Dedication celebrates the expansion of Irvine Prairie

Dedication celebrates the expansion of Irvine Prairie

Cathy Irvine at Irvine Prairie dedication

On Friday, June 9 the University of Northern Iowa celebrated the expansion of Irvine Prairie near Dysart. The occasion included representatives from UNI, the Tallgrass Prairie Center and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Thanks to a generous gift from Dysart resident Cathy Irvine, the prairie will increase from 77 acres to nearly 300 acres.

Tallgrass prairie is Iowa’s original ecosystem, and the Tallgrass Prairie Center at UNI is on a mission to restore it throughout the state. When the restoration of Irvine Prairie is completed in 2029, it will be one of the largest tracts of restored prairie in eastern Iowa. 

"We are truly grateful to Cathy Irvine and this land — a living, learning, breathing lab… a special place that invites exploration, curiosity, peace and appreciation for nature,” said President Mark Nook.

Not only does Irvine Prairie provide a habitat for pollinators and beauty for all to enjoy — it also provides opportunities to test advanced techniques in prairie restoration and management. Students and faculty can get hands-on experience working with the prairie.

“It’s a place for all ages to learn about Iowa’s rich prairie heritage and appreciate the benefits provided by prairie,” said Nook.

Cathy Irvine donated the first portion of her late husband David’s family farm in 2018. Since then, the Tallgrass Prairie Center has introduced over 100 species of native prairie plants using the most genetically diverse and regionally appropriate seed sources available and closely matching species with soil moisture conditions. 

At the dedication, guests got a chance to tour the prairie in progress and get a preview of what the land will look like once it’s been completely restored.