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Johnson County receives REAP grant for conservation land purchase Malinda Reif Reilly Fen and Prairie located north of Solon

IOWA CITY– Johnson County Conservation (JCC) received a $400,000 Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) grant to help fund the purchase of a new 100-acre preserve north of Solon, over half of which is native prairie and wetland including a fen.
The site joins JCC’s other conservation wetlands– Ciha Fen, Pechman Delta and Cedar River Crossing– in preserving a variety of once-common wetlands which have disappeared from much of Iowa’s landscape. In addition to providing homes for a variety of native plants and animals, these wetlands help cleanse water, govern its flow, and fight floods.
The new site will be named the Malinda Reif Reilly Fen and Prairie in memory of its previous owner. Following Reif’s death, her husband John Reilly contacted JCC hoping to honor her steadfast commitment to this land. Reif’s family farmed it without use of chemicals and resisted its conversion to row crop agriculture since 1900. Botanists have known of the site for over a quarter century and catalogued its 225 plant species, including several that are uncommon or rare. Once the land’s purchase is completed early in 2021, JCC will manage the site as a nature preserve open to the public for hiking, educational use and nature-appreciation activities.
The highly competitive County Conservation REAP grants help maintain Iowa’s native biodiversity through protecting high-quality conservation lands across the state. REAP grants are awarded and administered by the Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s Natural Resource Commission, and are funded annually by Iowa’s state legislature. The land purchase is also being funded in part by the Johnson County Conservation Bond, established by county voters in 2008. In a state where over 90 percent of the land has been converted from complex natural lands to agricultural and urban use, the importance of preserving and protecting significant self-sustaining lands cannot be overestimated.