Marsh Dedication launches Larry Wilson Legacy
By Lowell Washburn
SPIRIT LAKE--Former Department of Natural Resources Director Larry Wilson was honored Saturday in a ceremony that dedicated the first in a series of prairie wetlands that will bear his name. Efforts to acquire the 700-acre marsh complex was spearheaded by members of Iowa Ducks Unlimited.
"I feel tremendously honored and, at the same time, humbled," Wilson told dozens of well wishers who assembled atop a grassy ridge overlooking one of the area's 30 prairie wetlands.
"A tremendous amount of work has gone into preserving these wetlands and I am so fortunate to be acknowledged in this way. For me, this has just been an incredible day."
But although Wilson seemed somewhat uncomfortable will the recognition bestowed by his peers, Ducks Unlimited project coordinator, Keith Helland was quick to note the accomplishments of the former DNR Chief.
"Larry served our state as DNR Director for a record 14 years," said Helland.
"During that time he gained a reputation for being a tireless crusader for waterfowl and wetlands conservation. He oversaw the creation the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture, the REAP program, and Iowa's private lands outreach. For all of us who benefit from Iowa wetlands and the rich diversity of wildlife they support, this tribute is a very fitting way of saying thank you to an outstanding leader."
According to Ducks Unlimited Senior Regional Director, Rock Bridges, the Wilson Legacy Marsh series will involve the acquisition and restoration of three separate wetland complexes located in the northern, western, and eastern regions of the state. The purpose of this distribution, said Bridges, is to make each project accessible to the greatest number of Iowans.
"It would be hard to overstate the benefits that the development of these wetlands will bring to our state," said Richard Bishop, chief of the DNR's wildlife bureau.
"In addition to providing countless recreational opportunities or critical breeding and migration habitat for waterfowl and a myriad of other wetland bird species, this area will also play a crucial role in enhancing the water quality of East Okoboji Lake.
"This complex once contained thirty separate marshes. Those basins are still there. The first thing we're going to do is go in and break every single tile line, and then we are going to bring that water to the surface. Every drop of water from 4,000 acres of watershed will be purified by these wetlands before entering Okoboji. That's going to have a positive effect on water quality."
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