Crawford County Landfill Reclamation
Historically tall grass prairie covered 70-80% of Iowa’s landscape with such species as big bluestem, butterfly milkweed, prairie cord grass, and pale purple coneflower. This tall grass prairie created ideal habitat for Iowa’s wildlife. Today, only small protected remnants of the tall grass prairie remain equal to less than 1/10 of 1% of Iowa’s land area.
Iowa land in public ownership is very limited. Public areas can only serve as islands of wildlife habitat in a landscape dominated by row crops and urban sprawl. As a result, fulfilling the habitat needs of the state's diverse wildlife species requires natural resources and wildlife habitat to be reestablished. The Crawford County Conservation Board operates and maintains 22 individual parks, wildlife areas, public hunting areas and a historical site covering 1,115 acres. This is approximately 0.2% of the total acres in the county. The proposed project would add an additional 13% to this public land area that is available for hunting, bird watching, conservation education and public enjoyment.
The target species of this project is the ring-neck Pheasant, the most important game bird in Iowa. Pheasants are found on farmlands throughout Iowa and Crawford County. Pheasants are most numerous on lands that have a good mixture of row crops, small grains, hay, idle grassland, and wetlands. Pheasant populations peaked in the 1940s with numbers estimated as high 500 birds per square mile. This population has declined to less than 15 birds per square mile over much of Iowa since 1970. The lack of safe nesting habitat is the primary reason for the decline. Safe nesting habitat is disappearing because present agricultural policy favors increased acreage in row crops at the expense of small grains, hay land, idle grassland and pasture. The proposed project will add 145 acres of quality nesting habitat for pheasants, small game animals, deer, turkeys and waterfowl.
Full Project Scope
The need for increased habitat and conservation improvements is great. The challenges to make these improvements are many but the time to implement and make these improvements is now. In 2007, the Crawford County Landfill was closed and moved its operation to a solid waste transfer station and recycling center. This closure left 145 acres of open space that will forever remain in the possession of Crawford County. This area is environmentally safe and continually monitored by Crawford County Landfill staff and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources but can never be developed or farmed again; thus creating a unique situation to develop additional habitat and native acres in Crawford County.
Reclaiming the landfill will be accomplished by seeding 6.5 acres of native forbs and grasses, planting 450 trees, and construction of an outdoor classroom shelter. The forb seeding and tree planting will increase nesting habitat for pheasants, small game animals and birds. Plantings of this type are proven to increase nesting success for game birds. The outdoor classroom shelter will be utilized by local school student to learn about nature and the environment in the outdoors. This setting will also provide a unique learning experience for students and the public as to how a landfill can be redeveloped and used for the benefit of nature and the public. The Crawford County Landfill Commission has agreed to allow for public use of this area including hunting.
Crawford County Pheasants Forever members believe the future of conservation and the hunting heritage depends upon today's youth having the desire and opportunities to carry on the ethical traditions of this organization. At both the national and chapter level, Pheasants Forever is investing in sound programs enriched with events such as youth mentor hunts, conservation events and habitat projects. The goals of Pheasants Forever’s Reload Iowa Program is to establish and improve 1,000,000 acres of wildlife habitat across the state. Locally, the goal is to improve 3,400 acres in Crawford County; this project will supplement this effort. These efforts will increase Iowa’s pheasant and quail populations, as well as the number of upland bird hunters. These increases will also generate additional hunting related revenues to local communities.
The proposed project has many social benefits as well. Over time, increased urbanization, loss of small farms, less leisure time, and more school activities, youngsters today are becoming more alienated from the land. One means of combating this movement away from the natural environment is through youth outdoor programs. As with past habitat improvement projects, area school and youth groups have been active participants. Pheasants Forever volunteers and NRCS staff will supervise youth as they plant trees and shrubs to increase habitat on the property. These youth groups will include high school vocational ag students, Boy Scouts, and Denison Ringneck Club members (middle school age students). This project will provide area youth a hands-on experience to improve the habitat in area while enjoying the outdoors.
As the planting phase of the project is complete, youth groups and classes will be able to learn about the importance of natural habitat and conservation at the outdoor classroom that will be built upon the site. This structure overlooks the entire site providing a unique overlook on the City of Denison southeast of the project site. For generations, elders have passed on the traditions of their outdoor heritage to the next generation - through stories, shared experiences and support and encouragement. Times have changed, however, and not all young people have those opportunities today. This project will provide a unique chance for youth to experience and improve the land in their community while learning how these improvements will benefit the environment and provide additional opportunities for hunting and for those to simply enjoy the outdoors.