Linn County's Chain O Lakes Still Recovering From 2020 Derecho

Photo: Iowa Department of Natural Resources

(Linn County, IA) -- Two years after the 2020 derecho, work continues to erase some of the remaining damage at Chain O Lakes Wildlife Area in northern Linn County. The storm caused heavy damage to the 1,150-acre wildlife area, stripping sections of the tree canopy and knocking down trees.

“It created nearly impassible conditions, but we’re doing our best to get it back where it’s a usable area again,” said Steve Woodruff, wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Iowa River Unit.

Iowa DNR district forester Mark Vitosh says most of the damage occurred to cottonwood, silver maple, and ash trees. He determined there would be a salvage timber harvest covering around 300 acres divided over three sections. The logs will be used for pallets and some turned in to furniture.

Work began late last fall on the first segment. The contractor may only remove trees that have 25 percent or less canopy or are leaning or are downed, and trees may be dropped only between Oct. 1 and March 31 to avoid impacting the endangered Indiana bat and the threatened northern long-eared bat during their active time. Bats will migrate south to hibernate.

Woodruff says the salvage harvest is reopening access to the damaged areas and is expected to be done by the end of March. Some remaining damaged trees will offer a secondary habitat preferred by cavity nesters, like raccoons and pileated woodpeckers, and the remaining root balls will support turtles and grubs and more.

He said individuals can also salvage wood for their own use for free by contacting him for a wood cutting permit.

Woodruff said initially, they are not planning to replant trees, but will wait to see if the trees will naturally fill in the openings.

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