While it’s not a done deal, the move this week by the Wapello County Board of Supervisors approving the possible acquisition of land to add to the Pioneer Ridge Nature Area is the right move.
Over the years, the Wapello County Conservation Board and its staff have developed and maintained outdoors areas for the public to enjoy and experience. Pioneer Ridge is one of those areas, and the possible addition of 205 acres would only enhance this crown jewel of the county’s public lands.
The plan would be to turn more than 200 acres into a prairie oak savanna. WCCB Director Kurt Baker and his staff would also create three additional miles of trails and enhance the environmental education program there.
An oak savanna landscape would encourage the growth of a variety of vegetation and serve as a habitat to a number of animals, including species that may have been missing from southeast Iowa over the last several years.
More importantly, it’s an opportunity to set aside more public land in this part of the state. And as Baker told the supervisors this week, only 2 percent of the state’s land is publicly owned, and in Wapello County, only 1 percent of land is publicly owned.
The county and Pioneer Ridge need something to draw more visitors and provide more environmental opportunities for those of us who call Wapello County home. Baker said southeast Iowa “needs to be the savanna headquarters,” and we agree.
These public lands serve as touchstones to our natural heritage and are important in terms of education, economics and the overall quality of life here in southeast Iowa.