Conservation Efforts

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

—Endangered Rivers


Each month it seems we take a few steps forward and a few steps back with our progress on conservation efforts in the watershed.  Let’s continue to move forward…

“A river or stream is a cycle of energy from sun to plants to insects to fish. It is a continuum broken only by humans.” Aldo Leopold

View of the Raccoon River from the bike trail, Water Works Park, Photo by: Curtis Cokeley

On April 13th, American Rivers announced America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2021.  And Iowa’s Lower Missouri River and Raccoon River are on this list.


#1: Snake River (ID, WA, OR)
Threat: Four federal dams on the lower Snake River
#2: Lower Missouri River (MO, IA, NE, KS)
Threat: Outdated river management and flooding fueled by climate change
#3: Boundary Waters (MN)
Threat: Pollution from proposed sulfide-ore copper mining
#4: South River (GA)
Threat: Sewage pollution due to lax enforcement
#5: Pecos River (NM)
Threat: Pollution from proposed gold, copper and zinc mining
#6: Tar Creek (OK)
Threat: Pollution from Tar Creek Superfund Site
#7: McCloud River (CA)
Threat: Raising of Shasta Dam, flooding state Wild and Scenic River
#8: Ipswich River (MA)
Threat: Excessive water withdrawals
#9: Raccoon River (IA)
Threat: Pollution from industrial agriculture and factory farming
#10: Turkey Creek (MS)
Threat: Two major developments exacerbating flood risk

The outdoor enthusiasts who fish, boat, swim etc., are some of our most hopeful advocates who can help build powerful partnerships in the watershed to improve water quality for all life in and around our rivers. The people who recreate near or in our rivers need to know what the condition of the water is, based on their personal knowledge and skill level so they can navigate their own choices and risks. When we clearly do not have clean healthy rivers based on the scientific data, how do we balance all of this?

“The American Rivers indicated that a river trail project would be one of the best ways to build advocacy and educate the public. This is exactly what the Central Iowa River Trails is all about” says Pat Boddy, a water resources engineer and IWL Panora Conservation Chapter member. “Developing strong partnerships from individuals, organizations, and business leaders is key in order to achieve support for education and research, water quality improvement, monitoring, and training.” We all want and need clean water for drinking, recreation and our rural agriculture communities from our inland state of Iowa to the Gulf of Mexico. And recreation is a huge component to help clean our rivers.

During the past several weeks many of our members and partners have continued to make significant contributions to build awareness in the Upper Mississippi Watershed. Since the American River’s announcement, there have been several follow up articles and newsworthy clips and we are sharing some of these links below.

Eddie at the Raccoon River, Photo by: Mike Delaney

Related links—

—“Efforts are being made to improve water quality in the Raccoon River” Jon Diaz, ABC’s We Are Iowa

—“Agricultural runoff puts Iowa’s Raccoon River on list of 10 most endangered nationally, group says” Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register

—“Raccoon River Named A Most Endangered River”, Des Moines Water Works

—“Water Works Faces Catastrophe as Raccoon River Ranks Among Nations most Endangered” Perry Beeman, Iowa Capital Dispatch

—“Report: Raccoon among 10 most endangered rivers in America”, Tom Cullen, The Storm Lake Times

—“Report: Raccoon among 10 most endangered rivers in America” Greene County News Online

—“NRS is not ‘making’ progress on the Raccoon River” Iowa Environmental Council

—“Editorial: Saving the Raccoon River”, Art Cullen, The Storm Lake Times

—Planting Seeds to Grow Vibrant Rural Communities


During the past five years, I’ve been saving articles relating to conservation, agriculture, soil and water quality from the Des Moines Register.  In December 2020, I called one of my favorite farmer friends, Chris Henning from Jefferson, Iowa about this young man – Chris Deal – who was featured in the Register. He had recently returned to his hometown of Jefferson, Iowa with his family and the article noted his vision for revitalizing his home town.

I knew this was also Chris Henning’s home town and that she had returned home after many years of being gone.  Sure enough, she knew him and his family well.  I clipped out the article and mailed it to her. This story was part of the Des Moines Register’s People to Watch in 2021 series. The stories highlight Iowans we expect great things from in the coming year.  And the Register was spot on: we have been watching Chris Deal!

Art Cullen’s recent article in the Washington Post stimulated me to reach out and ask Chris Henning for Chris Deal’s contact information so we could get an update about what he is currently working on.  We also wanted to ask him to share his story with our “Thinking Like a Watershed” program about returning to his rural home of Jefferson, Iowa with a purpose to make the community stronger.

It’s always great to learn why people return to their home towns.  Many home comers bring so much knowledge and experience back with them and often this benefits smaller towns that have lost members of the rural community over several years.

The Deal Family, Jefferson, Iowa, Photo by: Chris Henning

“What’s so exciting about Chris Deal is that he’s only 36, with a young family and so many interests.” says Henning  “many homecomers are retirees, or working on second careers. I returned home at 45, with my kids already away on their own.”

“Like so many of our rural towns, we struggle to attract young families. With Chris and Tracy, Jefferson now has an example of how young families can adapt and help build rural communities! Chris and Tracy have been working with others to make things better. Their work and ideas are inspiring. Chris brings knowledge, energy, and enthusiasm and his contributions are getting noticed.”

Join us for another extraordinary presentation—
Chris Deal and Art Cullen will be our guests at the May 4, 2021 Series on Soil and Water Conservation “Thinking Like a Watershed” program “Planting Seeds to Grow Vibrant Rural Communities” Tuesday, May 4th, begins at 7 p.m. Central.

Register in advance!

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

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.

The monthly presentations take place the first Tuesday of every month at 7 pm Central Time.  They are jointly hosted with our Izaak Walton League colleagues:  Christine Curry of the Upper Mississippi River Initiative, Agriculture Outreach Coordinator, Tim Wagner, and Save Our Streams’ Zach Moss.  Co-hosts include Panora Conservation Chapter member, Chris Henning and Des Moines Chapter Communication Director, Bud Hartley.

April Snaps

Bird Watching with members from Carroll County Conservation, Raccoon Valley River Association & IWL’s Panora Conservation Chapter at Dunbar Slough, Photo by: Bob Rye

American White Pelican at Dunbar Slough, Photo by: Bob Rye

Virginia Bluebells – photographed along the Neal Smith Trail, Saylorville Lake, near Polk City Photo by: Ty Smedes

Learn more—


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

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

Continue to Stay Safe and Stay Engaged…

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

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

—If you missed our previous “Thinking Like a Watershed” presentations? Links to recent presentations are here:

This is the video link “Watershed Bridges— Green to Blue”: Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Vicki Nichols Goldstein & Seth Watkins— April 6, 2021

—This is the video link “Local Heroes in Howard County”: Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Neil Shaffer & Hunter Slifka— March 2, 2021

This is the video link “The Accidental Conservationist”: Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Wayne Fredericks— February 2, 2021

—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.