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Native Roadside Vegetation Center at UNI to be dedicated Friday, Aug. 29

August 21, 2003

Daryl Smith, director, Native Roadside Vegetation Center, (319) 273-2238
Vicki Grimes, University Marketing & Public Relations, (319) 273-2761

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- The Native Roadside Vegetation Center (NRVC), located about one-half mile west of Hudson Road on West 27th Street, on the University of Northern Iowa campus, will be dedicated at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 29. Refreshments and building and plot production tours will follow remarks by dignitaries, including Sen. Charles Grassley and Heather Stubbe, representing Sen. Tom Harkin.

Others participating in the dedication, in addition to UNI President Robert D. Koob, include Bonnie Harper-Lore, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation; Robert N. Downer, Board of Regents, State of Iowa; Mark Wandro, director, Iowa Department of Transportation; and, from UNI, Kichoon Yang, dean, College of Education; Daryl Smith, director, NRVC; and student Amy Carolan, junior biology major from Decorah.

The center's programs -- the Iowa Roadside Vegetation Management (IRVM)Program, Prairie Institute and Iowa Ecotype Project -- are interwoven to restore Iowa prairie and bring native grasses and flowers back to Iowa's roadsides. For almost 90 years, UNI has provided leadership in environmental education, becoming only the second higher education institution to do so, in 1915. Continuing this trend-setting, the UNI Biological Preserves System was initiated in 1973 to reconstruct native Iowa plant communities on campus and provide outdoor classrooms.

The NRVC is one more manifestation of that leading role. The center provides research, techniques, education and source-identified seed for restoration and preservation of native vegetation systems in rights-of-way and other lands.

Funding for the 10,000-square-foot center, created from renovated space in an existing campus warehouse, was provided by a federal appropriation, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21), with the support of Senators Charles Grassley and Tom Harkin. The University matched the appropriation with 35 acres of land near the NRVC.

The renovated building includes offices, a conference/classroom, research space and an area for native seed cleaning and handling, including a cold room for extended seed storage. An unfinished room is planned to be a native seed-testing laboratory. The TEA 21 grant also provided funds to purchase seed-cleaning equipment.

The IRVM Program, the center's oldest, grew out of Iowa Roadside Vegetation Management legislation, in 1988, that declared it to be 'in the general public welfare of Iowa and a highway purpose for the vegetation of Iowa's roadsides to be preserved, planted and maintained to be safe, visually interesting, ecologically integrated and useful for many purposes.'

In the past decade, UNI's IRVM program and the Iowa DOT's Living Roadway Trust Fund have placed Iowa at the forefront of native roadside vegetation management in the nation. Kirk Henderson heads this program that assists Iowa counties with implementation and support of IRVM programs. Eighty of Iowa's 99 counties have IRVM plans on file and 50 of them have implemented those programs. Sixty-two counties have shared $2 million in seed and planted 3,000 acres of roadsides since 1998.

The Prairie Institute is managed by Daryl Smith, NRVC director. The institute provides consultation on prairie and savanna restoration, reconstruction and management. It conducts research in prairie ecology and restoration and promotes prairie education and awareness. The institute is currently in the post-production phase of a documentary film project, 'America's Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie,' with plans for broadcast on PBS and distribution to libraries, schools and museums throughout the Midwest.

The Iowa Ecotype Project was developed to meet the need for Iowa-origin seed for prairie restorations and roadside plantings, as locally adapted native species are more likely to thrive and out-compete weedy species. Greg Houseal, program manager, and staff work with commercial native seed growers to increase the availability and affordability of Iowa source-identified seed. Seed and plant materials for seed increase and research are collected from native remnant populations across Iowa. The land provided by UNI is used for production plots to increase foundation seed. Some of the remnant seed is placed in long-term storage repository for future use as seed stock or research.

Currently, seed of 40 species and 1,800 populations in Iowa is being increased. Fifty-three ecotypes of 22 species have been released for commercial production. In 2003, licensed growers produced more than 60,000 pounds of commercial Source-Identified Iowa Ecotype Project Seed.