By Mari Radtke
The O’Brien County Conservation met in regular session on Wednesday July 21 at Prairie Heritage Center. The Tuesday July 14 special session following the unanimous appointment of Greg Burmakow of rural Paullina to the board was its first meeting with a complete board since the resignation of Darwin Dau in mid-June. The board has conducted all of its interviews for new staff despite the opening.
The OCCB reported their preference for hiring, pending acceptance. An offer was made to 2 people for “Tech” positions with both being accepted. The first choice director did not immediately respond. At press time, an offer has been accepted, but is not yet confirmed. No candidates have been identified by name.
Dave Stoll, President of Little Sioux Valley Conservation Association was on hand to discuss the past partnership of the charitable organization with Prairie Heritage Center following the results of the state’s audit.
The ownership of the bison residing at Prairie Heritage Center was a point of discussion. Stoll’s explanation, reinforced by official records, say that Stoll owns the bull. He explained that he rotates bulls appropriately to be housed at PHC. He also noted that after the first year of the bison he decided to donate the females. O’Brien County Conservation owns the females. Meat from any butchered animal is used for the Bison Burger and lawn picnic with Stoll keeping any unused meat. The two organizations also agree it is in the best interest to have a gift shop. The only change to the functioning of the gift shop is that no on-duty conservation employee will do any financial transactions. A donation box will be made available and purchases will be based on suggested donations to the public.
“Partner” events were also discussed. Activities like the Bison Burger feed are not allowed, according to the state auditor, to use any on-duty conservation employee unless it is in conjunction with a conservation event. The final result is some additional attractions planned for the Bison Burger and Lawn picnic event in August are being added to meet state requirements. A Bison 5k walk/run is also anticipated this year.
The big news is the joint venture between Little Sioux Valley Conservation Association and Conservation officials is the announcement of a grant. Abbie Parker, Naturalist worked with LSVCA to fund the required matching funds required to received a grant to pay for display upgrades to the lower level of the Prairie Heritage Center. The Gilchrist Foundation provided $10,000 giving PHC $15,000 to put the project together. Gilchrist Foundation of Sioux City does a lot of work for Conservation organizations. The PHC project is to add an interactive ecosystem display in the lower level. Magnetic photo mural will show Prairie, woodland and river ecosystems, Iowa’s 3 main life systems. Included will be a badger tunnel, touch and feel wall with various animal furs and reading area that will feel like being in a nest – some kind of birds nest. A great place for reading nature books! The idea came from Armadillo Art in Iowa City. Parker explains that she began working with them before the Gregg Struve gift came about.
Work on this project is expected to begin in the fall working toward a May 1, 2022 completion date. This interactive display is geared primarily for children but enjoyable for adults as well.
The entertainment at the meeting was the discussion about goats at campgrounds.
Well, sort of. The board discussed what kind of animals and under what circumstances animals could stay at O’Brien County campgrounds. After some discussion, often humorous, the board decided they would change wording in their rules from “domesticated animals” to “dogs and cats.”
An update about a request for exemption for use of the land at Hannibal Waterman Wildlife Area was given. OCCB personnel requested an update from DNR as to the standing of the exemption request. The reply simply stated that the committee recommends against the exemption but the DNR Director, Kayla Lyon asked for committees to submit written reasons for refusing the exemption. The decision remains unresolved.
By Mari Radtke