Iowa’s fading–but fighting–prairies

Prairies are a constantly fading commodity in the Midwest (/stock)

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | June 5th, 2018

Prairies are a common sight in the Midwest, but no state knows the way of prairie restoration like Iowa. Multiple organizations, many affiliated with Universities, exist solely to help preserve and restore some of Iowa’s former prairieland, as the state used to be absolutely covered with prairies. Currently, less than 0.1% percent of  Iowa’s original prairie is left.

Several local citizens dedicate their time and resources on a daily basis to help restore prairie life. Dr. Daryl Smith at the University of Northern Iowa started the Native Roadside Vegetation Center (now the Tallgrass Prairie Center), one of the largest prairie restoration centers in the country. The center focuses on scientific research, and its staff members find better ways to cultivate prairie plant growth. Further inkand, Cathy Irvine, a “citizen scientist” from Dysart, works with volunteers and students to revive a stretch of 77-acre land outside of her small town into its original prairie state.

Many of these restoration organizations have expressed their dissatisfaction with the education system and the lack of education about the most prominent feature of the Midwestern landscape. This lack of education, coupled with the challenges of a chronic lack of manpower and the high risk of wildfires that prairies often contend with, make restoring and maintaining prairie life a challenge–but it’s one that people like Dr. Smith and Cathy Irvine are more than willing to do.

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