In 2020, the Board of Directors approved a plan to take the 22 acres on the east side of our property out of crop production and convert the land back into native prairie grasses and pollinators. In conjunction with the North Polk County Pheasants Forever, seed was purchased and planted late in 2020. About 5 acres of native pollinators were planted on the South side of the property and around the large pond. 12 acres were planted with native prairie grass seed, and 5 acres in the trap range shot fall zone were planted in brome seed.
The first part of the project was to install new fence our property line. Since our property is bordered by DNR and US Fish and Wildlife Service, which is a designated public hunting area, we wanted to ensure there was a clear delineation between the properties. The fence will also serve as a barrier to keep hunters out of the fall zones of the ranges. Neary one-half mile of woven wire fence topped with a single strand of barbed wire were installed with volunteer help over two workdays. This was not an easy task, as the property fence that was installed many years ago was overgrown with trees and vegetation, and much of it buried beneath years of overgrowth and wind-blown soil.
A contractor was hired to plant the seed in late 2020, and we are now in the upkeep process until the prairie is firmly established in 3- 4 years. This means mowing the acreage a few times per year to keep weeds and invasive species to a minimum. Once established, a controlled burn will be periodically completed to ensure a healthy prairie abounding with wildlife, and pollinators that will enhance our monarch butterfly and honeybee projects.
Along with the prairie grass and pollinators, about 5 acres in the trap shot fall zone was planted in cheaper brome seed. The lead shot in these 6 acres will be mined as part of our lead reclamation projects in the future. It is estimated that well over 600,000 ounces of lead shot go downrange each year. This lead will be reclaimed, and proceeds from the sale of the lead will offset the rental money we received in the past when the property was used for crop production.
We plan to keep the prairie grass area as a well-maintained wildlife habitat, while minimizing the chemical runoff into our ponds that had been prevalent in the past. We also envision hosting a couple youth hunting events on our property in the future.
We’re not just a shooting club, we are also involved in several conservation projects as well. One of these is our honey bee apiary project.
After several years of neglect, our honey bee hives have been revived and are now well on their way to producing honey, as well as providing the beneficial pollenating of crops within a 3 mile radius of the facility. In the past, two colonies were maintained at the facility, but due to harsh winters and intermittent upkeep, one colony died out while the other was heavily infested with mites and was quickly deteriorating. Beginning early 2019, and after attending several bee keeping classes, self-study, and receiving valuable mentorship, our club beekeeper was appointed, obtained a budget from the Board, and quickly went about bringing the colonies back to health.
New structures and beekeeping equipment were purchased, much maintenance performed, a swarmed colony was captured, a new queen for a colony was introduced – and we now have two active and growing beehives located on the South end of the property. Time will tell on how successful these colonies will be, but we’re well underway with our active and healthy apiary!
In the future, it is our goal to provide beekeeping classes to our members and guests who may have an interest in a fascinating hobby that is so beneficial to our environment.
Monarch Waystations are places that provide resources necessary for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration. Milkweeds and nectar sources are declining due to development and the widespread use of herbicides in croplands, pastures and roadsides. Unfortunately, the remaining milkweed habitats in pastures, hayfields, edges of forests, grasslands, native prairies, and urban areas are not sufficient to sustain the large monarch populations seen in the 1990s.
To offset the loss of milkweeds and nectar sources we need to create, conserve, and protect milkweed/monarch habitats. By creating and maintaining a Monarch Waystation we are contributing to monarch conservation, an effort that will help assure the preservation of the species and the continuation of the spectacular monarch migration phenomenon.
Project Monarch has three phases.
1) Planting: Milkweed and native prairie nectar sources appropriate to the area will be cultivated in portions of land that are not mowed. This will provide habitat for monarchs and other nectar loving species such as birds and bees. This can dovetail with a native prairie restoration project if desired. Additional benefit: Native prairie plants have deep root structures that fan out in the soil. They are ideal for stabilizing ground and preventing erosion. They are hardy and regrow even when completely destroyed above the roots (such as by fire).
2) Showcase: The chapter can apply for and be listed as a Monarch Migration site on the national registry. A Monarch Garden can be planted that includes informational plaques explaining the purpose of the garden and educating about the conservation efforts regarding Monarch Migration preservation. This will also beautify the chapter grounds and provide volunteer opportunities for those passionate about gardening. Monarch viewing benches or picnic tables are also a great addition that provides a socialization point for the chapter.
3) Education and Outreach: Youth and community outreach efforts will include short classes and youth monarch activities where members and children will be given the resources to raise a monarch and learn about their life cycle. Monarch tagging and tracking will follow the Monarch release dates. Local conservation experts will be invited onsite to present related educational materials. Community outreach to create additional monarch waystations will add to awareness of the Izaak Walton League and our commitment to conservation.
Des Moines Feed Company: http://desmoinesfeed.com/home.html (They have bulk milkweed and other turf seed for sale but it is not listed on their website.
Reiman Gardens: http://www.reimangardens.com/
Other Suggested Resources
Monarch Watch: http://www.monarchwatch.org/
Monarch Lifecycle: http://www.monarch-butterfly.com/
Journey North: http://www.journeynorth.org/
Monarch Joint Venture: http://www.monarchjointventure.org/
Live Monarch: http://www.livemonarch.com
Suggested Potential Project Partnerships
County Conservation Board (s) – As an example, the Polk County Conservation Board features Monarchs on the front page of their September-December 2013 newsletter. They provide education about outdoor topics including Butterfly Gardening and Monarch Tagging. With partnership, the chapter might be able to provide additional outdoor and conservation education events.
State DNR – The Prairie Resource Center of the Iowa DNR has information about native prairie plants and sources for seeds and seedlings. They are willing to provide free seed on public lands and may be a valuable source of the prairie wildflowers needed for adult Monarchs. For private organization, they may be able to connect the Chapter with experts who are willing to provide educational resources.
US Forest Service – The Forest Service is working to expand monarch habitat by establishing pollinator gardens at USFS facilities and engaging in efforts to plant milkweed in public areas and in Forest Service lands.
Natural Resources Conservation Services - NRCS has engaged with many organizations in extensive efforts to increase milkweed seed availability in priority areas, and also to develop best practices for milkweed propagation.
Local greenhouses and related businesses – Many greenhouses have education programs related to pollinators and nectar loving species and may be willing to donate time and/or materials for a project of this type.
Local schools, churches and scouting groups – The Chapter can help establish Monarch gardens and/or provide field trip opportunities to visit our garden and learn about Monarch Waystations, life cycle and migration.
Local media – This is a human interest subject that has been highlighted in the media repeatedly as the Monarch populations have declined in recent years. Inviting the local media may make the next slow news day a day to highlight the Ikes, especially in the fall migration season.
Monarch Watch - Monarch Watch is an educational outreach program at the University of Kansas that is involved with numerous activities to promote monarch habitat conservation. They promote conservation through the Monarch Waystation program and work to increase the availability of native milkweed plants and seeds.
Monarch Joint Venture - The Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) is a partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic programs that are working together to support and coordinate efforts to protect the monarch migration across the lower 48 United States.