This past June, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) announced plans to purchase a 1,114-acre tract on the northwest border of Polk County, with a small portion in Dallas County. Primary partnership will be with Polk County Conservation, the county agency that will eventually take over and manage this incredible swamp-forest-savanna tract, known to many birders as one of central Iowa’s greatest birding hotspots. It has hosted Sandhill Cranes, Prothonotary Warblers, Common Gallinules, Least Bitterns, Black-crowned Night Herons, Belted Kingfishers, and much more.
Once purchased from INHF and operated by Polk County Conservation, the site will be open to the public. Hiking and nature trails will be created for birdwatching and other enjoyable outdoor walks. Visitors will not be allowed to use any kind of motorized vehicles on the area, keeping it especially quiet and safe for birds and all kinds of wildlife. Permanent protection of this very unusual habitat variety, especially some extremely rare, forested swamp here in Iowa, will also prevent expansion of nearby suburban developments and new highways that likely would have drained the swamp and removed most of the woodlands.
Iowa Audubon made as large a donation possible from our 2023 small budget, in order to help INHF acquire the amount of funding needed by early September, assuring that they can purchase the entire tract as additional funding can be raised. It is our organization's primary goal to protect habitat for birds, plus all native wildlife and plants. Since we became and independent statewide Audubon group twenty years ago, including both Iowa chapters of the National Audubon Society and independent bird clubs, we have made frequent donations to both INHF and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to help them save as much of nature as possible in this state. Including our donation for Brenton Slough, we have now helped INHF and DNR acquire and protect well more than 4,000 acres of natural and restorable habitat.