A Record Year

By Melanie Louis, volunteer coordinator on November 26, 2018 in Blog

Moonlight seed harvest

As I reflect on a weekend full of things to be thankful for, I am reminded of the volunteers who have put their time, energy and effort into making a difference in Iowa this past year. In 2018, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) volunteers logged over 1,800 hours caring for the land, introducing others to INHF and assisting staff – that’s 300 hours more than last year!

This year, INHF had the opportunity to make new friends, deepen relationships and learn new skills from our talented volunteers. We were also able to expand our volunteer program to include more events in eastern Iowa. It’s hard to summarize the whole year into just a few paragraphs, but I’ve highlighted a few of my favorite moments from the volunteer season below.

Land ambassador

Through a grant from the Iowa Native Plant Society, INHF was able to purchase hand tools and supplies for our Land Ambassadors – volunteers who have made a year-long commitment to actively assist our stewardship staff at INHF-owned properties across the state.  These individuals devote their time, attention and effort to caring for our properties while enjoying the peace and wildness of these special places. We are incredibly thankful for all of our dedicated volunteers, including our Land Ambassadors, who so generously give of themselves to give back to Iowa’s natural areas. We are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers who enjoy working independently and share a love of getting their hands dirty. If this sounds like a commitment you might be interested in making, contact Melanie for more details.

This year we had the opportunity to engage with the communities of Cedar Rapids and Marion through various volunteer events at Faulkes Heritage Woods. This beautiful oak woodland is owned by the City of Marion and open for public enjoyment. Originally protected by INHF for its natural beauty, the property has been invaded by invasive species, including garlic mustard and Japanese barberry. Through the efforts of many volunteers and dedicated neighbors, we have been able to set back large areas of these invasive species, allowing native species to thrive. If you haven’t had a chance to experience this beautiful place, make a visit this spring to observe the woodland flowers that accompany the majestic oak trees.

Breen seed harvest

Native prairie seed harvesting continues to be one of our volunteers’ favorite activities. This year offered more opportunities to venture into Iowa’s prairies and experience the peacefulness of seed collection. Volunteers traveled to Allamakee, Polk, Johnson, Jones and Warren counties to help hand harvest seed to be used in the establishment of new prairies. It’s amazing how much seed can be harvested when you have so many extra pairs of hands. With the help of 280 volunteers, an estimated 250 pounds of native prairie seed was collected in 2018. That’s 30 acres of new prairie that will be planted by INHF and our partners.

Not only does 2019 have big shoes to fill, it also marks INHF’s 40th anniversary. That means more reasons to celebrate and additional opportunities to make a lasting impact on Iowa’s land, water and wildlife.

Thank you for another inspiring year of giving back to the land and supporting the work of Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The plants, animals and fellow humans that call this place home are forever thankful.