The 2014 Loess Hills Prairie
May 30 (evening) to June 1 (noon)
These Special Loess Hills
The Loess Hills Prairie Seminar is
sponsored annually by Northwest Area Education Agency for educators,
park and conservation persons, community leaders, and citizens. It is
held at the Loess Hills Wildlife Management Area northeast of Onawa,
Iowa and in Onawa at the West Monona High School. See maps
and more information.
The Loess Hills Prairie Seminar is in
its 38th year. It brings together dozens of facilitators and hundreds of
participants of all ages, with diverse interests that relate to natural
and cultural history, the Loess Hills, and prairie. Many field sessions
teach about plants, insects, and birds, some explore nature writing or
photography, several offer information about using native plants in the
landscape, others feature Native American stories and rituals, and there
are many more topics explored.
The public is invited to attend any session or program of interest.
There is no registration fee and pre-registration is necessary only for
those ordering meals or registering for one of three special offerings
this year: the Missouri River Boat Tour, the Introduction to BugGuide,
or if you want to make the PVC herbicide applicator at the end of the
session on Invasives. That make-and-take workshop is the only one with a
small fee. See the registration document to register for any of these.
There is limited space on the boat tours.
Hyperion Threatens Loess Hills
If the Hyperion Energy Center, a 400,000
barrel-per-day oil refinery and a 200 MW integrated gasification
combined cycle power plant at the southeastern tip of South Dakota, is
built as proposed, the industrial air pollution would set back more than
25 years of prairie preservation in the northern Loess Hills. The
proposed refinery would jeopardize The Nature Conservancy’s Broken
Kettle Grassland and its bison herd, Iowa’s premier native prairie.
Situated within 10
miles of the refinery perimeter, the bison and the grassland would be
subject to “short-term significant impact” acknowledged by Hyperion.
Joy Hollow Girl Scout Camp and Five Ridge Prairie would also see
effects. Soil and vegetation studies of these biologically diverse
prairies have not been completed.
prevailing winds move from the northwest to the southeast, thus
directing the emissions toward Sioux City and the northern Loess Hills.
The refinery will be emitting a number of hazardous air
pollutants -- toxic
chemicals that are known or suspected to cause cancer, to cause birth
defects, to cause serious health effects, or to cause adverse
of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) that are emitted by an oil refinery
include benzene, hydrogen sulfide, toluene, xylene, napthalene.
In fact the refinery will be processing heavy, sour crude.
Sour crude has a high sulfur content. Currently
the federal Environmental Protection Agency has identified 187 hazardous
a complete list.
are several HAP monitors in Iowa that test for the presence of hazardous
air pollutants in the
air where they are
Yet there are no HAP monitors in the Sioux City area, near where
the refinery is proposed to be built.
Sierra Club Iowa Chapter staff and volunteers offered
information about the refinery at the 2011 Loess Hills Prairie
Seminar. The Sierra Club crew also collected postcards asking the
Department of Natural Resources to install a HAP monitor in or near
Materials related to the proposed refinery can be found here.
Picture Gallery of the Loess
Hills during the 2011 Loess Hills Prairie Seminar
Ginger Soelberg (left), Jim Redmond and Chapter Director Neila
Seaman provided information to participants at the seminar, enjoyed the prairie
the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve and found workers performing a
Photo by Holly Johnson
"This is something worthy—it screams
— Bill Leonard,
The Des Moines Register
editorial board member, retired.
Two hundred years ago when Lewis & Clark first stood on
the Loess Hills and viewed the Missouri Valley, Iowa was three-quarters
prairie. Now, only 0.1 percent remains and 50 percent of that is in the
Loess Hills. Sergeant Floyd,
the only person to die from the Lewis & Clark expedition, is buried on
one of the Loess bluffs overlooking the Missouri River.
The river bearing his name enters into the Missouri nearby.
What’s at Stake
The Loess Hills are a unique landform of wind-blown silt
(loess) up to 200 feet high. The
only places in the world loess accumulates to such heights are in Western
Iowa, Northwestern Missouri and along the Yellow River in China.
The Loess Hills are a biological crossroads between the Eastern
deciduous forest and the Western mixed-grass prairie.
The Eastern slopes are woodland with Dutchmen’s Breeches and
Scarlet Tanagers while the Western slopes are prairies with species
normally found hundreds of miles west such as Yucca, Cowboy’s Delight
and Prairie Rattlesnakes. It
is the home of the diminutive endangered Loess Hills Fern.
Most of the Loess Hills is in private ownership with small tracts
owned by the State of Iowa and the Nature Conservancy.
Much of the Prairie on the Western slopes is rapidly being
overgrown by brush and cedar trees since fire was suppressed in the last
century. Large areas of loess
are carted away for fill in metropolitan areas such as Omaha.
The National Park service has recommended National Reserve
Status for the Loess Hills in Iowa. After
evaluating the challenges and opportunities for management of the Loess
Hills, the NPS