SIOUX CITY -- Thanks to the Lewis and Clark centennial celebrants. Yes, a hundred years ago, conservationist pioneers like Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir commemorated the Corps of Discovery by expanding the national park system and founding the national wildlife refuges.

Are there natural areas visited by the explorers that still need protection? Are there threatened species that we can help the future to appreciate?

Yes. Right here in Iowa we have a responsibility to protect the last prairies in the state --the Loess Hills prairies. Sprawl, mining, and exotic species all threaten to exterminate these prairies in the next two decades. The Sierra Club's Lewis and Clark Wild America campaign has designated the Loess Hills and more than 30 other sites along the expedition's trail for protection.

Private landholders need support as they try to serve as stewards of these last prairie jewels -- home to yucca, big blue stem and pasque flowers. Even prairies protected by county or state ownership are in danger because state and local budgets have cut monies for natural protection. Let lawmakers know that we need to preserve our natural resources; they will act only if they hear from you.

And if you want to take direct action, volunteer April 12 north of Stone Park as Earth Day celebrants clear invasive species from the prairie at Mount Talbot preserve. We need to act now before these unique areas are overrun and lost. -- Dr. Jim Redmond, Northwest Iowa Group Sierra Club

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