Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1990 with the mission to actively protect, restore, reconstruct and manage the diverse native ecosystems of tallgrass prairie, oak savanna and sedge meadow. Prior to European-American settlement, tallgrass prairie covered 85% of Iowa. Today, less than 0.1% of Iowa’s prairie remains in small isolated fragments. In an effort to bring back native prairie plant communities, refuge staff and volunteers gathered and used local seed sources to plant approximately 4,000 acres of tallgrass prairie. Today, the refuge protects 6,000 acres providing food, cover and breeding habitat for resident and migratory wildlife.
The refuge also serves as a major environmental education, volunteer and outdoor recreation hub for people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy. Additionally, the refuge provides assistance to local landowners as they improve their lands for wildlife habitat. Lastly, the refuge tries to increase scientific knowledge and understanding of the prairie and savanna through ongoing, targeted and innovative research. The refuge achieves these goals through community involvement and by working and partnering with others.
The mission of Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge is to actively protect, restore, reconstruct and manage the diverse native ecosystems of tallgrass prairie, oak savanna and sedge meadow.
Everywas created for a special purpose. Some were created to protect migratory birds, others to protect threatened or endangered species or unique habitats, while others fulfill another special purpose. All activities allowed on refuges must be evaluated to make sure each activity will not conflict with the reason the refuge was founded.
The purpose of Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge is to protect, restore, reconstruct and manage diverse native communities of tallgrass prairie, sedge meadow and aquatic ecosystems and the natural processes essential to these ecosystems to enhance the vitality and health of the native prairie environment.
Additionally, staff and volunteers use tools to protect, restore and manage the biologically diverse populations of native wildlife associated with healthy prairie, savanna, sedge meadow and aquatic ecosystems, with an emphasis on grassland and savanna bird species.
The refuge also provides a variety of wildlife-dependent recreational and educational opportunities for visitor to experience and develop an appreciation for the native tallgrass prairie heritage, ecological processes and cultural resources.
By participating in these activities, visitors can make connections to the native ecosystems and wildlife, encouraging them to continue their support for conservation.
May 25, 1990 - Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge was authorized by Congress as Walnut Creek National Wildlife Refuge by appropriating $ 6 million for land acquisition through the Dire Emergency Supplement Appropriations Act.
April 1991 - The first major parcel of land, approximately 3,600 acres was purchased from the Redlands Corporation, a subsidiary of Iowa Power. Previously, this property had been targeted for a nuclear power generating station.
1998 - The name was changed from Walnut Creek National Wildlife Refuge to Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge to honor Congressman Neal Smith who was instrumental in the establishment of the refuge.