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State

Iowa conservation groups partner on nature area project

COUNCIL BLUFFS (AP) — Two Iowa conservation groups are working together to turn a 506-acre site into a natural area that will be transferred to the state to manage and allow for public use.

The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and The Nature Conservancy in Iowa purchased the Green Hill Ranch just south of Council Bluffs in 2017,The Daily Nonpareil reported. The area is split between Pottawattamie and Mills counties and features hills, oak savanna and pockets of prairie.

“There is a big demand for more natural land near Council Bluffs,” said Kristin Aschenbrenner, state director for The Nature Conservancy’s Iowa program.

The groups have raised about two-thirds of the $3 million needed to fund the project through grant funding and private donations.

The area will serve as a haven for birdwatchers, hunters and hikers, said Joe McGovern, president of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.

“You come off the highway and you don’t even see half the property. You climb up, and there’s an oak-lined ridge top. From there you can see Folsom Point and beyond Folsom Point, the skyscraper of Omaha,” said Graham McGaffin, Loess Hills project director for The Nature Conservancy. “You feel miles away from the highway and the metro.”

Ownership and management of the site will be transferred to the state Department of Natural Resources once fundraising is complete. Pottawattamie and Mills county conservation boards will also participate in the restoration efforts. Matt Dollison, Nishnabotna Wildlife Unit Biologist for the Iowa DNR, will oversee the restoration work.

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