Conservation Efforts

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

Secret fishing spot surrounded by corn and bean farms. Photo by: Mike Delaney


A Diverse Farm & Monitoring Water


May is one of the best times to monitor streams and waterways in the heartland. After a long cold winter, the ice melts and the water begins to flow. Life cycles in the waterways emerge, stream critters are waking up, nutrients are flowing, plants popping up and birds are flying amongst the banks. This is a fabulous time for all to get out and not only observe nature but protect it. We have all kinds of activities to share… and of course, The Land Remains!

Land— A Diverse Farm


Join us! for for another extraordinary presentation— Our monthly “Thinking Like a Watershed” program “Your Locally Grown Alternative (Farm!)” ends the season on Tuesday, June 7th, 2022, at 7 p.m. Central Time with a conversation with LaVon Griffieon on, “How the seventh generation of a century farm family takes on urbanization, food security, and soil and livestock health.”

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with the link to join the program on Tuesday, June 7th, 2022, starting at 7 p.m. CT.

Smack in the middle of the rural and urban landscapes that define Ankeny, Iowa, Griffieon Family Farm exemplifies diversity and ingenuity as keys to sustainability – theirs for 160 years and for so many aspects of the health of their community. They raise multiple species of livestock on pasture, including a herd of Limousins begun in 1960; they raise crops, including corn that goes to a local distillery; there is riparian restoration on the farm; area vegetable growers rent land on the farm; cover crops, portable hen houses, direct markets, farmers markets, and soap have their roles on the farm.

But, says LaVon Griffieon, “With urban growth pressure increasing upon our farm’s boundaries, we hope more people begin to realize the importance of local food security and a community based food system.” LaVon will describe some of their niche markets because of all the urban growth as well as address some practical barriers to growing food and soil without chemicals.

To learn more about the Griffieon’s farm click here!

This monthly series is a project of the Upper Mississippi River Initiative (UMRI) of the Izaak Walton League of America, 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.


Water— Monitoring with a purpose! The Power of Data!


Water Monitoring with a purpose in Greene County, Photo by: Chris Henning



Citizens Science in the Works—


Due to threats to the Raccoon River from a new concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in a tributary watershed upstream of Squirrel Hollow park, a volunteer team consisting of RRWA members and IWL’s Panora Conservation Chapter Ikes members have teamed up with Des Moines Chapter member, Susan Heathcote and the National Ike’s’ Clean Water Challenge to monitor the Raccoon River tributaries above Squirrel Hollow in Greene County. Michael Murphy, Bob Rye and Mike Delaney tested waters in Buttrick and Hardin Creeks on May 17th. This was at the same time as the Polk County Snapshot. People swim, fish and paddle in this beautiful section of the North Raccoon River. We would hate to see it become more polluted. The water samples were high in nitrogen. However, readings for dissolved oxygen, phosphate, transparency and chloride levels were good. Of course, we expected a surge in nitrogen this spring due to the buildup of N in the soil during the drought. Current real-time US Geological Readings of nitrates at Van Meter are over 15 mg/l. The drinking water standard is 10 mg/l. The data collected is entered into the Izaak Walton League’s national clean water hub.


“Nitrate levels in the North Raccoon is leveling off at Jefferson. You can go to NRCS and check the temp, volume and nitrate any time. This is true for Sac City, Jefferson and Van Meter. I paddled yesterday morning. The river is pretty high. Lots of energy. A lot of structure is submerged. Be careful. Life jacket required. You don’t want to encounter any strainers (debris blocking river travel) or sweepers (limbs sticking out in the water where the current wants to take you) at this energy level,” says Iowa Conservation Director, Mike Delaney


Neil Hamilton at the DSM Chapter House May 17, 2022 Photo by: Christine Curry


The Land Remains—


Des Moines Chapter Member and Author Neil Hamilton joined the DSM Chapter House Tuesday, May 17th to share his newly released book, “The Land Remains.”

After reading it you will want to join in with others to help protect our natural resources, and we believe the Izaak Walton League offers great opportunities to do just that. Become a member! 

Neil Hamilton’s book is being met with praise from many of the leading conservationists from Iowa and beyond. “If this land could talk, ah, the stories it would tell! Neil Hamilton hears the compelling voice of his historic Back 40. He translates its tales into constructive dialogue of how to preserve and protect all Iowa’s priceless land and water resources. A read like no other.” — Pat Boddy, former deputy and interim director of Iowa DNR & Panora Conservation Chapter Member of IWLA



“View of the gang putting in by the campground at Gouldsburg County Park, The woodland across the river is where I hike. Enjoy a weekend with friends along the Little Turkey River just north of Hawkeye, in northeast Iowa. Since I’m not paddling anymore, I hike the trails in Gouldsburg County Park. May 22, 2022  Photo by: Robin Fortney



An inter-League of Women Voters presents legislative options


The League of Women Voters-Upper Mississippi River Region interleague organization (LWV UMRR) hosted its annual meeting May 21, 2022 with a discussion of innovative answers to that million dollar question, “Does it take an act of Congress to protect the Mississippi?” The recording has just been posted and can be found here!
The short answer is, yes, Congress is a part of the answer but not the only one. Give a listen to hear innovative ideas and pending legislation that together might bring the Mississippi back from the brink.



2022 Thinking Like a Watershed programs—


If you’re interested in learning more about the Power of Data, you’ll want to watch the recording of our May 3rd Thinking Like a Watershed program: “Stream TEAM Science is (slowly) shifting policy”— a conversation with leaders Larry Dolphin, Bill Buckley, Mark Owens, lifelong members of the Izaak Walton League (IWLA), and Josh Balk, Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on How E. coli and DNA data changed Mower Co. septic system practices. This is a perfect example of how citizens’ science water monitoring with a purpose has worked to build relationships and positive change to improve water quality in a watershed filled with concentrated animal feeding operations and people.


If you missed our April presentation, here is the link:  The 2023 Farm Bill after 100 Years of Conservation!  with Duane Hovorka, Agriculture Program Director, Izaak Walton League of America



The League played an instrumental role in “groundbreaking environmental victories” during the past 100 years. Duane highlights some of those accomplishments, such as the creation of the Soil Bank in 1956, the Clean Water Act in 1972, the Conservation Reserve Program in 1985, and the Conservation Stewardship Program in 2002.

Duane summarized the 2023 Farm Bill suggestions he’s heard during winter listening sessions. He shares some of the best ideas that others have been sharing to help the Izaak Walton League prioritize solutions.



“Championing the Upper Mississippi River Region” Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Mary Ellen Miller— March 8th, 2022 How a life-long conservationist became an advocate for the Mississippi…a League president discusses conservation & change with Mary Ellen Miller, President, League of Women Voters Upper Mississippi River Region

Our February program featured Kelly McGinnis the executive director of the Mississippi River Network which includes 58 organizations including the Izaak Walton League and several of our UMRI partners.

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…

Kelly shared the power of the Mississippi River Network’s (MRN) use of public outreach and policy advocacy such as the Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative Act. You’ll find out about the activities of the network, a coalition of 58 organizations dedicated to creating a healthier Mississippi River by working for the well-being of the people, land, water, and wildlife of America’s largest watershed.


Photo by: David Thoreson

Our January program was kicked off with an update from Save Bloody Run. Where we learned the latest details from water policy scientist, Steve Veysey.“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.


2021 Thinking Like a Watershed Programs—

“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.

Learn more—

Izaak Walton League provides a fun educational outdoor activity for the entire family…
Learn more here!

To help celebrate the Izaak Walton Leagues’ 100th anniversary in 2022, The Des Moines Chapter is heading up an effort to expand the Izaak Walton League’s SOS (Save our Streams) program throughout Iowa.  This is the only nationwide program training volunteers to protect waterways from pollution and to bring information about water quality to their communities.

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.

“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

Click Here to learn more about Save Bloody Run

— 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.