Conservation Efforts

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

Cedar River bridge at Sturgis Park, in Cedar Falls. Photo by: Christine Curry

UMRI will be hosting a water monitoring training “The Cedar River Bacteria Source Study Directive for Iowa Volunteers” in Cedar Falls next month.  Stay tuned for updates in our August issue.

Conservation Matters— 

With all the voluntary efforts of Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy, data demonstrates that major problems with soil loss and water quality continue on, despite all the good intentions.  Money matters for most people, we know.  Our public tax dollars are inadvertently polluting our waters and depleting our soil…What if our taxes purposely incentivized farmers to improve soil health and water quality?  Potentially this could save the public millions of dollars by not having to pay to filter the agriculture chemicals out of our public water supplies and would restore water quality for outdoor recreation.  And What if Iowa’s Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund that was created by voters in 2010 was funded?  Click here to learn more! 

Agriculture through a different Lens— 

Seth Watkins with his cattle on Pinhook Farm. Photo by: Tatum Watkins

Iowa’s Conservation Farmer Seth Watkins sums it all up in his latest TEDxDes Moines Talk. Seth is part of our Izaak Walton League’s UMRI Iowa network and we are thrilled to share this remarkable video with you. His message is inspiring and filled with hope that we can work together through our communities to improve life for all.

Climate Matters—

The condition of Iowa’s environment continues to be a challenge with the addition of extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change. Many more farmers are concerned about the long-term impacts of climate change and they are now actively working with others to solve these problems.

Throughout this past year we have shared many stories regarding these challenges: Iowa was hit with severe floods in summer 2019, resulting in several thousand acres of unrecovered farmland. Farm Bureau economists estimated Iowa’s flood damage at $2 billion. The past two summers there has not been enough rain, causing extreme drought conditions. Last summer the fast moving derecho, qualifying as a category 2 hurricane with winds topping 100 mph, whipped through the state, causing widespread power failures and severe damage to homes, businesses and millions of acres of crops. Damages for all these extreme weather events are catastrophic to the economy, causing hardships throughout the state, especially the vulnerable rural communities.

Thankfully, we have excellent examples of farmers in our network who are benefiting our land and water through good conservation practices. In order to improve our farms, farmers must continue to make changes to their practices as we learn from research and technological advances. Many continue to innovate and adapt to the challenges they face.

Soil Conservation Easement—

The first Soil Conservation Easement is placed on one of Iowa’s historic farm lands. The Garst family has a long history in Iowa for innovation of hybrid corn seeds and conservation farming practices. Preserving Iowa’s rich soil has always been a top priority for the late Roswell Garst. His passion, knowledge and enthusiasm has been passed down to his granddaughters. Liz Garst is the operating director of Whiterock Conservancy in Boone, Iowa. She is well known in Iowa’s conservation agriculture circles where she instills how much climate change is impacting our land and that we must improve farming practices now. Liz advocates for soil health leading by example with no-till practices, cover crops, buffer strips, terraces, and maintained waterways to name a few.

Garst family’s contribution to Iowa’s agriculture is monumental. This video provides an historical snapshot of their legacy. We hope that by sharing this extraordinary story, it will inspire others to advocate for our natural capital resources, soil and water quality.


Conservation Farming Connections—

Virtual connections have enhanced our opportunity to meet and learn from other individuals in so many ways. We met 5th generation farmer Clark Porter (founder of Black Hawk Creek Water & Soil Coalition) via a Zoom discussion at the Fishers & Farmers on line event November 2020.  A few weeks later I reached out to Clark and learned more about his contributions, he was featured in our December 2020 issue.

When I was traveling through Eastern Central Iowa this month I had the opportunity to stop and visit Clark at his 570 acre family farm located in the Waterloo-Cedar Valley area in Grundy County, Iowa. Clark shared his compassion about his farm’s conservation efforts and the challenges of Iowa’s agriculture. His farm includes many conservation practices including a “saturated buffer” sometimes referred to as an edge-of-field-practice. The stream that runs through his farm is a tributary of the South Fork of Black Hawk Creek.

Christine & Clark observing the farm stream which is a tributary of the South Fork of Black Hawk Creek. Photo by: Kate Williams

 Clark’s Saturated Buffer. Photo by: Kate Williams

The water control structure helps direct the water flow through subsurface drainage and allows soil to filter nutrients before entering a stream or ditch. I haven’t had the opportunity to see a saturated buffer before, so I decided to capture this part of his farm tour via video. Click here: This is the unedited footage for those of you who care to learn more. You’ll also see some beautiful monarch butterflies smack in the middle of one Clark’s prairies.


Save Bloody Run—

Fisherman at Bloody Run Creek. Photo by: Larry Stone

It’s time to call a halt with the current threat of Iowa’s Bloody Run Creek.

The IWL’s history: At the turn of the 20th century, uncontrolled discharges of industrial waste and raw sewage, unrestricted logging, and soil erosion threatened to destroy the nation’s most productive waterways. The country’s forests, wetlands, and wilderness areas were quickly disappearing. In 1922, 54 sportsmen declared that it was “time to call a halt” to this destruction. Aware that action – not just talk – would be necessary to solve these problems, the group decided to form an organization to combat water pollution and protect the country’s woods and wildlife. As a reminder of their purpose, they named the organization after Izaak Walton, the 17th-century English angler-conservationist who wrote the literary classic The Compleat Angler.

Some Facts:  Bloody Run Creek, which is classified as an Outstanding Iowa Water, is one of the Driftless region’s premier cold-water, spring-fed streams. Brown trout reproduce there, and the DNR stocks rainbow trout. Anglers travel from all over Iowa for the trout fishing experience.

But Bloody Run faces an ominous threat. An 11,600-head cattle feedlot being built in the watershed. The Iowa DNR – despite public opposition – has approved a plan to apply manure from the cattle not only on land in the Bloody Run watershed, but also on about 40 other fields in The Driftless.

Click Here to learn more about Save Bloody Run!

Learn more—


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

Continue to Stay Safe and Stay Engaged…

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

Photographing Nature:  Saturday, August 7th from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

If you’re interested in learning about capturing outstanding nature images, Here is an excellent opportunity to learn more:

What: A Presentation by Ty Smedes, “Nature Photography: Ideas, Challenges, and Solutions”.  This event is open to the public and it is hosted by our partner organization, Raccoon River Watershed Association a.k.a. RRWA

When: Saturday, August 7th from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Where: at the Dallas County Conservation Department’s Meeting Room at Forest Park and Arboretum, 14581 K Avenue, Perry, IA 50220

Stay tuned for more “Thinking Like a Watershed” program details…

“Thinking Like a Watershed”—


Links to recent presentations are here:

If you missed our “Heartland Heroines”  Thinking Like a Watershed presentation…

This is the video link: “Heartland Heroines” Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Robin Moore & Denise O’Brien— June 1, 2021

Photo of Robin Moore provided by: Land Stewardship Project


This is the video link: “Planting Seeds to Grow Vibrant Communities” Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Chris Deal & Art Cullen— May 4, 2021  
How Jefferson, Iowa’s Chris Deal is working with California Rep. Ro Khanna and others to grow vibrant rural communities in the Heartland with perspectives from Pulitzer Prize—winning journalist and editor of The Storm Lake Times, Art Cullen.

This is the video link “Watershed Bridges— Green to Blue”: Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Vicki Nichols Goldstein & Seth Watkins— April 6, 2021  How improving soil health and water quality in Iowa and other inland states benefit watersheds that provide critical services from land to sea.

—This is the video link “Local Heroes in Howard County”: Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Neil Shaffer & Hunter Slifka— March 2, 2021  How they have incorporated several thousand acres of land under conservation programs–the largest percentage in Iowa.

This is the video link “The Accidental Conservationist”: Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Wayne Fredericks— February 2, 2021  How an Iowa Farmer is Improving Natural Capital while Increasing Profits with Conservationist and Farmer, Wayne Fredericks from Mitchell County, Iowa.

— 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.