Land Donation Helps Forestry and English Students Team Up to Learn

Forestry students and English majors partnered up to remove invasive species from the area.

Iowa State University’s English department received a special yet unexpected gift in 2009 – 76 acres of undeveloped land downstream from Don Williams Recreation Area outside of Boone, IA.

But the gift came with a catch.

Everett Casey (’46 engineering) donated the land under the condition that it would be preserved in its natural state. The wooded property was to be used to aid in the development of the Iowa State Master of Fine Arts (MFA) creative writing and environment program.

The three-year, fifty-four credit program combines creative writing and environmental coursework. Students are required to complete an environmental fieldwork project to prepare for real-world experiences.

While at Iowa State, approximately 60 years ago, Casey took a writing class that he credited as “fundamental” to his career. Everett moved to Michigan where he worked as an attorney and owned a small plastics manufacturing company.

The partnership between forestry and English students began when the Forestry Practicum class developed a management plan for the reserve and presented it to the Casey Property Board.

“I hope this partnership lasts for a long time. It’s a very nice piece of land and we are always looking for landscapes for our classes to manage. Both departments benefit from this project,” said Richard Schultz, natural resource ecology and management professor and forestry club adviser.

The class is a required course for all forestry students. Students pick from a variety of properties and meet with landowners to discuss future objectives, tour the property and develop a management plan. The plan is presented to the landowner, which is this case was the Iowa State English Department.

Forestry club members held a teaching day to inform the English students about Iowa’s natural history and wildlife.

The board accepted the plan and the forestry club began restoring the area.

“This partnership is essentially an interdisciplinary service-learning project to restore the land,” said Louis Hilgemann, a senior in forestry.

The club members worked several days this fall to remove invasive species and plan native species. The forestry club also held a teaching day for English 250 students about natural resources in Iowa. The forestry club took about ten English students on tours around the property. Discussions ranging from natural history to forestry in Iowa’s landscape and wildlife identification were a few topics covered.

“This has been a great partnership because while we are teaching others, our club members are gaining valuable practical experience that cannot be replicated in a classroom,” said William Underwood, a senior in forestry.

Plans for this spring are underway. The club plans to remove more invasive species and work on prairie and stream bank restoration. The club also plans to continue holding teaching days this spring. In the future the forestry club hopes to work on adding a building, road, hiking trails and bring water lines into the area.