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The Word On:
Loess Hills


Q: What are the Loess Hills?

A: Western Iowa inherited a geological rarity borne from many centuries of wind-blown silt deposits. A unique configuration of hills which runs parallel with the Missouri River, the region spans 600,000 acres of prairie in seven Iowa counties including Fremont, Mills, Pottawattamie, Harrison, Monona, Woodbine, and Plymouth. While loess, a fine-grained soil particle, can be found throughout Iowa, only one other place in the world shares the unique topographical trait created when Mother Nature worked wonders with large deposits of glacial silt and strong, westerly winds. With a unique ecological system, the scenic Loess Hills are home to rare, native prairie grasses, flowers and wildlife. Local residents and other Iowans have appreciated their beauty for generations. However, the majestic bluffs that loom above the Missouri river valley basin contradict their fragility to environmental erosion and vulnerability to over development. An alliance formed by local government officials, nonprofit representatives, business leaders, landowners, and local residents is at work to preserve the Loess Hills and protect private property rights.

Q: Should the federal government officially recognize and help preserve the Loess Hills?

A: First and most important, a grassroots-based effort has set in motion the necessary groundwork to build consensus for conserving the Loess Hills. Second, the Iowa legislature has given its stamp of approval to see that the project moves forward. It is now appropriate for the federal government to join the effort to help preserve the only land formation of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. As Iowa's senior U.S. Senator, I am working to secure federal funds to have the U.S. Park Service complete a comprehensive, one-year review. A feasibility study would help shape a formal plan of action that is necessary to balance efforts to preserve the area's natural, cultural and historical treasures with the rights of local landowners.

March 22, 1999

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