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Conservation group fighting invasive species

Published: Monday, June 10, 2013 12:49 p.m. CST • Updated: Monday, June 10, 2013 12:50 p.m. CST

The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation is seeking volunteers for a prairie clean-up day at an INHF-owned location in northwestern Jasper County from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

According to Mary Runkel, INHF volunteer coordinator, the “evening on the prairie” will involve an informal and educational prairie hike where participants will be removing sweet clover and wild parsnip along the way.

“They’re both non-native invasive species that can really damage a virgin prairie,” Runkel said. “They outcompete with the native grasses and species, taking over the area completely if they go unchecked.”

Lisa Hein, program and planning director at INHF, said that work-days like this are essential for the preservation of Iowa’s natural history.

“We’ve lost 99.9 percent of our native prairies. The state was once covered by 85 percent prairie, and we’ve lost almost all of our natural areas. One of the things we try to do is preserve some of the remnants,” Hein said. “When we acquire a prairie area, they may require some tender loving care. They may have encroaching non-native species and in this case, we’ll be working to remove them before they can seed and spread over the area further.”

Hein explained that the event is an opportunity for people to get out and explore the prairie site, which is privately owned and not traditionally open to the public.

“Most of all, it’ll be a good opportunity for people who really love the outdoors and might be interested in our organization to spend some time out and learn more about what we do.”

The INHF is a private non-profit land conservation group working across the state of Iowa to protect over 130,000 acres of land. Many projects handled by the INHF later become state or county parks or conservation sites.

Those interested in volunteering can contact Runkel at mrunkel@inhf.org or by phone at (515) 288-1846 to register for the event. Directions to the location will be sent out after registration.

Participants are required to bring gloves, long sleeve attire, long pants and close-toed shoes to protect from the negative effects of the wild parsnip.

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