Iowa tallgrass prairie restoration project more than triples in size, thanks to donor

Thanks to a generous gift, the number of acres of restored prairie developed and managed by the Tallgrass Prairie Center at the University of Northern Iowa will soon triple in size. Cathy Irvine of Dysart has donated more land from her late husband’s family farm in northwest Benton County to the UNI Foundation Properties Corporation to allow it to be returned to tallgrass prairie, Iowa’s original ecosystem. The expansion donation was officially signed on Jan. 25.

Irvine’s 2023 gift will increase Irvine Prairie from 77 acres to almost 300 acres. It will become one of the largest tracts of restored prairie in eastern Iowa.

“Cathy Irvine’s vision is to create a place where people can see what Iowa used to look like,” Laura Jackson, director of the TPC said. “No one has the power to bring back the ancient tallgrass ecosystem, which was more complex than we can begin to know. But Irvine Prairie will stand as a permanent invitation to experience something vast, to be surprised and filled with awe by the life of the prairie.

“With Cathy’s gift, the Tallgrass Prairie Center and UNI students have the rare opportunity to test advanced techniques in prairie restoration and management. First and foremost, this is a gift for the surrounding rural community, school children, and all those who are lifted up by spending time in nature,” Jackson said.

Irvine initially signed the land over the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, who attached a permanent conservation easement before signing over the land over to the UNI Foundation. Regular oversight by INHF ensures that the prairie’s conservation purpose is maintained for perpetuity. Irvine gave the original gift of 77 acres in 2018.

For more information, contact Laura Jackson, director of the Tallgrass Prairie Center at
laura.l.jackson@uni.edu or 319-273-2705.