Iowa DNR to Acquire 1,700 Acres

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The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will acquire a conservation easement on nearly 1,700 acres of forested land along the western edge of the Loess Hills State Forest in Monona County.

The easement, which will permanently protect the Little Sioux Scout Ranch Camp, was made possible through a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program and a $437,000 in-kind donation by the Mid-American Boy Scout Council.

The Little Sioux Scout Ranch Camp easement was the top rated forest legacy project in the state, as rated by the Iowa State Forest Stewardship Committee, for the past four years, said Jeff Goerndt, state forests section chief for the Iowa DNR.

"This is an excellent easement acquisition that will protect the camp and its 1,700 acres from potential development and allow us to work with the scouts to improve the habitat for some rare and threatened species," he said. Threatened species on or near the site include regal fritillary butterfly and the ornate box turtle.

Also protected is the Loess Hills unique land form. The extreme thickness of the soils and intricately carved terrain make the Loess Hills a rare geologic feature. Shaanxi, China, is the only other location in the world where the loess soil layers are as deep and extensive.

The camp is about 30 miles north of the Omaha-Council Bluffs area, along the 220 mile Loess Hills National Scenic Byway. The easement will protect the fragile loess soils from erosion and protect the land from any further development.

Public access will be allowed by permission to fish, hike, camp and canoe. The scouts will remain owners of the property.