DES MOINES – The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation is holding an event Thursday to dedicate a wildlife management area in Madison and Clarke counties that has been purchased by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The Heritage Hills Wildlife Management Area is a massive expanse of land less than an hour away from Des Moines, south of Winterset. It has roughly 1,021 acres of native Iowa wildlife.

Wildlife management areas differ from state parks in that they don’t have many roads, trails, or campsites, they are just open wilderness.

Joe Jayjack, the Communications Director at the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, said that the Heritage Hills project has been in the works since 2016. It started when the INHF purchased the land and then the foundation went to work restoring it to native Iowa wildlife.

Jayjack also said that projects like this aren’t possible without partnerships.

“Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation went into this project and partnered with the DNR,” Jayjack said, “we knew restoration would be a big part of this. There was a lot of potential for native grassland tall grass prairie restoration down there.”

The wildlife management area will also serve a purpose for conservation.

“It’s great for grasslands birds. Especially great for Monarch habitat,” Jayjack said, “We’ve lost 80% of Monarch habitat in Iowa and so we’ve really been focusing on bringing back some of those areas where Monarchs can thrive as they migrate through the state.”

A dedication event is being held at the Heritage Hills Wildlife Management Area Thursday at 3:00 p.m. There will be experts in restoration, conservation, hunting, and birdwatching there to educate attendees.

To learn more about the project and the dedication ceremony, visit the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation’s website.