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Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation celebrates 35 years

On June 21, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) celebrated its 35th year as a private non-profit organization working statewide with public agencies and private landowners to restore and protect Iowa’s land, water and wildlife.

In 1979 Gov. Ray gathered business and community leaders together to become the founding board members of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Thirty-five years later, INHF has worked on 1,046 projects and protected over 146,000 acres in 97 of Iowa’s 99 counties. Many of these projects have been transferred to county, state or federal conservation agencies for public ownership and use.

“It is humbling to see the impact of what a dedicated group of citizens has done for Iowa over the past 35 years,” said Joe McGovern, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation president. “I want to thank our supporters and partners, who are instrumental in both our past and present work, as we strive for more protected land, cleaner water, healthier soil and abundant wildlife.”

Here is a selection of INHF projects:

Heritage Addition to Effigy Mounds: One of the INHF’s most noted accomplishments in Allamakee County was the protection of the 1,045-acre Heritage Addition to Effigy Mounds National Monument in 2000. When this unusually large woodland area along the Yellow River at Effigy Mounds became available in the early 1980s, INHF recognized the importance of protecting this unbroken woodland from development and fragmentation of habitat. INHF guided landowner negotiations, fundraising and other logistics for this project. It took more than 20 years of patience, 1,400 donors, $1.5 million in funding and an act of Congress to complete the Heritage Addition. With the addition, there are now 2,526 acres of permanently protected habitat at Effigy Mounds. Hiking trails weave in and around the forests, and tallgrass prairies and wetlands are located on the site.

Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge: The 1993 floods devastated Horseshoe Bend, located where the Iowa River joins the Mississippi in Louisa County. That and decades of smaller floods convinced local farmers to dissolve this entire levee district. INHF coordinated funding and implemented 27 land deals to acquire the floodplain habitat, while helping landowners acquire better crop ground. At 2,600 acres and $2 million, Horseshoe Bend remains one of INHF’s most complex and proudest achievements — and is nationally recognized as a model for alternative floodplain management.The project is now a division of the Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge.

Wabash Trace Nature Trail: Until the Raccoon River Valley Trail loop was completed in Spring 2013, the Wabash Trace Nature Trail was Iowa’s longest trail for many years. The trail boasts a length of 63 miles with 62 bridges, which made it a huge challenge to build and complete. The Wabash Trace Nature Trail was one of the biggest ventures for funding and logistics that INHF had encountered at that time. The process of buying the corridor and then building and paying for the trail spanned the years of 1988-1997. We have provided leadership in its management for another 15 years.

Anglers Bay: INHF, many local supporters and the Iowa DNR protected this highly developable area on Big Spirit Lake. The site protects 2/3 mile of natural shoreline that contains bulrushes, which serve as a “nursery” for young fish — fish that are the root of Spirit Lake’s economy. Protection of the bay also allowed for the restoration of land to prairie and wetlands as well as a future trail alignment. Two state appropriations, many private donors, volunteer fundraising and lots of partnership effort allowed this $6.5-million project to be completed in Dickinson County. In late 2008, the entire property was transferred to the Iowa DNR for low-impact public use.

High Trestle Trail: INHF spearheaded the planning, fundraising, organizing and overall execution of the 25-mile High Trestle Trail and its world-class bridge, which connects five communities in Polk, Story, Boone and Dallas counties. The project took 800 donors, $14.7 million of funding and nearly eight years of work to complete. The 1Ž2-mile, 13-stories-high bridge across the Des Moines River valley is one of the largest trail bridges in the world and has received numerous awards and recognition for design, engineering and overall greatness.

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