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Loess Hills Wildlife Area and State Forest Becoming a Bird Conservation Area

CASTANA, Iowa – A public ceremony to dedicate the Loess Hills Wildlife Area, Loess Hills State Forest, Preparation Canyon State Park, and a 42 mile section of the Loess Hills (including the Loess Hills National Natural Landmark) as Iowa’s newest Bird Conservation Area (BCA) will take place on Friday, June 3 at 3 pm. 

The event will be held in conjunction with the Loess Hills Prairie Seminar, at the Loess Hills Wildlife Area/Loess Hills Prairie Seminar grounds, located at the intersection of 178th St. and Oak Ave., about three miles northwest of Castana.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is hosting the dedication that will include brief presentations and the unveiling of a special Bird Conservation Area sign.  There will be refreshments, and following the ceremony there will be a short hike within the adjoining Sylvan Runkel State Preserve.

This unique area is one of western Iowa’s most species-rich grassland/savanna/forest habitats.

“Designating this complex as a Bird Conservation Area will add to its recognition by indicating its importance for nesting and migratory grassland, savanna, and forest birds,” said Bruce Ehresman, DNR wildlife diversity program biologist. “It provides important nesting habitat for declining grassland birds, such as grasshopper sparrow, western meadowlark and northern bobwhite; for declining savanna birds like red-headed woodpeckers and state endangered barn owls, and for declining forest birds like wood thrush and yellow-billed cuckoos; plus the area provides migration stopover habitat for a large number of other bird species suffering nationwide declines.” 

This area also is rich in cultural history, from the extended time period when it was inhabited by American Indians to the time when Euro-Americans, including Mormons, arrived and settled. 

It is anticipated that this new BCA will attract bird enthusiasts from throughout the region and beyond.  Watching wildlife is a $318 million industry in Iowa, and more birders visiting this area will support the growing local tourism economy and encourage investment in local bird conservation.

  “The designation of the Loess Hills Bird Conservation Area serves to recognize the excellent teamwork of many partners, cooperating to emphasize the importance of habitat for all birds.  State, federal, and county conservation agencies, working together with private conservation organizations and citizens have made this possible,” said Doug Chafa, DNR wildlife biologist and Missouri River Wildlife Unit manager.

  The public is welcome to attend this event and is encouraged to stay to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Loess Hills Prairie Seminar, a weekend of learning and fun.  Bird appreciators and all wildlife conservationists are asked to help celebrate the dedication of this important Bird Conservation Area and also to promote the conservation of birds and their habitats.

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