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Cerro Gordo County Conservation is working on two major projects beginning this summer and continuing through the fall.

The first is a habitat improvement project at Zirbel Slough. The south wetland at Zirbel will be dried out this summer to encourage the growth of emergent and submergent plant life and eliminate any carp that are in the wetland.

The process needed for the vegetation to re-establish will require the wetland basin to be dry this fall and most of the growing season in 2020. Removing the water creates the proper seed bed for the vegetation, such as bulrushes, cattails and coontail, to germinate and grow.

Wood duck

A hen wood duck enters a nesting structure erected by the Cerro Gordo County Conservation Board.

The new vegetation will provide a food supply for waterfowl and provide habitat for the many varieties of invertebrates that will also return when the water returns. The re-established plants will keep the water clear, which will promote this invertebrate growth. Invertebrates provide a necessary source of protein for hens. The protein provided by the invertebrates allows the hens to create a healthy fat layer, which they need for their migration to the nesting grounds while also supplying them with the energy needed for egg production and nesting.

The water level reduction will also eliminate the current carp population in the wetland. Carp are detrimental to wetlands as their feeding behavior destroys the plant community and constantly stirs up the soil in the bottom of the wetland. Carp feed by grubbing out the plants. As they grub out the plants, which destroys the plants, the soil particles that held the plant in place are disturbed and become suspended in the water,decreasing the water clarity and preventing any new plant growth.

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This project will bring long term benefits to the wetland; however, it will reduce the over water hunting opportunities for one to two seasons.

The second major project is a recreational improvement project on the Prairie Land trail. This fall, beginning in late August, another two miles of trail surface will be developed from old railroad bed to compacted lime chip. Along with trail surfacing two bridges will also be converted from their existing status to a usable riding surface with attached safety railing. This project will add a two-mile addition to the six miles of trail already completed.

The new addition will be between 190th and 170th streets. This two-mile addition is part of a 21-mile trail development project that goes from the south edge of Mason City at 240th street to the county line at Meservey (100th street).

Additional sections of the trail will continue to be developed as funding becomes available.

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