Last year felt like a monumental success for the Mitchell County Conservation Board.
It all started in the spring when our helpful and dedicated staff began to help implement the pollinator program, a national program designed to increase pollinator habitat for critical species that have seen rapid population declines in recent years. Our role was to assist local landowners by providing specialized equipment and professional expertise to get the program on the ground, literally. We planted over 1,300 acres of beautiful pollinator habitat for nearly 100 different landowners in 2017.
Planting and burning have been standard management tools for MCCB for decades but, this year we experimented with a new management tool - goats. MCCB leased about 50 goats that ran around the Lund Savanna restoration project along the Greenbelt Trail all summer. These extremely mobile, thistle-eating brush cutters helped us battle invasive species on a 20-acre parcel of very steep terrain, inaccessible to conventional equipment. The practice was a success resulting in a significant reduction of undesirable species at little cost to the County.
Next came the completion of two land acquisition projects that had been in the works for a while, The Northern Oaks Wildlife Area, a high-quality, 35 acre timber northeast of Stacyville was purchased for recreation and public hunting with the help of local conservation groups including the Mitchell County Pheasants Forever and Whitetails Unlimited. The two organizations also chipped in to help purchase a 90-acre recreation area near Otranto that secured a connection between Otranto Park and the Nelson Paradise Wildlife area creating a 220 acre Park and Wildlife complex. This property includes some extremely rare plants and wetlands, as well as 60 acres of reconstructed prairie.
In 2017 all MCCB Conservation efforts were recognized by the Iowa Association of County Conservation Boards and the Isaac Walton League with a first place award for habitat improvement for counties under 20,000 in population for the third time in five years.
Another event that set 2017 apart from other years was Project A.W.A.R.E, which stands for A Watershed Awareness River Expedition. The event brought a record 469 volunteers from all over the state to clean up the Cedar River from the State line to Nashua. The volunteers worked for a whole week covering 55 miles of river and removing 28 tons of material.
Other projects in 2017 included the construction of a new shower house at Halvorson park, streambank stabilizations at Halvorson and Otranto Parks, new playground equipment and a swimming beach for Otranto Park, upgrades to the old Pinicon Cabin and Bridge, installation of a debris boom at the Mitchell Mill Dam, and various flood repairs on the Wapsi trail including a large culvert replacement project near the State line. The completion of these projects combined resulted in over $1.1 million in grant funds received by MCCB from over a dozen different grant programs.
As a staff we are very grateful to the Conservation Board for all their time and support. The Conservation Board is very grateful to the Mitchell County Board of Supervisors for their remarkable and continued support.