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CONSERVATION HEROES - Restored Prairie a Landmark Habitat Site.

MARY AND JIM NORTON'S 30-year commitment to restoring the tallgrass prairie that once thrived on their New Hartford, Iowa, land paid off recently when NWF certified their farm as its 30,000th Backyard Wildlife Habitat(tm) site.

Appropriately named Prairie Hill Farm, the Nortons' property has been in Mary's family since 1893, when her great-grandparents moved from Missouri and homesteaded there. At that time, Iowa was a sea of grasses and wildflowers that supported a great diversity of wildlife. Today, less than one percent of the state's original prairie remains.

Intent on restoring the plant life as accurately as possible, the Nortons spent considerable time learning about the prairie species indigenous to New Hartford. Their stands of native bluestem grass, yellow prairie coneflower, purple prairie clover and other plants are now so bountiful that they can share seed with schools and neighbors who want to establish their own prairies.

The 200-acre farm also includes ponds, woodlands and riparian buffer strips that, along with the prairie, attract a wide variety of wildlife.

A retired educator, Mary is busy spreading the word about prairie restoration, helping area schools create habitat sites and coordinating an after-school nature club for local children. Jim, also retired, spends much of his time working on the prairie.

"We are in awe of what is happening on our island of restored native habitat," says Mary. "None of this has ever seemed like work; it's just happened in a beautiful and natural way."

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Title Annotation:couple's Iowa land named Backyard Habitat
Publication:National Wildlife
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U4IA
Date:Feb 1, 2002
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