Conservation Efforts

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

Honoring World Water Day in March…

In many ways, we have had more opportunities to meet and learn from individuals at virtual events all over the world during this past year. One could consider it a nice climate change contribution in regards to reducing our carbon footprint. However, we have lost out on the times where we used to meet and gather in person at conferences and events as we have in the past years. These personal connections that we make are incredibly valuable to future networking. In some cases, they are game changers.

Male Loon at Maffitt Lake, Photo by: Ty Smedes Nature Photography

Spring is starting to emerge along with more COVID 19 vaccinations being given throughout our communities. After this long restricted year, it seems everyone is a little more comfortable venturing outside.

A few more stories— Acknowledging Conservation Farmers’ Award night at Izaak Walton League’s Des Moines Chapter House and celebrating World Water Day, (March 22nd) with two watershed advocates who share the common goal of water quality from land to sea.

Watershed Bridges— Green to Blue

Seth Watkins with his cattle at Pinhook Farm, Clarinda, IA, Photo by: Tatum Watkins

Seth Watkins is a known figure in many of the agricultural conservation circles in Iowa, where he promotes sustainable farming, rotational cattle grazing, soil health and water quality. We have had the opportunity and privilege to have him present in person on several occasions at many of our shared events over the past years and virtually this past year. During the past few years, Seth and I have shared experiences through our various networks and learned that we had a common link through our love for the marine world and ocean waters beyond Iowa.

Seth Watkins and Vicki Nichols Goldstein were featured at the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2017—Day 3—Ridge to Reef: The Interconnection of Land and Sea (Screen Shot image)

During our past conversations, Seth has mentioned Vicki Nichols Goldstein and the Inland Ocean Coalition she established. He was certain that Vicki and I would have some common interests and missions. Seth met Vicki at a conference a few years back and found solid ground. Since then they have been able to share stories and advocate the importance of healthy watersheds to improve water quality for both inland states and the ocean. Some of these conversations and connections were reignited a few months ago when Seth sent us an introduction via email.

Seth was spot on; Vicki and I share many common threads working for healthy waters. I met Vicki Nichols Goldstein via Zoom a few weeks back and was anxious to learn more about the history of the organization she established over a decade ago. She has spent most of her adult life living near coastal waters, advocating for the health of marine oceans. Vicki found a way to continue her efforts, through establishing the Inland Ocean Coalition, after relocating with her husband and family to Colorado in 2009. She has been able to expand and share her knowledge and experience of how to protect the oceans while living far from them.

Vicki Nichols Goldstein, Colorado, Photo provided by: Vicki N. Goldstein

Many people in Iowa and inland states have a great appreciation for the coastal waters and beaches, and love tropical fish, dolphins, whales etc. But many don’t realize that we have a direct connection in protecting ocean waters. As an Iowa home comer, I have spent the past five years learning about the environmental condition of the “not so land locked” state of Iowa. After spending most of my adult life working and advocating for marine health and sustainable agriculture, it has been my mission to advocate with others that we need to take action to restore our native soils and water quality from Iowa to the Gulf of Mexico. In hopes to help raise awareness and get other communities members interested in advocating for water quality, I initiated the Iowa Water Festival  with the land to sea connection. So, we are extremely grateful for Vicki and Seth’s watershed connection! We will continue to amply the voice of conservation…

Vicki Nichols Goldstein, Maroon Bells, Aspen, Colorado Photo provided by: Vicki N. Goldstein & Seth Watkins with his dog Scout in front of his cattle, Pinhook Farm, Clarinda, IA, Photo by: Tatum Watkins

Registration Link:  Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Tuesday, April 6th @ 7pm Central

Another extraordinary presentation— Join us to learn more from Vicki Nichols Goldstein, founder of Inland Ocean Coalition and one of Iowa’s leading conservation farmers, Seth Watkins from Pinhook Farm, as they share why improving watershed health benefits critical services from land to sea.

Vicki will share her experience and motives why she established the Inland Ocean Coalition and how individuals who live “inland” from the Ocean can advocate to protect it.  Seth will be sharing his story about why good agricultural practices not only benefit his farm, but way beyond.  Together they will share how they have advocated for healthy watersheds at national conferences.  There will be discussions during this presentation of how we can all work together in our own communities to improve our watersheds from land to sea.

—IWL’s Des Moines Chapter Farmers’ Appreciation


“Defenders of Soil, Air, Woods, Waters & Wildlife”

Farmers’ Appreciation Night at the IWL’s Des Moines Chapter House, March 23, 2021, Photo by: Christine Curry

Many members of the Izaak Walton League’s Des Moines Chapter safely gathered with farmers who were being recognized for their conservation efforts. The Farmers’ Appreciation Night, was also in honor of National Agriculture Day, which took place on March 23rd. Luckily, many of the members had already received their COVID 19 vaccines and others respectfully spaced out with masks on. About 75 attendees enjoyed a beautiful steak dinner, followed by a fabulous presentation organized by chapter secretary, Doug Pooch.

We were privileged to have Rod Swoboda as the keynote speaker, following his recent retirement as the Editor of Wallaces Farmer magazine. Rod has a 44 year history of writing about Iowa’s farming issues This Des Moines, Iowa publication’s lineage can be traced back to the 1850s. Rod shared agriculture trends and stories from past to present and he discussed the importance of conservation on Iowa’s agriculture landscape.

We also had the opportunity to hear from Rod Collins, a farmer from Adel, IA, who shared his story about how he uses cover crops, livestock to graze cover crops, strip tilling to minimize soil disturbance, and grass waterways and contour farming. The final presenter was Brian Nalean, from Ogden, IA , who is a farmer using cover crops with seed corn production acres, CRP and food plots for managing deer herd as part of Quality Deer Herd Management.

IWL’s Iowa State Director, Lisa McIntyre, Chief Petty Officer Joe Swizdor, Watershed Mitigation Farm’s Ray Meylor, and IWL’s Iowa Conservation Director, Mike Delaney, Photo submitted by: Ray Meylor

A few of the conservation farmers who have been previously featured in our monthly updates were amongst the ones who were acknowledged with certificates.
The following were recipients:
—Minburn, IA’s rotational cattle farmers, Marvin Shirley and Chris Nelson.
—Watershed Mitigation Farm’s Ray Meylor has done an amazing mentoring job and has encouraged a few members from Veterans in Agriculture to get involved in conservations farming. The following received awards:
—MSgt Paul Havran, for  implementing  pasture riparian native pollinator buffer, to also be used for late season grazing, also planting chestnut trees for cattle feed and carbon sequestration and has built gully capture basins. Breeds Angus, sells pasture feed beef.
—MSgt Paul Cooper, who just bought overgrown pasture clearing brush with NRCS management, native seeding south slopes. He will breed and sell Angus.
—Chief Petty Officer Joe Swizdor, brought here by the military Home Base Iowa project at IA Work Force Development. He has been taking programs to transition to high value table foods.
—LtCol Tim Mills, who has purchased a 10 acre farm that NRCS is designing mitigation program for table foods; to transition for retirement.

Spring Snaps

“Sign of early spring on a warm sunny day at Sutcliff Woodland in Guthrie County where I know I’ll find Spring!, Snow Trillium (Trillium nivale). They have popped up in the sunny warm spots long the trail. First time to see this trillium!” Photo by Robin Fortney

March snow melting into Jordan Creek stream near the 63rd Street bridge in West Des Moines. Photo by Christine Curry

As the March snow was melting, we collected the last “Winter SALT WATCH” sample on March 7, 2021 from the Jordan Creek near the 63rd Street bridge in West Des Moines. “Chloride” results measured (237 ppm) Photo by Christine Curry

Most likely the winter snow is gone and most of Iowa’s snow has melted.  I enjoyed participating in the SOS’s Winter Salt Watch.   I hope to see some creek critters in the coming weeks… because 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.”  Four of the samples that I collected at various sites in the West Des Moines’ Jordan Creek stream were over 200 ppm of chloride.

“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).

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…

Many of the IWL’s Panora Conservation Chapter members are also members of the Raccoon River Watershed Association (RRWA)’s— They hosted their “Live in…The Raccoon River Watershed” 12th Annual Conference, March 20th, 2021. To learn the latest information regarding the health of our watershed listen to presentations from some of the leading experts “Something in the Water? The Environmental Quality of Iowa’s Water” Life in the Raccoon River Watershed ~ March 20, 2021

Learn more about how Seth Watkins and Vicki Nichols Goldstein share their advocacy for water quality at the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s Capital Hill Ocean Week 2017 – Day 3- Ridge to Reef:  The Interconnection of Land and Sea with Seth Watkins and Vicki Nichols Goldstein

Excellent to know that Seth Watkins will be a featured speaker at this year’s TEDxDesMoines on May 11, 2021.

—If you missed our second presentation? It was beyond fabulous…This is the link:  Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Neil Shaffer & Hunter Slifka— March 2, 2021

—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.

Iowa Farmers Union Events, check out their amazing weekly webinars…

Iowa Environmental Council’s Event page is packed with fabulous opportunities to learn more from their organization and others