Northern Tour The northern tour will take Conference attendees to sites in Monona, Harrison, and Pottawattamie counties, travelling the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway, a 220 mile lineal trail of paved and gravel roads, through the 640,000 acre landform. Attendees will have an opportunity to visit a highly managed native prairie at the Loess Hills State Forest and briefly hike the ridge prairie trail from the Loess Hills Forest Overlook. Murray Hill’s prairie trail, a short steep climb, will lead participants to a specular scenic vista, where bur oak woodlands dominate the view shed to the south, native prairie to the north, and the Missouri River floodplain at your feet. Harrison County Conservation Board’s (HCCB) Old Town Conservation Area will offer attendees a look at a public area, with native prairie, prairie restoration, native CRP and oak savanna habitats. Our tour will end at Pottawattamie County’sHitchcock Nature Center; a site once slated to be a landfill and now dedicated to restoring natural areas and human relationships with nature. The tour will be led by Chad Graeve, Natural Resource Specialist for Pottawattamie County Conservation Board and Tim Sproul, Loess Hills Land Conservation Specialist for Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Both Chad and Tim have been extensively involved with land management, restoration and protection of native prairie resources in the Loess Hills for decades.
Southern Tour The southern tour will take Conference attendees to several sites in the southern Loess Hills, including the Iowa DNR’s Waubonsie State Park, Militia Hollow Wildlife Management Area (WMA), soon to be acquired Biscuitroot Bluff WMA, and The Nature Conservancy’s Folsom Point Preserve, as well as the privately-owned Baylor Bowl. These sites showcase some of the best remaining natural prairie in the southern Hills, as well as the rugged steep terrain that differentiate the southern Hills from the landform further north. Attendees will have the opportunity to explore the sites with a series of brief hikes. The tour will be led by Susanne Hickey, Director of Conservation Programs for The Nature Conservancy in Iowa and Matt Dollison, the Iowa DNR’s Nishnabotna Wildlife Unit Biologist. Both Susanne and Matt have been involved in the protection and restoration of sites in the southern Loess Hills and will offer insight on the challenges faced and the techniques used to protect and restore.
Urban Tour The urban tour will visit three natural areas within the city limits of Council Buffs. Attendees will tour the 42-acre Vincent Bluff State Preservethat has been under restoration for 17 years. Leaders will describe the restoration process including successes and challenges. Discussion will include the partnership with the City of Council Bluffs and neighbors living next to the preserve. Fundraising for the purchase of the property and its restoration will be included. The tour will also visit the City of Council Bluffs’ Fairmount Park to see prairie and savanna restoration in progress. A member of the City parks will be present to answer questions. A third stop will be Lewis and Clark Park on the north side of Council Bluffs. The Park is located on top of the front range of the Loess Hills and has excellent potential for prairie restoration. This tour will have time to explore the prairie trail on top of the loess bluffs.