Conservation Efforts

By Caroline van Schaik, Driftless Region coordinator

But first!


Several timely items merit top of page, with details when you read on:
➢ Mar. 3 docent training for the “We Are Water” exhibit in Winona, MN
➢ Mar. 8 at 7 p.m. Central, our Upper Mississippi River Initiative (UMRI) monthly virtual series, “Thinking Like a Watershed”
➢ Federal Farm Bill in-person listening sessions in Des Moines, IA on Mar. 7 and again in Bloomington, MN on Mar. 10, hosted by Izaak Walton League (IWLA) chapters and IWLA’s Ag. Policy director, Duane Hovorka
Each event requires a simple registration. Read on for what and how to act on your priorities.

And one more top of page item is UMRI’s “Give! In the name of Love!” campaign to match a welcome donation from Bill and Lynne Rogers. It’s a push through Mar. 22 – these dollars help us weave our own good work and that of others into a cohesive story of action for the Upper Mississippi. Threads and dollars – details for online and by-check donations can be found at Thank you for contributing as you can.

“We Are Water” docent training Mar. 3 & more…


The Winona County History Center opens the state’s first of six 2022 sites to host the traveling exhibit, “We Are Water,” on Mar. 3 with an optional docent training just before doors open. Volunteer docents will pick their own hours to join museum staff in helping visitors get the most out of this family-friendly story of water, people, and the environment. The training will be in-person at 2:30 p.m. at the museum in downtown Winona, MN.  UMRI staff and Driftless stream team members with Save Our Streams (SOS) will be participating but note that you do not need an affiliation – only enthusiasm! – to be a docent. You do need to register.

As one of a dozen corollary stewardship activities, Driftless SOS volunteers will be part of a streambank cleanup program on Ap. 24, 1-3 p.m. along Gilmore Creek/ditch in Winona to – to pick up litter, of course, but also to do some hands-on education around water testing and live macroinvertebrate identification. Please register so that specific directions can be sent to you once they are confirmed.

A related event organized by Trout Unlimited in the Winona area unfolds on Ap. 30 at 1:30 p.m. Here is what we know: Trout Unlimited Habitat Improvement Demonstration (including an electrofishing demo). Meet at the parking area downstream (north) from Farmer’s Park between Hwy 14 and the Park. Also join in a wildflower tour following the demonstration!
Register required in advance by calling 507.454.2723 ext. 0 or stopping in the History Center. Limited to 40 people.

Part water education, part community and partnership building, the exhibit is a multi-agency effort to embrace complementary efforts by groups like our Driftless SOS teams. It runs from Mar. 3 through Ap. 25 before moving on to Lake City, Alexandria, Fergus Falls, Hastings, and Eagan.

A reminder that our Driftless SOS stream teams will be spring sampling at eight sites in Winona, Houston, Olmsted, and Filmore Counties – please contact Caroline van Schaik for details.
Photo by Caroline van Schaik


“Championing the Upper Mississippi River Region”

Register Here!  for another extraordinary presentation— Our monthly web presentations continue Tuesday, Mar. 8 at 7 p.m. Central with a conversation with the president of the Mississippi River-focused inter-league chapter of the League of Women Voters. Mary Ellen Miller’s long life is a tapestry of conservation between League, voting, and farmland activism that merits this special listen.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with the link to join the program.  Tuesday, Mar. 8, 2022, at 7 p.m. CT

How a life-long conservationist became an advocate for the Mississippi…a League president discusses conservation & change

Conservation activist and self-proclaimed tree-hugger, Mary Ellen Miller, president, League of Women Voters /Upper Mississippi River Region, will share the League’s connection between advocacy, voting and the state of the river.  She will discuss the work that members are involved with to improve soil health and water quality and how they are working with others in the Upper Mississippi River network to take action for change.

This monthly series is a project of the Upper Mississippi River Initiative (UMRI) of the Izaak Walton League of America/MN Division, with co-hosts Chris Henning of the Panora Conservation Chapter and Des Moines Chapter Communication Director, Bud Hartley. We feature guests for 30-40 minute presentations that shed daylight on good works done in the name of the Mississippi and its uplands. In this way we uplift our shared goals for a cleaner river, a cared for environment, and kinder communities. Recorded programs are available shortly after they air live.

IWLA Listening Sessions on Farm Conservation with Duane Hovorka, ag. policy director

The League is hosting in-person listening sessions in Driftless states to gather input from hunting, fishing, and conservation organizations, sustainable and organic farmers, and others on ways federal policy can boost conservation on farms and ranches.

The first listening session will be hosted at the League’s Des Moines Chapter on Monday, Mar. 7, at 7 p.m.  Here are details and registration!

The second listening session will be hosted by the League’s Minnesota Valley Chapter in Bloomington on Thursday, Mar. 10, at 10 a.m. Here are details and registration! 

A “Match Made in Heaven”


The marriage of crops and livestock make sense to those of us who manage the health of our grass and animals in the same breath. Managed grazing is such a compliment to soil health – so why do we see all that bare ground out there, and I don’t just mean in winter? Through a survey and real enterprise budget case studies, a large collaborative of unusual bedfellows will spend the next three years trying to understand by way of a USDA grant. The grant is housed with and directed by Green Lands Blue Waters and specifically, its Midwest Perennial Forage Working Group.  There’s more on line or please contact Caroline van Schaik, UMRI staff and a working member of the working group and grant advisory committee.

Links to recent “Thinking” presentations


“The POWER of 1 Mississippi & 20,000 River Citizens” Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Kelly McGinnis— February 22nd, 2022 How 58 organizations team up to drive policy—“Can the river count on you?” A call to action…


Photo by: David Thoreson

Save Bloody Run Goes to Court”  Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Steve Veysey— January 4th, 2022  An update from a Dedicated Water Policy Scientist who has turned Radical to Save Bloody Run.

—“Heartland Heroines”  Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Robin Moore & Denise O’Brien— June 1, 2021  How two savvy conservationists empower working farm landowners to put their inner land ethic to work.

—“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.

—“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.

“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.

“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.