Iowa Wildlife Action Plan

By the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

Iowa’s Wildlife Action Plan constitutes the first-ever attempt at accounting and planning for the entire range of the state’s wildlife – birds, fish, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, plus butterflies, freshwater mussels and selected other creatures for which information is available.

The plan is habitat-based and focuses on meeting the needs of 296 “species of greatest conservation need” identified by experts and a thorough screening process. It also aims to “keep common species common.” The plan presents six visions for the future of Iowa’s wildlife, with goals and multiple management strategies for each. Funding availability will determine which visions are implemented.


In a landscape dominated by private agriculture, resource management on public lands is necessarily intense, and cooperation with private landowners is essential to preserving the state’s remaining fish, wildlife, forests, waters and grasslands.

Wildlife Highlights

Prairie chickens boom in southwestern grasslands; brook trout flash in northeastern coldwater streams; eastern massasaugas sun on southeastern river floodplains; black terns hover above northern pothole wetlands; regal fritillaries forage in the western Loess Hills prairies; and one of the largest wintering bald eagle populations south of Alaska spreads out along Iowa’s rivers every December to March.

Primary Challenges to Conserving Wildlife in Iowa

Iowa’s action plan identifies four “high” and eight “moderate” statewide conservation issues and stresses to land-based wildlife and habitats. Habitat absence, fragmentation, isolation and overgrazing top the priority list. Habitat loss and fragmentation reduce or eliminate critical wildlife across vast portions of Iowa. Agriculture has been the greatest historical cause, but suburban sprawl, road development, stream channelization and other human intrusions have accelerated habitat losses in recent years. Species that have declined to near-disappearance include Greater prairie chicken, regal fritillary (butterfly), Franklin’s ground squirrel and Iowa Pleistocene snail.

For wetland/riverine wildlife and habitat, four high and ten moderate conservation issues and stresses surfaced. Top concerns include runoff, invasive species and loss of streamside/lakeside vegetation. Intensive agriculture and suburban developments allow runoff into the state’s waters. This adds excessive loads of silt and nutrients, and accompanying oxygen depletion, thus degrading aquatic habitats. Crawfish frog, slimy sculpin, Higgins’ eye pearly mussel and spangled skimmer (dragonfly) are all species in trouble.

Working Together for Iowa’s Wildlife

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources invited more than 100 conservation partners to help create visions and strategies for Iowa’s plan. Partners from wide-ranging interest groups participated, including The Nature Conservancy, Pheasants Forever, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Association of County Conservation Boards, Iowa Department of Transportation, Morningside College, Safari Club International, Iowa Audubon, National Park Service and the Iowa Prairie Network. A day-long meeting assembled 59 statewide interest groups to recommend conservation priorities and strategies. Individualized presentations at locations throughout the state also reached many organizations.


The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, promotes sound management and conservation, and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.

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