The Loess Hills wildlife management area in western Iowa’s Monona County is shifting its conservation strategy. A forest stewardship plan is proposed, which means techniques would be used like forest thinning and timber harvesting to protect and attract new species.
Forester Joe Herring says, in the past, wildlife areas would acquire property and leave the area to grow, but ecologists are pushing for a more hands-on approach.
Herring says, “We realized you can’t just take your hands off the wheel and do no management to take care of these wildlife areas if you want to provide the right kind of habitat for certain species that need that.”
This kind of active management is vital, Herring says, to solve major forestry issues in Iowa, like the decline of oak tree populations and the rise of invasive species.
Iowa DNR wildlife biologist Doug Chafa says there’s a need for greater age diversity in the western Iowa woods. It’s a way to make sure a whole range of species can thrive in the 26-hundred acres spread across Monona County.
“These little nuances are these little habitat niches,” Chafa says. “If we do nothing, and all the forest goes to that older age class, we lose those spaces or habitat.”
Similar plans have been developed statewide for many of Iowa’s wildlife areas already, but state foresters say much more active management needs to be done to protect Iowa’s woodlands.
(By Kendall Crawford, Iowa Public Radio)