Making Iowa’s woodlands a home for pollinators

Luna moth Actias luna

Caption: The Luna moth is native to most of the eastern United States. Missouri Department of Conservation photo.

The State and Private Forestry Landscape Scale Restoration competitive grant program funds collaborative, science-based restoration of priority rural forest landscapes, leverages public and private resources and supports State Forest Action Plans.

IOWA — It would be hard to overestimate the importance of pollinators. Moths, along with bees, butterflies play a critical role pollinating plants, including approximately one-third of the foods we eat, such as apples, almonds, blueberries, cranberries and squash.

That’s why the decline of Iowa’s pollinator populations is such a cause for concern — and why the USDA Forest Service is supporting the state’s work to enhance vegetation and landscape features that attract and sustain pollinators.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources was awarded a $183,000 Forest Service Landscape Scale Restoration (LSR) grant to implement projects to boost pollinator populations by engaging property owners in both urban and rural landscapes to enhance habitat for these pollinators.

Iowa provides habitat to more than 2,000 species of moths. They range from micromoths with a wingspan of 3 mm to the Luna moth (Actias luna) which can have a wingspan of 3-4 inches. Little is known about the status of any of the moth species in the state.

The LSR grant is funding projects focused on an 18-county region in southern Iowa where there are high-priority forests within the most critically important contiguous forested areas. This work has created a model for managing urban and rural woodlands for pollinators that can be duplicated across the state and nation.

For these projects, the Iowa DNR is working with a number of partners, and together their actions will create a breadth and depth of knowledge and tools to expand and positively manage for pollinators in urban and rural landscapes. Significant accomplishments from the grant funding include:

  • Conserving and protecting 10,100 acres of High Priority Forest Ecosystems.
  • Developing forest stewardship plans with new landowners and amending existing plans to actively and sustainably manage private forests.
  • Publishing Iowa’s Woodlands: Vital Habitat for Native Pollinators and creating four information sheets specific to native pollinator species.
  • Restoring fire-adapted lands through prescribed fires to increase native pollinator species and protect from invasive plants.
  • Holding five residential tree distributions, with 1,500 pollinator species landscape trees provided to 750 homeowners.
  • Conducting 16 forest pollinator workshops, field days and training sessions, reaching 450 participants.
  • Connecting over 2,200 youth to forests and engaging them in tree planting through 18 Trees for Kids grants, including 16 district forester educational workshops.