Conservation Efforts

By UMRI's Outreach Coordinator, Christine Curry and Iowa's Conservation Director, Mike Delaney, and other Iowa Izaak Walton League chapter members

We’re back at it again, sharing more stories of phenomenal natural resource stewards.

Worth repeating…Obviously many land owners are protecting their “natural capital” but most are not.  We know that our water quality continues to decline as silt, bacteria, phosphorus, and nitrate continue to be problematic.  Our hope is that our positive examples will be contagious and encourage others to get involved and take action so that eventually the entire Upper Mississippi River watersheds will flourish with healthy landscapes, soil and clean water from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.

Conservationist at work—A Watershed Heroine

Ann Wolf works to clear mud out of her Iowa DNR’s Goose nest smack in the middle of her 1.8 acre wetland which is part of the USDA’s (Natural Resource Conservation Service) programs. Photo by: Mark Chambers

We met Ann Wolf a couple years ago at the Raccoon River Watershed Association  (RRWA)’s annual conference, “Life in the Raccoon,” at the Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa. We have had several conversations and meetings with her since. Ann owns a 300 acre farm along the Mississippi River which she has managed to transform into a model conservation farm during the past two decades.

Ann is a member of several conservation and agricultural organizations. She represents the estimated 60% of women who are farmland owners in Iowa. “I believe it’s important for both women and men to work together to solve and communicate effectively regarding farm-related issues in Iowa that more directly impact their farm’s operations,” she says. “Whether they’re actively living on their farm, operate as an absentee landowner or are a beginning or seasoned farmland owner, networking and communication is essential and vital.”

Ann Wolf’s poetic farm landscape. Photo provided by Ann Wolf

I recently had a conversation with Ann and would like to share a little bit of her story with you in this issue. It seems these days everything from mask wearing during the pandemic to conservation and land stewardship are politically charged. Ann transcends any political bias when it comes to being a true example of an excellent conservationist.

Like many of the active people involved in conservation, Ann had an early connection to the land. She grew up in Clinton, Iowa and spent much of her childhood time outdoors near the Mississippi River. She was blessed to inherit her family farm along the Mississippi River, located in the High Bluff area in Jackson County. The land was purchased by her grandparents in 1943 as a land investment. As a young kid she really did not spend much time at the farm. However, that has dramatically changed. Ann and her partner, Mark built a beautiful cabin on the farm a few years back and these days they spend most weekends on her farm away from their home in Des Moines.

Ann Wolf and her significant other Mark Chambers featured with a Paddlefish as they volunteered to monitor and tag fish with the Bellevue’s Iowa DNR at Mississippi River’s Lock and Dam 12, near Bellevue. Photo provided by Ann Wolf

Since taking over the family farm, Ann has taken an active role and manages state and federal conversation programs to improve soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat on her land. Over the past several years, Ann has been working with Iowa‘s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and through the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)  to improve her land with conservation wetlands and stream bank soil restoration projects.

The non-profit world has been part of her career since an adult, but now Ann’s focus is dedicated to agriculture conservation efforts full-time. She serves as the Executive Director of Iowa Heartland Resource Conservation and Development (IHRC&D) and she has formed her own company called Clear Stream Solutions LLC where she serves as a consultant for businesses, nonprofits, and farm organizations. Recently, Ann joined MidwestHealthyAg.Org as Co-Program Director. This project is fully funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is also the result of Ann’s and other project team’s grant writing contributions. The Midwest Healthy Agriculture currently represents five states: Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Kansas. So the regenerative agriculture and the demographic focus is very similar to UMRI’s with the exception of Kansas.

Ann is very optimist about the future of conservations efforts, improving soil health, water quality, and food production. However, she totally understands that there is so much work to do in convincing others in the watershed to implement solid proven practices in order to shift the current trend of losing our natural resources. Ann believes that if landowners are incentivized they are much more likely to participate in sound practices. “The natural environment needs to be respected and nature is always going to win, so we need to work with her. What we have here is worth protecting.” Ann stated.

Remembering Conservation Legend Paul W. Johnson—

“He stood on the shoulders of conservation giants. Paul W. Johnson of Decorah was a former state legislator, fa former Chief USDA SCS/NRCS, a former Director of the Iowa DNR, and a retired farmer. Two of his most important and lasting legislative accomplishments were passage of the Groundwater Protection Act of 1987 and creation of the Resource Enhancement and Protection Act, fondly and widely known as REAP.,” says Mike Delaney

Iowa National Heritage Foundation’s Neil Hamilton’s reflection of Paul W. Johnson

Scouting— Protecting and Respecting Nature

Iowa’s Angelina Hemphill featured working on one of her Eagle Scout projects. Photo provided by: Mike Delaney via Dan Gelis, Mid Iowa Council, Boy Scouts of America

“Scouting taught me how to camp, hike, paddle, lead, speak in public, start campfires, tie knots give first aid, respect nature and be a better citizen. I did not make it to Eagle but I certainly learned to respect those who did. I am glad that young women now have the opportunities that I had.,” says Mike Delaney

Young Women Given the option of participation in Boy Scouts of America…

“Nearly 1,000 young women from across the country are taking their place in history as the first female Eagle Scouts after collectively earning more than 30,000 merit badges and providing an estimated 130,000 hours of community service – even amid a pandemic. The Boy Scouts of America honored this inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts during a virtual event February 21st titled ‘Be the Change’—a celebration of these
women and their achievements, and a call to action for all young people to continue working to make a positive impact on their communities and the nation.

Iowa’s Angelina Hemphill makes history as one of the first women to receive an Eagle Scout. Photo provided by: Mike Delaney via Dan Gelis, Mid Iowa Council, Boy Scouts of America

This is a powerful moment for these young women, for all Eagle Scouts, and for our nation,” said Jenn Hancock, national chair for programs at the Boy Scouts of America. “People recognize Eagle Scouts as individuals of the highest caliber—and for the first time, that title isn’t limited by gender. This expanded opportunity will empower generations of young people as they see both young men and women earn this rank and become leaders in their communities, in business and our country.”

Winter Snaps

Spectacular Carney Marsh Sky with Stratocumulus and altocumulus clouds and maybe others. Photo by Robin Fortney

Fishermen using Ice drills at Hayden Heritage Park in Ames. Photo by: Robin Fortney

Chloride measurement collected at Jordan Creek stream at Valley West Drive Bridge in West Des Moines on February 25th and chloride concentrations measured 46 ppm! Photo by: Christine Curry

As the warmer sunny days start melting the snow, this is a fabulous opportunity to participate in SOS’s Winter Salt Watch.   According to the SOS’s Iowa Coordinator, Zach Moss “Keep in mind that anything above 100 ppm is out of the ordinary, and prolonged exposure above 230 ppm or one-time exposure above 860 ppm can be damaging to aquatic life.”

“Why is there so much chloride in our streams right now? Much of the salt and brine that was applied in the past week or two has been frozen in place along the side of the road and in parking lot snow piles because of the bitter cold we experienced last week. As it says in my Water Reporter post above, the warm temps are causing melting, which is washing salt from the snowpack into the storm drains (which then empty straight into a nearby water body).

I encourage you to take advantage of the warm temperatures to get outside and spend some time in nature in the next few days. While you’re out, take your Salt Watch kit, a small container to hold your water sample, and your smartphone/camera with you! Once you’ve taken a measurement and snapped a picture, it’s super easy to upload your post to Water Reporter to share your data with other Salt Watchers! When you make your post, don’t forget to include the hashtag #SaltWatch and make sure you share it with the Izaak Walton League. More detailed instructions can be found on the postcard that came with your kit.”

On-line training to become a certified Izaak Walton League’s Save Our Stream monitor

Learn more—

As we continue 2021, We continue to wish you the very best!

Continue to Stay Safe and Stay Engaged.

Join us Tuesday, March 2nd at 7 pm Central time and learn directly from those on the ground who have been incredibly successful in getting thousands of acres of prime Iowa farm ground enrolled in healthy soil practices.

Register Here!

—If you missed our first presentation? It was beyond fabulous…This is the link:   Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Wayne Fredericks February 2, 2021 The Accidental Conservationist, How an Iowa Farmer is Improving Natural Capital while Increasing Profits with Conservationist and Farmer, Wayne Fredericks from Mitchell County, Iowa.

We’ll continue to amplify Wayne’s voice through our networks in hopes of inspiring others to get involved and take action!  Learn more about Wayne Fredericks and other fabulous Izaak Walton League’s Outdoor America articles on line. 

—About water quality monitoring and research, check out The University of Iowa’s Chris Jones blog who has published several articles on where Iowa stands with regards to soil health and water quality.

—Wait no longer to watch, re-watch and share PFI’s full-length film, “Livestock on the Land“. Please help us get this to as many viewers as possible – farmers, eaters, citizens and policymakers.