Conservation Efforts

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

—as Summer ends and Fall begins


“Walked a new-for-me section of prairie trail at Yellow Banks County Park. Leave the prairie and head downhill to the Des Moines River access. View upstream. Water level is low and the sandbar here is big, covered with critter and human footprints.” August 17, 2022 Photo by: Robin Fortney



River Boundary Explorations—


Our UMRI Minnesota and Iowa colleagues are in the beginning stages of working together on a potentially damaging drainage project that influences Iowa’s Des Moines River. The Des Moines River is a 525 mile long tributary of the Mississippi River in the upper Midwest. It is the largest flowing river across the state of Iowa and rises in southern Minnesota and flows across the state from northwest to southeast.

What happens upstream affects activities downstream. It is always good to know what’s taking place upstream. Thousands of miles of farmland drainage tiles directly flow into this river basin. Sediment, nitrates and other industrial runoffs also flow into the waterways, which eventually end up in the Mississippi River watershed. The results of the runoffs continue to exasperate the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Both urban and rural drainage decisions impact how and where surplus water flows. Stay tuned for more updates on this important boundary exploration.

Good to know & Good to share—




SAVE the DATE—Tuesday, September 13th, 2022

The Des Moines Chapter was the 1st chartered in Iowa in the Izaak Walton League’s founding year of 1922, and you’re invited to our celebration Tuesday, September 13, 2022! All are welcome, and you need not be a Des Moines chapter member to attend! We’ll have a Social Hour beginning at 5 pm, followed by dinner and our program at 6 pm. 

We’ll enjoy Tom Milligan’s uncanny portrayal of legendary conservationist, and Des Moines Ike, J.N. “Ding” Darling, along with many honored guests. There will be awards, recognition, plus an auction and raffle to raise funds for the Ikes Second Century Campaign! Dinner will be a 10 oz. Prime Rib or Salmon, with ALL the trimmings for only $20. 

Please RSVP by calling 515-244-3773.



Water monitoring with a Big Purpose continues—


with the IWL’s Save our Streams (SOS) program…

Save Squirrel Hollow’s SOS team collects samples from Hardin Creek, Greene County, August 27th, 2022. Photo by: Heather Wilson



August’s monthly monitoring included a few additional streams and a few additional volunteers. All went well. The data collected shifts depending on whether we have rain or not. Check out the IWL’s national Clean Water Hub to learn more about the data collected during June, July & August!  This screen shot represents chemical data results from Hardin Creek.


Fall Save Our Streams Trainings—


Fall field trainings in Iowa are on the calendar! Field trainings are a crucial component of Save Our Streams volunteer certification, where we demonstrate and practice sampling techniques in the stream. You can find a list of field trainings currently scheduled in Iowa below. Please share these trainings with others in your community who are interested in getting involved with Save Our Streams.

Sept. 17: Jefferson, IA
Oct. 1: Cedar Rapids, IA
Oct 8: Bellevue, IA
Oct. 9: Maquoketa, IA
Oct. 15: McGregor, IA
Oct. 29: Clive, IA

Click here to learn more and register for an SOS field training!


It’s worth repeating…


“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


Hardin Creek, Greene County, August 27, 2022. Photo by: Colleen Radebaugh


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.


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.