA Original Prairie Cover
Iowa’s Original Prairie Cover (Iowa Prairie Network)
IA Current Prairie Cover
Iowa’s Current Prairie Cover (Iowa Prairie Network)

Jenna Ladd | June 8, 2016

Despite discouraging trends, Iowans across the state are working to protect and revitalize native prairie.

Iowa once boasted 30 million acres of native prairie grasses, their cycle of burning and regrowth are responsible for creating much of Iowa’s lush top soil. According to the Iowa Prairie Network, less than 0.1% of Iowa’s native prairie remains. Prairie ecosystems have been destroyed by urban sprawl, agriculture, and fire suppression.

Most of the state’s remaining prairie is scattered about in small patches. On the Western side of the state, however, more than half a million acres of prairie have been protected for more than 40 years. Diane Blankenship, coordinator for the Loess Hills Prairie Seminar, says, “the Loess Hills prairie ecosystem is [a] true conservation success story, with support not only from groups like the Iowa Prairie Network, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and the Nature Conservancy of Iowa, but also the time and effort of volunteers.” According to the Public News Service, the Seminar held its 40th annual weekend of prairie education and outreach just last weekend near Onawa, Iowa. The seminar provides hikes, arts workshops, and Native American story telling in the prairie that are free and open to the public.

On the Eastern edge of the state, such large areas of native grasslands are hard to come by. A newly founded coalition, TallgrassQC, is looking to change that. The group planted over 700 native plants in a small patch on 2nd Street in Davenport this month. While the coalition is still in its infancy, its members are optimistic about the tiny ecosystem near the Ground Transportation Center. “The model prairie will be a display of natural beauty, but it will have a practical application, too. In time, it will become a habitat for wild things-butterflies, bees and other animals,” said coalition member Brian Ritter.

Beyond urban grassland installation, TallgrassQC also offers online prairie planting guides for home gardeners. The coalition will partner with Nahant Marsh Education Center to host the 2016 Quad Cities Pollinator Conference June 23-24.

For more information, or to register your garden as a prairie pollinator garden, visit


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