Conservation Efforts

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

—October sunlight with students on the prairie


Panorama 8th graders exploring Delaney’s Prairie, Dallas County, October 21, 2022. Photo by Ray Harden



—Save the Date…a UMRI benefit dinner!


Please JOIN US! Wednesday, November 16, 2022 for two harmonizing events:

We (a dedicated group of conservationists, scientists, farmers and others) have two complementary events that may be of keen interest to you. Join us for an afternoon Land and Water Mini-Conference and/or an evening banquet with keynote by Drake Law Professor Emeritus Neil Hamilton, author of the upcoming book The River Knows. Both events occur at the Izaak Walton League in Des Moines, 4343 George Flagg Parkway, on November 16.

Here’s a quick run-down of the 1 p.m. mini-conference. This conference is free and open to the public but reservations are required. Conference Registration- Click here!

1:00 Welcome – Mike Delaney
1:05 Reflections on Election – Strategic look at moving forward on conservation/stewardship given the post-election anticipated landscape
Panel Moderator: Dave Busiek, Former News Director, KCCI-TV
• Susan Judkins, Watershed Management Authorities of Iowa and Clive City Councilwoman;
• Joe McGovern, President, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation;
• Jessica Vandenberg, Democratic Consultant;
• Eric Woolson, Republican Consultant.
2:00 Iowa Projects and Funding Strategies
• Creating an Easy Button and ARPA Initiatives, John Swanson, Polk County Public Works
• Polk County Water and Land Legacy, Richard Leopold, Director, Polk County Conservation
2:45 p.m. BREAK
3:00 Conservation Controversies
• Carbon Pipelines, Jess Mazour, The Sierra Club
• Bloody Run, Larry Stone, Save Bloody Run
3:30 Sparking a Brighter Future
• Conservation Easements for Resource Protection, Liz Garst and Carissa Shoemaker, Whiterock Conservancy
• In Harmony Farms, Sharon Krause, Founder
• The Future of Agri-hood, People’s Company, Paul Rasch and Tim Portzen
4:45 Wrap-up
5:00 Social Hour
6:00 Dinner – Cost is $50. Reservations Required. Banquet Tickets- Click here!
6:45 Keynote speaker
• Neil Hamilton, Professor Emeritus, Drake Agricultural Law and Policy Center. Author of The Land Remains; Upcoming publication: The River Knows



—Cultivating seeds on the Prairie

Panora Conservation Chapter board member Mike Delaney hosted a prairie visit and seed collection for Mark Dorhout’s Panorama Middle School 8th grade students.


58 students entering Delaney’s Prairie in Dallas County, October 21, 2022. Photo by: Christine Curry


Delaney’s introduction included a quick discussion about the history of his stone circle in the middle of his prairie. He shared how the ring of stones has been used for centuries for gathering, ceremonies, worships, burial grounds, and more. Mike also mentioned, “the stones’ relationship to the position of the sun, moon and stars were often used for time and navigation.”

Panorama School science teacher Mark Dorhout, is all in. He also is an active member of the Izaak Walton League’s Panora Conservation Chapter. Volunteer members have been working with Dorhout for the past three years on the Chapter’s Prairie Restoration Project, which is located on the school grounds.  We are grateful for his enthusiasm and contributions to local education. Mark is cultivating opportunities for Iowa students by engaging and connecting them to our land and water.

Mike Delaney welcomed Mr. Mark Dorhout and his 58 science students from his stone circle, October 21, 2022. Photo by: Christine Curry


Christine Curry shares her enthusiasm about how the deep rooted prairie plants benefit water quality, October 21, 2022. Photo by: Mike Delaney

It was an extraordinary beautiful warm sunny Friday, October 21st…as 58 Panorama 8th graders gathered on Mike Delaney’s prairie to learn about the basic foundation of Iowa’s original landscape, the prairie. As they explored the prairie, students collected hundreds of seeds in bags for their own school prairie project.


Student scatter on Delaney’s Prairie to collect seeds, October 21, 2022. Photo by: Ray Harden


Eddie receives hugs in the Prairie, October 21, 2022. Photo by: Christine Curry


Students departing Delaney’s Prairie with thousands of prairie seeds in hand, October 21, 2022. Photo by: Christine Curry

—Water monitoring with a Big Purpose

continues in October…


Check out this special update on Save Bloody Run …Clay Masters, from Morning Edition, Iowa Public Radio features Save Our Streams monitoring with Bloody Run Creek, October 31, 2022.  Click here to listen to the program!

The SOS (Save Our Streams) program is a perfect example of water monitoring with a purpose.  The data collected is entered into the Izaak Walton League’s national clean water hub.  The hub provides an excellent opportunity for citizens to learn about water quality in their communities. With all the climate shifts, many of our waterways have too much rain or too little. This changes the chemistry of the water quality.  By collecting data over time, we can begin to see trends in the streams that we monitor.

Greene County SOS volunteers (Chris Henning, Bob Rye and Curtis Cokeley) meet up at the Squirrel Hollow Boat Ramp for monthly monitoring, October 22, 2022. Photo by: Christine Curry


Panora Conservation Chapter volunteer, Mike Delaney collects stream water for chemical analysis at one of the tributary streams in Greene County, October 22, 2022. Photo by: Christine Curry


Data collected from one of Squirrel Hollow tributaries is recorded by Chris Henning. Photo by: Christine Curry

Like many of our waterways, this particular area continues to be threatened by agricultural runoff from a number of sources. As mentioned in past website updates, a new confined animal feeding operation for young pigs is now in the works, and there is great potential for the pig manure to end up in the already overburdened waterways. In efforts to bring awareness to the local community and beyond, a collective group of concerned neighbors got together and formed a “Save Squirrel Hollow” campaign.

The Panora Conservation Chapter and Raccoon River Water Association volunteers continue to monitor streams in Greene County. October’s monthly monitoring included many streams and 2 teams of volunteers. Check out the IWL’s national Clean Water Hub to learn more about the data collected during the summer, September, & October!   We’re extremely grateful to our retired land stewards. Collected data from over 33 sites and over 100 data points have been entered into the hub during 2021-2022.

Screenshot from the hub data for the Raccoon River at Squirrel Hollow, Sept 2021- Oct 2022. Nitrate levels tend to be lower in times of draught. The chart shows that nitrate spikes were notable during some heavy rain falls that took place during May-July 2022.



October Snaps—


White Pelicans fly over Dallas County, October 25, 2022. Photo by: Ray Harden

Raccoon River in Autumn, west of Delaney’s Prairie in Dallas County, October 25, 2022. Photo by: Ray Harden


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.