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Fewer trees from derecho impacts habitat for wildlife native to Iowa

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 6:45 PM CDT
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MARION, Iowa (KCRG) - Linn County Conservation Natural Resource Manager Dana Kellogg and Community Outreach Specialist Ryan Schlader, showed KCRG-TV9 around what’s left of the forests at Wanatee Park in Marion nearly 8 months after the derecho.

“We lost a lot of our really old, over 100 year plus oak trees and walnut trees, so we received extensive damage here,” Kellogg pointed out.

The derecho damaged more than half of the 480 acres of timber. The damaged trees are being harvested. KCRG-TV9 was there as crews loaded some of them up to be hauled away.

“Anything that was damaged, the top was gone out of it, it was leaning, tipped over on the ground, we did a contract with a logger,” Kellogg explained.

The money from the sold trees will be used to replant. It’s something we are told is crucial to restoring the natural habitat changed by the storm, even beyond park boundaries.

“In town you know there’s squirrels, blue jays, all kinds of animals eat oaks and other species of trees. So in town I think the song birds are going to have a little bit of an effect. I mean you’ve lost their nesting habitat, you’ve lost their food source,” Kellogg said.

The lack of tree canopy will also bring in more sun. That can mean more invasive plant species that are not native to Iowa, which native wildlife don’t eat. We took a look at some that was growing today.

“It starts to green up and grow before the native species do so it can really take over,” Kellogg pointed out.

“This will just go crazy into the timber if we don’t do management,” he added.

The work to restore habitat will continue for some time, but Kellogg explained how we can all play a part starting at home.

“I encourage people to plant native species back in their landscapes, in their yards so you have the insects but it’s going to take years if not decades,” he told us.

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