This page highlights some of the projects currently being conducted by the Louisa County Conservation Board. If you would like more information on any of these projects or would like to volunteer to help out with a project, please contact the Conservation Board at (319)-523-8381 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Louisa County Conservation Board began its wood duck (Aix sponsa) box program in 1997 with the installment of numerous wood duck boxes throughout several different areas. Since that time, the boxes were examined every winter and records of nesting and production success were kept. The boxes were also cleaned, repaired, and replaced (if damaged). During the past 5 years, nesting by wood ducks has been in as little as 30% of the boxes, to as much as 67%. In other words, wood ducks have used as many as 7 out of every 10 boxes! Of the boxes in which nests have been found, production of offspring has been found to be very consistent over the years. During the last 5 years, between 14% and 30% of the nests produced ducklings that successfully left the nest. The nesting to production ratio (a number between 0 and 1.0 that is a measure of how many nests were successful out of how many that were made) has also been very consistent, ranging from .30 to .45, and having a .40 average.
During the winter of 2001-2002, a thorough inventory was done of all the wood duck boxes and many old ones were replaced, as a result 30 new wood duck boxes were installed. A new project was also begun, the Wood Duck Management Program. In addition to recording the same nesting data, box attributes; such as its height above the water and the direction it faced, where recorded. Current research on wood duck box placement suggests that there is a large discrepancy in what wood ducks prefer. Some researchers have suggested that duck boxes as low as 3 feet off the ground are sufficient while others maintain that heights of up to 30 feet are required. Likewise, some researchers have found no bearing on the direction a wood duck box faces, while others have found a significant correlation.
Therefore, this project was undertaken to see if any correlation could be found between the attributes of boxes in Conservation Board areas and nesting and production. Currently there is not enough data to say definitively that there are correlations between any of the attributes and nesting or production. However, some preliminary evidence does lean towards a preference by wood ducks based on pole height and surprisingly based on direction. Over the next several years this data will enable the Conservation Board to determine exactly which attributes promote the most wood duck production in our areas and will then be used to develop guidelines for our wood duck box placement and hopefully increase wood duck production.
One of the goals of the Louisa County Conservation Board is to maximize the biological diversity, or biodiversity, of all our areas, especially our wildlife management areas. Biodiversity is a term used to describe not only the variety of life, but how that life is distributed in an area. For example, a pond with 10 species of fish may seem quite diverse, but if 90% of those fish are carp, the pond has a low level of biodiversity (a pond with a high level of biodiversity would have each of the 10 species make up 10% of the total).
Research has consistently found that the more diverse an area, the more stable and healthy the ecosystem. In other words, the more biological diverse an area (the greater the number of different species that are well distributed throughout the area), the better that area is for wildlife as a whole, especially in the long run. Therefore, the Conservation Board decided to only undertake management plans that would favor biological diversity and not to undertake any management actions that would knowingly hinder one native species in favor of another.
However, in order to adequately manage for all species within an area, you must first know what species are already there. Therefore, the Conservation Board began the Area Species Inventory project. Using software freely available from the University of California at Davis, the Conservation Board began constructing databases to document all of the plants (flora) and all of the animals (fauna) that Conservation Board staff observe within each of our areas.
The Conservation Board first began documenting species in the summer of 2002, by the end of the year (6 months later), over 200 different species of plants and animals had been documented and entered into the databases, and the list keeps growing! With the aid of these species lists, Conservation Board staff will now easily be able to check whether a species susceptible to a certain action is currently within an area before that action is undertaken.
Eventually, the Louisa County Conservation Board hopes to begin documenting population sizes and locations of the species within the lists in order to develop even more precise management plans.
A common request of the Conservation Board over the years has been to provide maps to our different areas, especially our much larger wildlife areas. Requests for maps have come from a variety of people for a variety of reasons, from wanting to know all the hiking trails in an area, to where food plots are located, to finding the best fishing spots, the list is endless. Likewise, the Conservation Board staff has also begun to realize the need for detailed, accurate maps of our areas for management purposes, such as prescribed burning and food plot rotation to name a few.
Within the last decade, two technologies used in mapping have began to be more readily available, GPS, or Global Positioning System, and GIS, or Geographic Information System. With the assistance of US Fish & Wildlife Service personnel from the Port Louisa Refuge, the Conservation Board began using GPS units in January of 2002 to map and measure trails, structures, and boundaries in our areas. This data was then entered into a GIS computer program (again with the assistance of the personnel at the refuge) to develop our first trail map.
Since then, the Conservation Board has purchased its own GPS unit and has also began a cooperative agreement with the Natural Resource Conservation Service in Wapello for the use of their field computer and their GPS software. As a result, the Conservation Board has now developed detailed trail maps for almost all of our areas, and food plot maps for all of our wildlife management areas. These maps are now available on our website, as well as some GIS produced maps (which were not produced using GPS and are therefore not as complete or accurate).
To see the maps, please check out the "Park Guides" section of the website. Black and white paper copies of these maps are also available at the Conservation Board office, free of charge, and color copies are available for $2.00 each. If you are interested in obtaining paper copies of any maps, please stop by the Louisa County Conservation Board office at 609 James L. Hodges Avenue, Wapello, Iowa, 52653. Copies of these same maps can also be viewed and printed out from here on our website in the "Park Guides" section. You must have Acrobat® Reader® software however, in order to view and print these maps. You can obtain Acrobat® Reader® software, free of charge, by clicking on the link below.