Monday, April 25, 2011

Every Little Bit

"Summer Along Angler's Bay"
color pencil - 5X7" - art work © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for larger view)

This "spring" has really been a bugger!  Well, maybe I'm just being impatient but until this past weekend, it's just been a gray cold/windy/wet reminder of November!  

I haven't been able to do any of the prep work in the pastures that I'd like, other than (thank goodness!) get our burning accomplished about 4 weeks back.  We opted to burn 2 of the 3 acres, leaving the third acre abutting the 23 acre native pasture in back, unburned.  We had a good deal of insect diversity back in that corner last summer and fall; maybe resting it another year will help make it a banner year again?  We also burned another acre south of the driveway...this section has yet to be overseeded...I am very interested in seeing what may come back on it's own...this is the 3rd year we've burned it now.  The south edge of this acre burn is our neighbor's pasture - it has never been burned and does have some grass remnants of Side Oats Grama, Tall Dropseed, and Blue Grama Grass.  Also has Fringed Puccoon (which we discovered there for the first time last spring) and Blue Eyed Grass.  There's about 3 and a half acres there so I'm tending to believe that our one acre burn next to it will still repopulate with invertebrates from there.

There's been quite a stir on the list servs here in Iowa the past couple of weeks.  It may have been a small "bit" of a tragedy, but tragic none-the-less.  

Maybe the old factoid that Iowa is the most changed landscape of any of the 50 states is being overused?  I don't think so, I think that statement is true; we're not being overly protective or cautious - we need to waiver on the side of our natural heritage in our thinking.

Apparently, a small wet/wet mesic prairie disappeared this month in eastern Iowa.  Iowa is a state that now has so little of what it was made up of just 150 years ago and whenever a tiny piece that, miraculously survived this long suddenly disappears,'s tragic.

The prairie in question was near the town of was considered a wetland prairie and was known for some high quality wet and wet mesic native plants "for" Iowa.  A couple weeks back, someone who was aware of the prairie (it was privately owned), was stunned to see it was being filled over with dirt.  Some frantic discussion on the native plants list serv found that it was one of those incidents that no one noticed until it was over.  Further investigation showed it was all done by the book (according to Iowa regulations), all permits were applied for, eventually approved, and the work commenced.  

Being a wetland, it was "assumed" the property was "safe" from this type of future...but unlike most states (particularly neighboring states) Iowa does not have any state regs against wetland drainage if they do not fall under federal jurisdiction.  This small wetland prairie did not.

Ironically, this wetland prairie was filled in to build a school building on.  Perhaps ironically, again, some day a class at this school might, in studying our vanishing natural heritage, plant a prairie plot in the school yard somewhere...this was poised by a list serv contributor and I must say - this was nearly the first thought that formed in my own mind when I read the circumstances.

The image at the top of the blog is a small color pencil study I recently finished of a location north of us - Angler's Bay on Spirit Lake in Dickinson County.  In my rendition I left out "civilization" on the far distant shoreline.  In reality it is dotted with houses and docks - visible from this reed filled shore across the bay.  That was the future this shoreline was looking least the possibility of it.  But the owners of this 3/4 mile long reed bed (the area's largest remaining virgin bullrush bed) saw the need to preserve this "wetland".  Through a large/intense campaign, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation was able to save this "bit" of our natural heritage...only 93 acres, but another "bit" of our grand children's heritage is being preserved!

I know, in general conversation, a lament of losing 10 or 20 acres of prairie or wetland would almost certainly be scoffed at by the majority of people hearing about it...but we've long passed the point where we can write it off like someone tossing trash out of a passing car.  When it's gone, it's truly gone...lets try harder to instill a true value on what of our heritage remains - natural and cultural!


  1. The wetland fill brings a tear to my eye. There is a constant battle to preserve what little is left of the Nebraska Rainwater Basin.

    With the price of corn will we lose more?

    Come see us with your wonderful artistic talent. Of course we live in the mid-grass prairie, the fluctuating ecotone between the tall- and short-grass prairies. :-)

  2. Hi Clark! I also saw a local CRP disked up today. Guess the 10 year payments were done and the corn/bean prices looked real good? We need to keep speaking up!

    P.S. The mid-grass is cool too!