Conservation Efforts

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


This is a beautiful July 2022 snap of Delaney’s Prairie in Dallas County, on the Raccoon River. The deep rooted prairie plants in this prairie are key to improving soil health and water quality. We know Iowa was heavily rooted in prairies 200 years ago, but what did it look like 100 years ago?  What will it look like 100 years from today?  Photo by: Tom Scherer


Celebrating 100 years!


As we celebrate the history of the Izaak Walton League’s centennial birthday, we must remember that it has been a male dominated organization, and often female voices were left out.  During the past few decades history has and is changing.  We’re delighted to learn that the first term President of the IWLA, Vicki Arnold (Dubuque, IA), will be serving another term.  Vicki is making history as the League’s first woman president. We are celebrating all historical conservation figures, including women in the Upper Mississippi River Initiative’s Watershed.


—Stream Grant with a BIG Purpose!


Water Quality Monitoring with a BIG purpose continues in Greene County “Save Squirrel Hollow” July 2022. Photo by:  Chris Henning


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  Margaret Mead

Last month we featured one of Iowa’s award winning conservation farmers, Chris Henning.  She initiated a rural neighborhood project known as “Save Squirrel Hollow” that has evolved into an IWLA’s Endowment funded grant from the IWL Foundation for $3,636, which was awarded to the Panora Conservation Chapter during the National Convention, July 19-22 in Peoria, IL.  This effort is an example of an inclusive collaboration of many individuals (both rural and urban) and partner organizations all working together to creative harmony in the watershed.

The threat to Raccoon River tributaries from a new source of agriculture runoff in Greene County has the attention of the Iowa Panora Conservation chapter, which was already concerned when the Raccoon River was named one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers ® of 2021. Members want to draw attention to water protection with community action in this centennial anniversary of the IWLA by integrating Save Our Stream (SOS) monitoring and public education.

Expected goals and results:
Chapter members will coalesce public interest into action to safe-guard manure-threatened creeks by way of SOS team development, monthly monitoring, data dissemination (IWLA Clean Water Hub, presentation), and public education. The effort is part of a larger conservation effort by partners that include landowners, the Raccoon River Watershed Association, the Des Moines chapter, and the Upper Mississippi River Initiative (UMRI)/Minnesota Division. The chapter hopes that these stream actions unite disparate neighbors.

Stay tuned for more updates on this project in the coming months.


— Reflections of 100th National Convention

from Iowa’s Conservation Director, Mike Delaney

Iowa Wind Turbine Farm Landscape from the road on I80. (Iowa’s farm landscapes looked much different 100 years ago), What will the next 100 years look like?, July 2022.  Photo by: Christine Curry


“One of the penalties of an ecological education,” Aldo Leopold once wrote, “is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.”

I met up with Iowa’s Conservation Director, Mike Delaney after he returned from the Izaak Walton League’s 100th National Convention in Peoria, Illinois to learn about what he experienced…

Christine:  What thoughts were going through your mind when you were attending the 100th IWL convention?

Mike:  “I’m impressed with the significance of the role that Izaak Walton League members had in protecting the Boundary Waters, like the Passage of the 1978 Boundary Waters Canoe Area legislation that expanded that wilderness area.  I have a deep appreciation for all the League’s historical contributions to protect our air, land, water, and wildlife habitats. The initial work that the Chicago fisherman founders did to protect water was critical to the protections that we have in place today. And the history of Sigurd Olson’s contributions to other wildlife ecology through the Ike’s was just amazing.”

—According to Mike, UMRI was founded and inspired by Olson’s dedication to protecting the land, especially the Boundary Waters.  Mike also said that David Zentner (director of UMRI) has many great stories and personal knowledge of working with Olson on protecting wildlife habitats and the Boundary Waters.”  “It’s about holding off the greed and profit to protect special areas of land and water,” Mike says.  “What’s going to be left if the exploiters take it all? We have the League to thank for the preservation of many special places, like the Boundary Waters.”

—What is sad to Mike, and many others, is that our youth are not getting outside to enjoy the natural resources like so many did a few decades back.  “So many kids are spending hours inside playing video games,” he noted. Long term protection of natural resources is so important, there are so many short-term actions that have changed our natural habitats making it worse for the long-term.  We need to turn that around and get the youth engaged outside so they will want to protect it for future generations to come,”  Mike stated.

Christine:  What were some of the significant take-a-ways from the conventions, guest speakers etc…?

Mike:  “David Montgomery resonated with me.  He was one of the featured presenters and he is the author of ‘What Your Food Ate:  How to Heal Our Land and Reclaim Our Health’.  He spoke about nutritious food and how it is all about the roots, soil minerals and compounds that benefit the food system.  The relationship of many health issues have a direct impact from what we eat.”  Mike mentioned that he related a story about an older Ike’s member who looks super healthy and much younger than he actually is.  This individual told Mike that the reason he’s so healthy is that he fishes and hunts most of the food he eats.  So Mike said that this guy is a great example of “What Your Food Ate”.

Iowa’s KCCI’s meteorologist Chris Gloninger was featured as one of the speakers as well.  The Convention was packed with relevant environmental concerns and climate change was integrated throughout many of the presentations.  Chris shared his knowledge with science based facts and explained how current weather shifts are creating extreme patterns of drought, flooding and heat. “It was excellent, and I already had had the opportunity to hear Chris speak at the IWL’s Des Moines Chapter House during this past year.”

—Mike had memorable conversations with some IWL bear hunters from one of the Wisconsin chapters.  “They shared stories about their bear hunting, and the shortage of funding to manage wildlife habitat.  According to the Wisconsin hunters, many of the game wardens are now women, which they all found interesting since it’s been dominated by men in the past. This conversation helped Mike to understand the similarities of Iowa’s lack of funding and support for managing the deer population.  There are lots of poachers in Iowa, Mike said, and it reminded him of Iowa game warden problems from lack of funding to support the deer hunting along with associated problems such as crop loss on farm land.

Christine:  What is Iowa’s history and what impact has Iowa had on the history of the IWL?

Mike:  Some of Iowa’s great conservation legends like Aldo Leopold, who is considered to be one of the best environmental leaders in the early days, Leopold wrote “A Sand County Almanac”.  Ding Darling is another one, he was one of the best known advocates of natural resources in the country, and Ding was an active member of the Des Moines Chapter.

Christine:  Is there an environmental role of Iowa in the next century?

Mike:  We understand the environmental problems and have the expertise and knowledge of how to solve these problems and lead the world in quality production.  Iowa is ground 0 for agriculture problems and solutions regarding water quality and soil health.  National and state and some local chapters are stepping up to solve these problems.

—Mike is optimistic because, he says, we have hit bottom.  Just the other day, he found a small  1” mussel in the Raccoon River which gives him hope., “They’re reproducing this year and it’s seems that through my observations, this is due to a significant habitat improvement in the Raccoon River along the sandbars.”  Iowa legislators passed the turtle law and Mike is also starting to observe more turtles in his watershed.

To learn more about the Izaak Walton League’s vision for the future click here!


—July Snaps!


Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) visited by a brown-belted bumblebee (Bonus griseocollis), July 2022. Photo by:  Robin Fortney

Badger Creek sunflowers, July 2022.  Photo by: Robin Fortney

Endangered Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus), July 2022. Photo by:  Christine Curry


2022 Thinking Like a Watershed programs—

UMRI’s “Thinking Like a Watershed” series has gone fishin’!

Not wishing to compete with long summer days – and who would want to! – we hosted our final 2022 “Thinking Like a Watershed” episode on June 7th. Go outside!  We will see you in January for stories to inspire a winter’s night, as told by ourselves and good partners on this road to a better landscape.

The linked recording of the June 7th presentation – by the head of a 7th generation farm creatively grappling with urban sprawl – is below, as are links to all past programs. Take a listen, take some hope, and let us know if you would like us to consider a certain someone or topic in programs to come. And if you are new to the series, we use these words to describe what shapes it: 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.

 “Your Locally Grown Alternative (Farm!)” 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.”



Farmstead matriarch, LaVon shares her story about how they have created special niche markets on their 7th generation family farm. She weighs in on the good, the bad and the ups, and the downs of keeping their family farm relevant as rural landscapes around them continue to turn into suburban developments. During this transformation, hundreds of acres of our agriculture’s best top soil disappears, as does the rural land that has potential to grow real food in Iowa and reduce 90% of imported foods..

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


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.