County is 'blessed' wtih environmental mindset, nature-loving farmers
A new wetlands reserve project six miles northeast of Marathon in extreme north- eastern Buena Vista County is garnering excitement from conservationists and local landowners alike, as both hope it can both attract new wildlife to the area and serve as a model for potential future projects in other areas of the county.
The new wetlands reserve project (WRP), located in section 1 of Poland Township just south of Pickerell Lake, has been created on 283 acres of land owned by Dr. David Dudycha, a native Iowan who now runs a chiropractic clinic in Bryan, Texas. The WRP will include more than 50 acres of water, an abundance of new prairie grasses and a wide range of different plants that could be used by wildlife for nesting and protection when the preserve is completed next spring.
The Poland Township WRP is the first such endeavor in Buena Vista County, and Renee Braun, the district conservationist of the National Resources Conservation Service, said she was excited about how the area has been transformed into a natural sanctuary.
"It's a beautiful project," Braun said. "It's the first major wetland reserve project in Buena Vista County where we've worked with both the county supervisors and producers, and we've been able to convert cropland acres to prairie grasses and wetlands. It's really been a fantastic effort from everyone."
Braun, who said the new wetlands will feature ducks, geese, pheasant, fish and other plants and shrubs, gave much of the credit for the new WRP to Dudycha, who helped start up another wetlands preserve near Turnbull Lake in Clay County several years ago.
"(Dr. Dudycha) is a very strong conservationist, and he's really in this to make a difference," Braun said. "His project is such a benefit to Buena Vista County that he really needs to be commended for the effort that he has put into this."
Born and raised in Fort Dodge, Dudycha developed a love of the outdoors from hunting and fishing trips around the Iowa Great Lakes area while growing up, and began to buy farmland in both Buena Vista and Clay County while working in a chiropractic clinic with Dean Meylor in Cherokee for three years. After moving to east Texas and seeing the relative lack of woodlands and hunting areas in that region, Dudycha decided to turn his farmland into wetland preserves to help protect the natural wildlife in northwest Iowa.
Dudycha said he was enthusiastic about the possibilities the Poland Township project could have when it was first proposed to him.
"I thought it was a great idea," Dudycha said. "I thought it had a lot of potential, and it's something that is important and necessary to do."
Dudycha, who frequently returns to Iowa for outdoor activities such as pheasant hunting, said he wants the Poland Township project to be developed as a natural sanctuary, and said the fact that Pickerell Lake has been a stable part of the area for many years will be an advantage for the new WRP.
"Pickerell Lake just adds to it," Dudycha said. "I think it's a great benefit, particularly for all of the ducks and geese that will be in the area because of the lake."
Braun said the Poland Township project is the latest example of a change in attitude toward environmental protection among area residents, particularly among local farmers and producers in the Raccoon River basin and Storm Lake watershed.
"We have some major wetland restoration work happening here in BV County, and this county is pretty blessed to have such conservation-minded farmers living here," Braun said. "There's been a real shift in the stewardship aspect over the past few years, and producers are really putting conservation back into their overall goals. They're very knowledgeable producers and they really do understand the benefits of having wetlands and how that is going to help everybody down the road.
"Buena Vista County really is an exciting place to be right now," Braun continued. "There's a really neat coalition here, and it's so rewarding to be able to work in that type of atmosphere where partnerships are so plentiful. It really makes all of the work that we try to do as far as environmental protection and improvement much easier."
Braun said she hopes other landowners will allow wetlands to be created on their property, and thinks that many of the farmers in the area are starting to see the long term positive effects of their decisions to create new areas where natural wildlife can thrive.
"These programs are just really helping multiple resource concerns," Braun said. "Whether it's your soil loss or water quality or anything else, these projects can have an impact on not just one but on many of these issues. There is a big positive ripple effect from projects like these, and when you have a broadbased effort and partnership like the one that is here in BV County it really is something that is great for everybody."
The public can access the new WRP by heading eastbound on Highway 10 past Marathon and then heading north on gravel on 240th Avenue to Pickerell Lake.