Conservation Efforts

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

—November Gratitude


November Gratitude “Milkweed catches light from the setting sun” by Robin Fortney



—Sparks in November!


Two spectacular harmonizing events occurred at the Izaak Walton in Des Moines on November 16, 2022.


The complementary events were sponsored by the Panora Conservation Chapter. A dedicated group of conservationists, scientists, farmers and others put together a afternoon Land and Water Mini-Conference and an evening banquet with keynote by Drake Law Professor Emeritus Neil Hamilton, author of the upcoming book The River Knows.

Here’s a quick run-down of the afternoon’s mini-conference.

1:00 PM Welcome – Mike Delaney

Spark Ignitor, Mike Delaney. Photo by: Christine Curry


1:05 PM Reflections on Election – Strategic look at moving forward on conservation/stewardship given the post-election anticipated landscape

Featured Panel Moderator: Dave Busiek, Former News Director, KCCI-TV
Panelists: Jessica Vandenberg, Democratic Consultant; Susan Judkins, Watershed Management Authorities of Iowa and Clive City Councilwoman; Joe McGovern, President, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation; and Eric Woolson, Republican Consultant.  Photo by: Christine Curry


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.

Featured from L to R; Pat Boddy, John Swanson, Richard Leopold, Jess Mazour, Larry Stone, Steve Veysey, Carissa Shoemaker, Gina Ross, Sharon Krause, and Tim Portzen.   Photos by: Bud Hartley

2:00 PM 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

3:00 PM Conservation Controversies
• Carbon Pipelines, Jess Mazour, The Sierra Club
• Bloody Run, Larry Stone, Save Bloody Run

3:30 PM 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

5:00 Social Hour

Social Hour, Photo by: Christine Curry

IWL’s National Agriculture Director Duane Hovorka & Long-term Ike’s members Mr. & Mrs. Jim Caligiuri, Photo by: Christine Curry

Social Hour, Photo by: Christine Curry

6:00 PM Banquet

Spark Banquet, Photo by: Christine Curry

6:45 PM Keynote speaker

Neil Hamilton, Professor Emeritus, Drake Agricultural Law and Policy Center. Author of The Land Remains; Upcoming publication: The River Knows. Photo by: Christine Curry



Inspiration and Hope—

Neil Hamilton’s extraordinary keynote ended with an introduction to next year’s inclusive conservation step…Iowa Nature Summit, November 16-17, 2023.  This was followed with a Standing Ovation!



The Izaak Walton League and UMRI are part of this initiative and there will be another harmonizing evening banquet at the Izaak Walton League in Des Moines to compliment the Iowa Nature Summit. Stay tuned for more details in the coming months.

We were thrilled to be amongst many of Iowa’s finest conservationists and many other special guests that filled the room at the Izaak Walton League. It was also super exciting that there were over 16 college students sponsored at the banquet tables. UMRI was the recipient of the banquet proceeds.

The tables were decked with Soul. Soil. Spark. colorful placemats! Gorgeous arrangements of dried prairie flowers collected at Delaney’s restored prairie were featured at each of the tables. Many of the guests left with bundles of the prairie bouquets.

Last month we featured a fun story about the Panora Conservation Chapter’s school project at Panora middle school. The 8th graders visited Delaney’s prairie and collected seeds for their school project. Their science teacher Mark Dorhart was at one of the banquet tables. He mentioned that the students were pleased that their project was highlighted in UMRI’s Iowa October website article.  Mark said the link has been shared, shared and shared!  It’s beyond exciting to learn that nature matters!


Last by Not Least— We are beyond grateful for Bud Hartley’s contributions…He is the Communication Director Spark of the IWL’s DSM Chapter!  Photo by: Christine Curry


Cedar River re-do—


The Cedar River has plenty to commend it but water quality is not high on the list. Still, there is a step forward in Austin, MN even as drainage issues threaten two steps back.

The step forward was nurtured and continues to be monitored by the local chapter of the Izaak Walton League. It comes in the form of modest changes that tighten up Mower County’s septic system ordinance. One outcome is that more systems are being evaluated and upgrades/compliance is up from previous years, sometimes on a previously unheard of voluntary basis. These changes came about in part on the back of a summer of sampling by 40 volunteers whose E. coli testing and subsequent DNA analyses uncovered human feces in the Cedar River and many of its tributaries. Cow and pig manure were found in almost all samples as well. A treatment plant upgrade, a survey of a troublesome 75-home development and emergency holding tanks (half are out of compliance), some cost-share funds to help with inspections – and late in November, an inquiry for the Austin team to present its sampling protocol and data – add up to movement, maybe even more than a single step’s worth.

The brewing drainage issue at the mouth of the Cedar River has prompted an interest in returning to the table set in January 2020 to update Cedar enthusiasts on the Iowa and Minnesota sides of the watershed. There is more in play these three years later – what’s the status, who’s doing what, and what is needed sooner than later to redirect the health of the river? This ecosystem look at a river that knows no political boundaries will take place in late winter 2023. Please contact  Christine Curry or Caroline van Schaik to participate.


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.