Tag Archives: wildlife habitat

Pollinator Habitat Incentives with CRP

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For Immediate Release
August 2, 2010


New rules passed by the USDA now offer financial incentives for the establishment of pollinator habitat through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The limited time program sign-up, which opens today to new enrollment, provides one of the largest pollinator conservation opportunities ever in the United States.

The CRP program, first established in 1985, is the largest private landowner conservation effort in the United States with up to 32 million acres eligible for enrollment through the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Program participants take highly erodible land out of crop production, and establish permanent vegetation to protect topsoil and provide wildlife cover. Contracts which run 10 to 15 years provide annual rental payments on enrolled land, and cost-share assistance for establishing vegetative cover.

New rules which go into effect today offer priority ranking for land enrollment that include pollinator-friendly wildflowers and shrubs. Under the current CRP enrollment system, landowners who want to participate are ranked against one another to prioritize enrollment that offer the most conservation benefits. To receive a higher score on the pollinator ranking criteria, participating farmers must plant at least 10% of the CRP acres in wildflower parcels (or at least one acre for CRP enrollment less than 10 acres in size).

The addition of a pollinator habitat incentive for CRP has been promoted by numerous wildlife and pollinator conservation groups in recent years, and the new ranking system now offers one of the largest potential habitat creation opportunities of its kind ever for native bees, butterflies, and managed honey bees, all of which have experienced significant decline in recent years due to habitat loss and other factors.

In developing the new CRP technical requirements, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) worked closely with Dr. Marla Spivak, a leading honey bee researcher based at the University of Minnesota, and the California-based advocacy group, Partners for Sustainable Pollination. Now, as the enrollment period for new CRP contracts begins, the NRCS is working with the non-profit Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to develop wildflower seeding recommendations for states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Oregon. Those recommendations will focus on selecting native wildflower species that are abundant pollen and nectar sources, and that are most likely to thrive in their respective regions.

Rural landowners interested in more information about CRP, including the current sign-up period which ends August 27th, should contact their local Farm Service Agency office. For location information, visit their web site at http://www.fsa.usda.gov <http://www.fsa.usda.gov/>  .

Iowa Insects Mailing List
http://atmos.cgrer.uiowa.edu/herbarium/MailingList.htm <http://atmos.cgrer.uiowa.edu/herbarium/MailingList.htm>

The Iowa Insects Mailing List provides a forum for those interested in Iowa’s insects and,
more generally, invertebrates, their identification and ecology. Its purpose is to encourage
novices who are trying to expand their knowledge about the incredible world of insects.
Another objective is to support the Iowa Native Plant Society.

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Wildlife Gardening

by: http://www.wildflower.org
You can make your garden more attractive to birds, insects and small mammals in a variety of ways. Minor changes such as mowing less frequently can increase the number of non-human visitors to your yard, no matter its size.

A wildlife garden should provide for basic animal needs such as food, shelter and water. Diversity is the key to creating an optimum habitat. A diverse habitat attracts a wider variety of species, offers more choices for forage and shelter and ensures a constant food supply. Ideally, a garden should offer a mixture of meadow, woods and wet areas, but you can create hiding places and feeding areas without drastically changing your yard’s character.

Your yard will attract different types of animals as the seasons change. Migratory species have different foraging needs than residential, non-migratory species. Larval stages of insects (such as caterpillars) often feed on completely different plants, or parts of plants, from what the adults prefer.
Watch birds and butterflies in the wild or on untended land to discover their food preferences. Select plants that maximize flowering and fruiting. Nectar-rich wildflowers are more nutritious for wildlife than showy cultivars, which often are sterile. Color attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Hummingbirds prefer bright red and orange flowers, while butterflies seem to select yellow, purple, blue, pink, and occasionally red flowers. Members of the composite family, such as goldenrods, sunflowers and thistles are good nectar sources for butterflies, and later form seedheads that attract goldfinches and other songbirds.
Be sure to include trees and shrubs with berries to provide winter forage for birds and small mammals. Vines and grasses provide food and nesting materials. Other provisions you can offer residential or transient wildlife include pollen, fungi and sap from native plants or compost.

Try to create a layered effect when planning shelter for wildlife. Wooded areas should include overlapping canopies of trees, shrubs and forbs. The edges of woods are usually rich with wildlife because the cover protects them from predators and the elements.
When designing shelter areas, shrubs may be more important than trees because they grow faster and provide nesting sites for many different species. To provide maximum cover, curb your pruning impulses! Though dense shrubbery, tangled vines and dead-standing trees may contradict your image of an orderly yard, they create ideal nesting and forage sites.
Even in a small yard, a single tree or a few vines can provide shelter for nesting wrens or blackbirds, as well as cover for snails and butterflies. Don’t overlook what’s underfoot – brush piles, hollow logs, and compost piles offer a host of micro-habitats for many organisms.

A significant portion of wildlife activity centers around water. A water source such as a small pond provides a home for amphibians and aquatic insects, a bathtub for birds and drinking water for all kinds of creatures. Many insects have aquatic larval stages, so they need to be near water. Migrating wildlife need convenient water sources along their seasonal routes. On the smallest scale, even a birdbath is a valuable addition to your garden or yard.

Once you allow wildlife into your garden, you must allow nature a bit of freedom in ruling it. As Chris Baines, an innovative British landscaper, notes, the secret of a successful wildlife garden depends on understanding the way in which your various gardening activities will distort the balance. Try to minimize disturbance. Refrain from using herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides, which adversely affect the delicately balanced interactions between organisms and their environment. Allowing your garden more autonomy will leave you plenty of time to observe, enjoy and learn from your creation.

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CRP Acres To Benefit Bobwhite Quail and Other Upland Birds

This is a joint news release from the DNR and the USDA.


MEDIA CONTACTS: For more information, contact Vickie Friedow, FSA, at (515) 254-1540 ext 440; Todd Bogenschutz, DNR, at (515) 432-2823; or Mark Lindflott , NRCS, at (515) 284-4370.

DES MOINES – Iowa producers can enroll up to 10,500 additional acres of cropland into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to benefit upland game birds and other small birds.

“The program is designed to provide much needed habitat and brood rearing areas for quail, pheasant and songbirds in the state,” said Todd Bogenschutz, a wildlife biologist with the DNR. “At the same time, set aside programs protect the most vulnerable land from soil erosion and improve water quality for everyone.”

The additional acres were announced by the U.S.D.A. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at the national Pheasant Fest in March. Producers can sign up at any time at their local U.S.D.A. Farm Service Agency. However, the sign up is “first-come, first-served,” according to Vickie Friedow, of the Farm Service Agency’s conservation and compliance department. “With a limited number of acres available, I would encourage anyone who is interested to contact their local U.S.D.A. office as soon as possible” she added.

Eligible areas include cropland and cropland around the edges of existing grain fields. The average width of the enrolled area must be between 30 and 120 feet wide. At least half of the field must be in crops. To be eligible, the land must have been cropped or considered cropped for four of the six years from 1996 to 2001.

Producers will not be able to enroll land that is used for turn rows, roads, or for storage of crops or equipment. In addition, cropland adjacent to a stream filter or buffer strip is not eligible.

Annual payments will be based on the average rental rates for the county. A combination of cost-share and incentive programs will pay up to 90 percent of the cost of establishing the field border. A sign-up bonus of $100 per acre is available. Contracts run for 10 years.  Enrolled areas must be seeded to a combination of native plants including at least four grass species and a combination of at least five wildflowers and legumes.

For technical assistance, landowners can contact their local U.S.D.A. Service Center (http://www.fsa.usda.gov/ia/) or their local DNR or Pheasants Forever private lands biologists (http://www.iowadnr.gov/wildlife/privatelands/index.html).

Producers can contact their local U.S.D.A. Office for more information

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Howard Bright will speak at Master Gardeners Event at Muscatine IA

Howard will be speaking this month on some of the popular gardening topics for this upcoming season. To learn more visit this site.
Howard Bright owner of Ion Exchange has been invited to speak at the Masters Gardeners Annual Event

The Natural Gait: Northeast Iowa’s Rustic Retreat

The Natural Gait is our sister site check it out here

Taken from Radish Magazine
by Rich Patterson

The view from Grandview Cabin is startling at The Natural Gait in Allamakee County, Iowa.

The notebook in a rustic cabin overlooking Northeast Iowa’s Yellow River captured the essence of The Natural Gait.

“We enjoyed being away from television and telephones for a few days to just let the natural beauty of the area sink in,” reads one longhand entry. Others mention the cozy joy of curling up with a book by the wood stove as snow enveloped the cabin. Another entry relates a long day riding horses through the woods and prairies of this unusual Iowa location.

The Natural Gait and its sister, Ion Exchange, aren’t just businesses. They are places to connect with natural Iowa. In a way, they are a state of mind as well as a beautiful and interesting place.

“These are creations from the heart and passion of two people in love with each other and the land and a desire for everyone to get connected to the natural world,” says Howard Bright, who with his wife, Donna, started The Natural Gait.

Back in 1980, the Brights were working in Burlington, Iowa. Howard was a district conservationist for the Soil Conservation Service and Donna served as an agent for the Extension Service.

“Our jobs were good, but we started to question spending 10 hours a day apart doing separate things. We wanted to live in the country and own a piece of land that had trees, water, hills and valleys that faced in all directions. So we started to actively look.” It took a while. Four years later, they found 160 acres of rugged hills, forests and river bottom in Allamakee County.

In what they describe as a magical moment along the Yellow River, they decided to buy the place. Their Realtor/banker tried to dissuade them by pointing out that the property had few visible financial assets. There was only about 35 acres of cropland and the forest had been logged.

“We had an idea to collect native plant seeds from remnant prairies and wetlands and sell them to people wishing to restore native ecosystems. Back then this was a novel concept, especially to rural bankers who wondered why anyone would want to grow what most folks considered weeds. But we bought the place and started collecting,” Bright says.

Their native plant business was named Ion Exchange in honor of a chemical exchange that takes place in the soil and for a nearby ghost town named Ion that had flooded and washed away in 1916.

In the early 1980s, anyone wishing to reestablish a prairie faced an immediate problem: finding a seed source. There simply weren’t many nurseries that sold native plant materials. The Brights’ timing was good. Interest in prairies was blossoming, and they soon found a ready market in the growing number of people interested in restoration. Ion Exchange gradually has grown and today offers dozens of different species of seeds and plugs. They’ve expanded beyond prairies and also sell wetland and woodland seeds and plants. The business includes fields where seed plants thrive and a cluster of buildings where plants are allowed to dry, seeds are cleaned, and plugs are produced.

In 1999 the Brights created another business associated with the land. “We called it the Natural Gait because it was our intention of helping others find their own ‘gait,’ or direction in life,” says Bright.

The Gait is a place where people wanting to enjoy natural Iowa can stay. Its bunk houses, cabins and apartments attract people wishing to spiritually connect with nature, hold family reunions and business retreats, and hike or horseback ride. Some of the buildings are near Ion Exchange’s seed business. Other cabins and a campground are on the steep river bluff. They’re within sight of Ion Exchange, but it’s a six mile drive to reach them.

Our weekend at the Natural Gait started on a cold, windy October night. We found Grandview Cabin and soon had a fire crackling in the woodstove. Most of Iowa is so settled that it’s hard to get away from lights and towns and we were pleased to see a mostly dark sky and horizon.

Just four of us stayed in the cabin, although it easily could hold ten. Phones and televisions were blissfully absent, but the cabin is set up for wireless Internet, an interesting combination of rustic and modern.

Shortly after dawn Saturday, we were amazed to look out the front porch and see the land drop to the river. No slope in Wyoming could match the dizzying steepness of the Yellow River bluff. In the distance below us, we could see the fuzzy growth of Ion Exchange’s recently harvested prairie plants. The field’s texture was surprisingly different from that of Iowa’s common corn and bean fields.

That Saturday we toured the seed processing buildings and hiked above them to a large cave in a limestone outcropping where Native Americans once lived. Today the Brights sponsor concerts in this massive rock cavity high above the river. That afternoon we headed for nearby Marquette and Prairie du Chien for shopping and a coffee-shop lunch. As the sun dipped below the horizon, we grilled steaks behind the cabin and enjoyed total silence, broken only by the haunting call of a barred owl.

Following a brisk walk Sunday morning we packed and headed back to the busy world, but the quiet weekend at the Natural Gait remains a pleasant memory.

For more information, visit thenaturalgait.com or call (877) 776-2208.

Rich and Marion Patterson of Cedar Rapids are freelance writers.

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Create Your Own Wildlife Habitat Using Native Plants

Here is an awesome video on building your own wildlife habitat using native plants by the National Wildlife Federation.
Native wildflowers and grasses are so much easier to care for than other plants, they flourish with little or no effort and they are beautiful. There root systems go much deeper than most other plants so they are virtually drought resistant. There are many varieties to choose from. Visit Ion Exchange to look at hundreds of species of native plants.