Agricultural Policy Review


Regional land use change has important implications for ecosystems and the local human population. Metropolitan areas (MAs) are placing increasing emphasis on amenities and the environment when seeking to attract high income workers and their employers. Our interest is in characterizing land use change in Iowa’s Loess Hills Ecoregion (ILHE) that skirts both Sioux City and Council Bluffs MAs. ILHE is a distinctive landform of silty soils up to 200 feet high that were wind deposited just east of the Missouri River floodplain. Covering about 0.7 million acres, the Loess hills stretch north about 200 miles (usually no wider than 15 miles) from Holt County, Missouri, to Plymouth County, Iowa and are largely under private ownership. Although the soils are rich, cultivation has been difficult so that the region contains more than 50 percent of Iowa’s remnant prairie. However, technologies that allow cropping on steeply sloped and highly erodible terrains, increasing agricultural prices, and pressure for urban development have led to concerns about habitat loss conversion and fragmentation (Farnsworth et al. 2010).