The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation has reached an agreement to purchase an area of land along Big Spirit Lake in northern Iowa to stop the construction of a housing development.
Cathy Engstrom is a spokesperson for the private non-profit foundation and says they were concerned about the potential environmental impact of the housing development. She says the site has the last large remaining bulrush bed in the entire lake. She says the bulrushes have “deep ecological significance” as they’re the nursery for many fish species in the entire lake. Engstrom says the bulrushes also are a habitat and food supply for many types of birds and help improve water quality.
She says they and many concerned citizens felt that damaging the bulrush bed would have “terrible repercussions that people on the lakes would be sorry that they had done.” Engstrom says her group will work to preserved the bulrushes. She says the owners, Don and Nancy Yarnes, have agreed to sell the area to the foundation on a contract. She says the goal is to work with the Department of Natural Resources to raise six-and-a-half million dollars so they can put all or most of the land into public ownership.
Engstrom says the final plans for the area depend on how much money they can raise. She says if they can raise all of the money, then all 93 acres will become public land. If they can raise only part of the money, then they’ll protect the most sensitive areas and sell some of the land for private use. Engstrom says if they sell part of the land, they would then be able to dictate that any development be done in a way that would be environmentally friendly.
Engstrom says lakeside development is something that is a delicate balance. She says, “Everybody wants to live by water and everybody loves these lakes. And unfortunately it is possible to love them to death. And that’s what we were concerned would happen here.” She says if the bulrushes were destroyed then the lake would not be the beautiful lake everyone wanted to live by in the first place. The original development proposal for the site included a row of 35 houses placed along the shoreline.