Brent’s Trail: Envisioning a state trail through the Loess Hills of western Iowa

Patrick Swanson describes a project to highlight “the unusual geology and scenic value of the Loess Hills, their importance as a wildlife corridor and a home to the largest tracts of native remnant prairie left in the state, and the presence of many protected areas along the backbone of the hills.” -promoted by Laura Belin

Earlier this month, I attended the dedication of Brent’s Trail, a new eight-mile hiking trail in Harrison County, near the town of Little Sioux, that links Murray Hill Scenic Overlook, Loess Hills State Forest, and Gleason-Hubel Wildlife Area.

The idea of a long-distance trail through the Loess Hills was envisioned by Brent Olson, whose career as area forester for the Loess Hills State Forest spanned 25 years before his untimely death in 2016 from cancer at age 53. His vision was championed by those who followed to create such a trail and name it in his honor.

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It's good to be orange

Chris Jones is a research engineer (IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering) at the University of Iowa. This post first appeared at the author’s blog. -promoted by Laura Belin

Many have written how earth’s species are undergoing a mass extinction right now, the sixth such event in the planet’s history. These writers include Elizabeth Kolbert and the famous biologist Edward O. Wilson. Extinctions are occurring now at a faster pace than any time since 65 million years ago, when earth’s collision with a 7-mile wide asteroid caused the 5th great extinction, wiping out 70 percent of all species.

One species that did survive the fifth extinction was the Pallid Sturgeon. This fish entered earth’s evolutionary record about 70 million years ago. “Pallid” means absence of color, and true enough, the pallid sturgeon is nearly white. It is one of the largest (up to 85 pounds), longest-lived (as long as 100 years) and ugliest (like a bizarre cross between a shark and an armadillo) fish species in North America. The fish is endangered because we wrecked the Missouri River.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday returns: Pasque flower

Patrick Swanson kicks off the eighth year of Bleeding Heartland’s wildflowers series with pictures from the prairie remnant he has been restoring in Harrison County. -promoted by Laura Belin

If you have a favorite sports team, once the season concludes, there is often a period of reflection to consider how the season went. Maybe how each of the games unfolded. Perhaps how some of the games were affected by the weather. Maybe even those games you had to miss, but wished you could have attended.

Spring is now upon us, and just as we have begun enjoying the warmer weather, we must already note the passing of one of the prairie’s earliest native wildflowers – the pasque flower (Anemone patens).

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When the floodgates open

Leland Searles is a photographer and ecological consultant with expertise in botany, hydrology, soils, streams, and wildlife. -promoted by Laura Belin

“The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” (Georg Hegel, German philosopher)

There are too many potential topics for this blog, the third in a series, and that leads to a certain amount of indecisiveness. Until something happens. That something is the flooding that has already occurred in the Midwest this year, and the expectation of more to come. So far, western Iowa, eastern Nebraska, and northwestern Missouri have experienced the worst of it, with a much larger area affected to some extent.

The degree of flooding in the Missouri basin this year is nearly unrivaled in the record books. Still, I want to push this point: we should have known, and we should have acted to prevent it or mitigate it. Dams do not work in the long run, and when the system of dams was built along the Missouri in the 1940s and 1950s, the year 2019 was a long time off. We are now in “the long run” that no one then foresaw.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Winter wonderland

We interrupt the winter hiatus of Bleeding Heartland’s wildflowers series to bring you Patrick Swanson’s lovely recent pictures of his Harrison County prairie remnant. -promoted by Laura Belin

Saturday night, February 16, brought a nice snowfall to the Omaha/Council Bluffs region. We don’t often get the kind of snow events that make me want to pull out my snowshoes, but as morning broke on Sunday, I decided to throw them in the back of the car and head to the Loess Hills to see what nature provided.

As I introduced in a previous post, I have been working to restore a native prairie remnant. I had considered trying to burn a slash pile from my summer efforts clearing cedars, as I occasionally do in the winter when the weather cooperates. This day, however, the snowplow hadn’t yet cleared one of the roads I use to access the property where I intended to burn. As a result, I had to park and hike in from a different spot.

Because the snow was deeper than I expected, I bailed out on the bonfire idea, and decided instead to take my own “snow day” to trek around on my snowshoes and capture some winter photos of the prairie and woods on the property. I posted some of my pictures to the Iowa Wildflower Report Facebook group, prompting an invitation from Laura Belin to submit a blog post.

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