History of IRVM

Early Years

The tallgrass prairie once covered more than 170 million acres of the United States. Stretching from Indiana to Kansas and Canada to Texas, this sea of grass, sedge and forb species created an intricate ecosystem that dominated the Midwest for roughly 8,000 years. Between 1830 and 1900 the prairie underwent one of the most drastic land transformations in human history. Aided by the steel plow, European settlers steadily converted the prairie into farmland and reduced the area to 2% of its original size by the early 1900's. These effects were even worse in Iowa where 80% of the land area was prairie.

We have around 0.1% of the original Iowa prairie remaining today. This once dominant ecosystem had become more endangered then the rain forest. 

The concept of integrated roadside vegetation management (IRVM) has a relatively long history in the state of Iowa; groundwork was underway as early as the mid-1970's to establish one of the nation’s first IRVM programs. The goal of this program was to provide an alternative to typical roadside management practices. These practices, including the extensive use of mowing and herbicides, were often too costly to implement on a regular basis, were frequently ineffective, and contributed to an increased potential for groundwater contamination.

Establishing IRVM In Iowa

In 1987, the Iowa Legislature established Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management (IRVM) to be implemented along Iowa’s state and county roadways.

Iowa's IRVM objectives were first outlined in Iowa Code, Section 314.22 stated, "It is Declared to be in the general public welfare of Iowa and a highway purpose for the vegetation of Iowa’s roadsides to be preserved, planted, and maintained to be safe, visually interesting, ecologically integrated, and useful for many purposes."

This 1988 legislation created funding for the IRVM Program Office at the University of Northern Iowa.

The Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Program (IRVM) was developed to provide a cost-effective, environmentally safe management alternative to conventional chemical and mechanical management practices.


  • Maintains a safe travel environment on the county Right-of-Ways
  • Controls noxious weeds and soil erosion
  • Sustains water quality
  • Improves wildlife habitat
  • Provides the public with aesthetically pleasing roadsides using a variety of management tools rather than rely on just one.

Iowa's native roadsides help prevent soil erosion and provide important habitat while promoting the use of prairie statewide.

IRVM in Hardin County

In 1987, the Hardin County Board of Supervisors, in cooperation with the Hardin County Engineer and Hardin County Conservation Board, decided to take a new approach to roadside maintenance and established the IRVM office.

The IRVM office is also responsible for upholding the Iowa Weed Law, found in Chapter 317 of the Code of Iowa (PDF), within Hardin County. Historically invasive species have always been a problem in the roadside, but the County Weed Commissioner oversees the control of legally noxious weeds on all public and private property.