A plan to establish a large national wildlife refuge, currently known as the Southern Prairie Potholes Project Area, spanning nearly all of southwest Greene County, and smaller portions of northwestern Guthrie County and eastern Carroll County is garnering support from local, state and federal leaders.
During a joint presentation with Guthrie County Conservation Director Joe Hanner at the Guthrie County Board of Supervisors meeting Thursday morning, Greene County Conservation Director Dan Towers said establishing the area as a national wildlife refuge makes financial sense. “To seek more funding, one avenue is to get National Wildlife Refuge designation to this area. That happens at a level way higher than us. There’s a group of individuals out in Washington D.C. right now talking to Congressman David Young, Senator Joni Ernst and Senator Chuck Grassley and it sounds like they’re getting quite a bit of support from them. David Young seems very much behind it. Former Senator Tom Harkin introduced this bill a year ago. Grassley’s office was kind of upset they weren’t initially involved, but they are this year. Joni Ernst is getting involved too and she’s somewhat of a shooter, so she’s excited to organize a duck hunt up there to see what it’s like. I believe Congressman Steve King is behind it too.”
Towers says the entire area would gradually be bought by state and federal funds from landowners. “It would be voluntary landowners that have usually a wet area that’s difficult to farm, or a private easement like the Wetland Reserve Program or Conservation Reserve Program. It would be kind of a mosaic pattern with it not all being acquired at once, but there might be 40 acres here, 80 acres there and maybe two or three miles in the middle that is still farmed as it is today.”
There is no timetable to purchase all of the land, rather it is expected to be a long term process where land is bought as it becomes available. Hanner says willing sellers would receive the appraised price for their land.
Towers adds the project would be eco-friendly as well. “That’s another aspect of it. A lot of that watershed would be protected, so Willow Creek would be better water quality than if somebody was farming right next to it.”
Thursday’s presentation was informational, though Hanner and Towers asked the Board to consider writing a letter of support for the project in the future. The three Supervisors in attendance, Jerry Caraher, Everett Grasty and Clifford Carney all voiced their support for the project.
Raccoon Valley Radio will bring you more information as it becomes official.