This Earth Day month we continue to celebrate nature with our partners and friends in the watershed as we educate and engage our local communities about conservation and our environment. Our focus continues to be centered on soil health and clean water. The condition of our water continues to be dire. Is it safe for public health?, drinking water?, and this summer’s recreation activities?
Our UMRI Program Director David Zentner often states “it’s all about the human dimension” Engagement at the local level is crucial for conversations and is essential for action and any improvements. April has been jam packed with such local activities:
—Panora Conservation Chapter’s Spring Meeting, April 1st
—Farm Bill Summit 2023, Mason City, Iowa, April 5th & 6th
—Another extraordinary Thinking program “Local Heroes in Howard County Revisited”, April 11th
—Iowa Division of the IWL State Convention, Des Moines Izaak Walton League, April 21st & 22nd…Earth Day celebration!
addresses Mississippi River water diversion and land use considerations, perfect timing with the current flooding!
Our May 9, 2023 “Thinking Like a Watershed” webinar series takes on the rumors and threats of diverting water from the Mississippi to points west, and how we might consider water quality before we decide whether to share it.
Join us via Zoom…Tuesday, May 9, 2023 @ 7 pm CT
“The Mississippi today, and do we send it away?”
How a 5-state alliance is preparing for water diversion challenges and the surprising news in 25-year trends.
Erin Spry— hydrologist, Upper Mississippi River Basin Association
The Upper Mississippi River Basin Association (UMRBA) was established in 1981 as a forum for interstate cooperation and eight years later, the five states of the association (Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin) created a charter to conserve the water resources of the Basin. With anticipated demands for Mississippi River water on the horizon, its board now wants an update: an Impacts Assessment that includes a water budget of the river, current water uses and diversions, and water availability, for starters. This would, in practice, help Upper Mississippi River Basin states understand the impacts of individual state water diversion decisions while strengthening the agreement of the states within the Charter.
Informing this scoping work are the recent outcomes of a nearly-30-year assessment of select hydrological and ecological health markers on the Upper Miss. Results include widespread changes in fish communities and precipitation patterns, a decreasing floodplain forest area, and even some good news about water quality. This is the present tense background that Hydrologist Erin Spry of the UMRBA will discuss before circling back to describe what she hopes becomes a timely response to rumors and realities of water diversion.
This monthly series is a project of the Upper Mississippi River Initiative (UMRI) of the Izaak Walton League of America, with co-hosts Christine Curry of UMRI, 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 at UMRI’s resource page shortly after they air live.
On April 11th we featured “Local Heroes in Howard County Revisited!” for Thinking Like a Watershed program. Neil Shaffer and Hunter Slifka are perfect examples of what it takes to make positive change on the ground with our agriculture landscape.
If you missed this extraordinary program, it is well worth your time to watch it…here is the recorded YouTube video link—Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Local Heroes in Howard County Revisited!, with Neil Shaffer & Hunter Slifka, Watershed Coordinators, Howard County SWCD
—Neil and Hunter shared how they monitor the progress of their conservation through water quality data they collect, a way to keep score. Last year they started their own Podcast “Beyond the Dirt” where they share information and conversation about everything from fishing, water quality, soil health and improving farm landscapes with conservation.
We’ll continue to amplify conservation voices through our networks in hopes of inspiring others to get involved and take action!
Panora Conservation Chapter’s Spring Activities—
The first day of April kicked off with IWL’s Panora Conservation Chapter (PCC), hosted their Spring meeting, Saturday, April 1st at the beautiful Carnegie Library in Perry, Iowa. The program started at 10:00 am. Community members were welcomed. We reported on our progress with the Izaak Walton League’s Endowment grant for our SOS- Save Squirrel Hollow project in Greene County. This work is in partnership with our watershed partner organizations, especially with the Raccoon River Watershed Association.
Several other presentations and conversations covered subjects we have featured in the past months. Neil Hamilton discussed his comprehensive books “The Land Remains” and his new book “The River Knows”, which will be available this July. Science teacher Mark Dorhout reported about Panorama’s Prairie Restoration project which is supported in conjunction with the PCC.
Stand by for more updates about water monitoring and a large watershed “Snapshot” monitoring, which includes all of Polk County and Greene County May 23rd. Please contact: Christine Curry to learn more.
2023 Farm Bill Matters—
The Farm Bill Summit 2023 hosted by the Izaak Walton League of America and National Wildlife Federation, was held April 5th and 6th, in Mason City, Iowa, at Northern Iowa Area Community College. This insightful event was organized by IWL’s former Agriculture Director, Duane Hovorka and Ben Knuth of the National Wildlife Federation.
Many individuals representing several organizations from Iowa and Minnesota attended, including our UMRI partners from both states. Participants organized Farm Bill priorities and a potential advocacy strategy and worked together to advance common priorities as the 2023 Farm Bill is negotiated.
Duane and Ben hosted a power mapping exercise to determine the best way to influence Congress to support our priorities and figure out how we can work together and what we’re willing to commit to doing.
The Power Mapping exercise was focussed on four categories and was examined for our Members of Congress: 1— Organizations, 2— VIP Influencers, 3— Media – social and traditional, and 4— Donors. “Start to look at your elected officials web pages, media releases, news articles, and think about who you know or what organizational connections you might have to people who have influence on your Members or their close connections. Remember, you are the experts on where you live!”, says Ben Knuth.
Advocacy Actions – Everybody can participate! Think about what you might be willing to do to. Some effective strategies include in-person meetings with Congress or staff, op-eds, visibility events, farm conservation tours, and attending Fly-Ins, among others.
During the past several months we have been participating with the Izaak Walton League’s Agriculture Farm Bill 2023 listening sessions. Good to know and good to share—The resources and current policy platforms from all of the inputs are now available, Click here for all the details: IWLA 2023 Farm Bill Platform
Celebrating Earth Day at Iowa State Division’s Convention
We’re sharing this update from one of UMRI’s Iowa partners, The Des Moines Izaak Walton League’s Bud Hartley… “We would like to express a sincere thank you to all who joined us for the Iowa Division 100th Annual State Convention April 21-22 at our clubhouse and all the volunteers that brought it together! We had great dinners and fellowship – with gratitude to our General Manager Tawnya McCourtney and Rusty, Felix, Charlie & Archie of our crack kitchen gang! Christine Curry did a beautiful job on our centerpieces!
Our keynote speakers we Travis Lautner of DMACC and Mike Shannon of Ducks Unlimited
We had updates from State President Rick Cerwick, Incoming State President Dale Braun, National President Vicki Arnold and state board members, along with a Legislative and Lobbying report from our lobbyist Dane Schumann. Many individuals from our UMRI network were recognized at the convention. The awards presentation was dynamite, and you can view a picture gallery of awards presented in this PDF! We are grateful for their conservation contributions.
Clean Water Matters—
Always a great reminder: The Izaak Walton League was founded 100 years ago by anglers who said “it’s time to call a halt to the destruction of our waterways”. We continue to be grateful for the voices who speak the truth and share knowledge and educate our communities about the environment. Thank you to all the nature advocates and writers who continue to make contributions for clean water, healthy soil, climate solutions, public health, community service, and outdoor recreation.
This is a conservation contribution from a recent substack article from Robert Leonard from Deep Midwest: Politics and Culture”
A conversation with Dr. Chris Jones
April 28, 2023
Dr. Chris Jones retires this May from the University of Iowa. Trained in chemistry, among other subjects, he served as a research engineer with the Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research in the College of Engineering. His work, in part, was to be in charge of the 70 sensors on rivers and streams across the state that posted real-time data on water quality. He hosted a blog on the University of Iowa website that still exists. The blog was popular but controversial in that Jones used real data to paint a picture of how bad Iowa’s water quality is, and there are many people not interested in hearing that story.
According to Jones, many in the agricultural industry as well as select Iowa Republican legislators didn’t appreciate the comments in his blog. Two legislators, Senators Tom Shipley, and Dan Zumbach pressured University of Iowa officials not to allow Jones to continue posting on the University of Iowa-hosted website, with an implied threat of legislative funding to the university being impacted. After allowing Jones one final post, which university officials censored, Jones is moving his commentary off-site. He offered his resignation shortly afterward.
On Wednesday, Erin Jordan with the Gazette reported that the Iowa Senate passed a budget that could cut Iowa’s water sensor network that Jones supervised and that the Iowa House likely will take up the budget bill, Senate File 558, next week.
Tom Barton, Caleb Mcullough, and Erin Murphy, also with the Gazette, reportthat “two of the 52 sensors are on Bloody Run Creek, a cold-water trout stream in northeast Iowa that runs near Supreme Beef, a 10,000-head cattle feedlot co-owned by Jared Walz, son-in-law to Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, who proposed the funding cut. The Gazette left a voicemail Wednesday for Zumbach to seek additional comment about the budget proposal, but Zumbach did not call back.”
Jones says that without these monitors, government officials and the ag industry will be able to tell any story they want about the quality of Iowa’s water. Models are often used to project water quality but without the work of scientists and “ground-truthing,” it would be impossible for Iowans and the rest of the nation to know what the true state of Iowa’s waters are.
We may soon be in that position.
A couple of months ago I received a copy of the galley proofs for Jones’ forthcoming book, “The Swine Republic.” These events happened after the book was at the publishers.
Another follow up article… good to know and good to share:
Sensors indicate another attack on Iowa’s environment
More Fabulous Watershed Programs in Central Iowa—
The Des Moines Chapter website is filled with many activities. Bud Hartley is the Communications Director and shares many of our cross pollinated events… Almost every Tuesday evening there is a fabulous program lined up along with a fabulous home cooked meal.
Previous recorded “Thinking Like a Watershed” programs are available at umri.org!
Izaak Walton League provides a fun educational outdoor activity for the entire family…
Learn more here!
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…
—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.