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Iowa Ag News Headlines
Alliant Energy, DNR Offer Operation ReLeaf Events This Spring
Iowa Ag Connection - 02/17/2017

A popular program offering landscape quality trees at a deep discount to Alliant Energy customers will be held at eight locations across Iowa this spring. Residential tree distributions will be held in Appanoose, Boone, Bremer, Delaware, Henry, Iowa, Jasper and Linn counties this April and May.

Alliant Energy's Operation ReLeaf helps Alliant Energy customers save energy in their homes using trees to create summer shade and winter windbreaks. For maximum energy efficiency, shade trees should be planted within 30 feet of the east and west sides of the house. Evergreens should be planted as a windbreak on the north and west sides.

Through the program, Alliant Energy residential customers may purchase high-quality landscaping trees for $25 each, on a first-come, first-served basis. These trees typically retail for between $65 and $125. "Planting a diverse mix of trees on your property and in your neighborhood will reduce the likelihood of losing a large number of trees to forest health threats," said Paul Tauke, state forester and chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forestry Bureau.

Tauke said they are encouraging homeowners who do not intend to treat for emerald ash borer to plant a replacement tree within 30 feet of the existing ash tree.

Foresters have been working with local partners to create a state tree inventory that will guide future tree planting efforts to keep a healthy mix of tree species.

Operation ReLeaf is offering 42 species of trees this spring from which they select 8 to 14 species for each event. The species are based on the local tree inventory, and will include shade trees, ornamentals, edible fruit trees and conifers. Shade trees are 6 to 8 feet tall in 5- to 10-gallon containers and conifers are 3 feet tall.

Just a few of the advantages of yard trees are:

- Decrease in household heating and cooling costs

- Increase in property values

- Decrease in storm water runoff, which may reduce flooding events

- Increasing pollinator and songbird habitat

- Beauty and personal enjoyment

"All trees are purchased through a bidding process to promote local nurseries," said Tauke. "This is a great way for homeowners to get a quality tree at an affordable price."

Customers are encouraged to order early as these trees sell out quickly. Advance purchase is limited to two trees per household. In the event there are extra trees available on distribution day, those trees will be released for purchase at that time. Order forms are available online at www.alliantenergy.com/releaf.

Workshops lead by DNR district foresters discussing tree planting and care will be held at most tree distributions. Topics covered will include root flare and proper planting depth, correcting encircling roots, proper mulching and watering, corrective pruning to reduce future storm damage, planting around buildings for energy efficiency and emerald ash borer. One lucky workshop participant will receive a free landscape tree to be raffled off at the end of the following workshops: Boone, Bremer, Iowa, Jasper, and Linn counties.

As part of a state/federal pollinator grant, workshop participants in Appanoose and Henry counties, will receive information about using trees and shrubs as butterfly and other pollinator habitat. While supplies last, all workshop participants are eligible to receive seedlings which benefit Iowa's pollinators. Participants may either choose a few seedlings to take home or order a pollinator tree/shrub seedling packet to be delivered to their home. Seedlings species offered are:

Trees: black cherry, eastern redbud, hackberry, river birch, shagbark hickory, silver maple, white oak

Shrubs: buttonbush, chokecherry, elderberry, highbush cranberry, redosier dogwood, wild plum

Pollinator seedling packet order forms will be available to participants at the end of each workshop.

Operation ReLeaf is administered by the Iowa DNR's Forestry Bureau with assistance from local partners, like county conservation boards, municipalities and county extension offices.

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