Conservation in the Media

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Introduction and Directions

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This “Media” section of the GO IOWA Web site is designed to provide at least a sampling of the stories about Iowans’ efforts at conservation that appear in local newspapers — beginning in 2008. We don’t have the resources to provide a thoroughly complete record, nor would this page be as useful if we did.

  • What we will have here, along with the organizations linked from our “Resources” section, can provide a growing statement about both the quantity of activity and also the range and diversity of conservationists’ interests.
  • The stories are entered in reverse-chronological order — most recent on top. So this is both a place where you can come regularly to check up on the news, and an arrangement of material that avoids your need to search the entire section to see if you’re up to date.
  • On the other hand, if you want to search by topics rather than chronologically, using your browser’s “Edit” and “Find in this page” features you can search this section as a research database.
  • The papers we primarily track are the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Gazette (published in Cedar Rapids), the University of Iowa’s Daily Iowan, and the Des Moines Register. But don’t hesitate to use our “Contact” section to email us stories you think should appear here, perhaps regarding your efforts or one of your organizations, that were published elsewhere or that we may have missed.
  • Where relatively permanent links to full stories are available we will endeavor to provide them here. If you find broken links please email us; we do not have the resources to regularly review and update this section.
  • The Gazette does not provide links to individual stories, although those from within the prior month can be found from its main Web site if you know the date and page. Go to, click on “Read The e-Edition” and login (or open a new, free account) to get access. [It is sometimes possible to find older stories online with a search. Select a string of consecutive words (that is, without the “. . .” ellipses) from the excerpt, put it in quotes, and see if Google, or your other favorite search engine, can find it.]
  • Note that these are but very brief excerpts from the stories; use the links to read “the rest of the story.” Note also that the full stories are protected by copyright. These brief excerpts are reproduced here for non-commercial, educational, “fair use” only. We encourage you to subscribe to our sources.

Thank you for visiting GO IOWA!’s Media Section. Enjoy.



      An interview with Connie Mutel author of

The Emerald Horizon: The History of Nature in Iowa


Katherine Perkins’ “Talk@12” for the week of May 5, Iowa Public Radio, May 5, 2008, 12:00-1:00 p.m.; subsequently available online at Archives.

      While more state and federal funding is available for trails now than in the 1980s, when the Cedar Valley Nature Trail was built between Waterloo and Cedar Rapids, it’s come with a price. Most grants come with strings attached requiring that trails be built to specific standards at greater expense.

As local governments pursue a record number of trail projects, land, material and building prices are skyrocketing. Government funding has increased little in recent years, leaving the funding gap up to local governments if they choose to bridge it.

— Dave DeWitte, “Trail Funding Trailing Off,” The Gazette, May 4, 2008, p. A1.

      Conservationists often urge people to think globally and act locally. In other words, we should each do what we can to address environmental issues where we live.

Leaders in the Corridor have indeed been taking action locally, by working collaboratively with non-profits, business groups and many stakeholders. . . .

The Cedar Rapids City Council also has appointed two resident committees. The committees are charged with considering smart growth, environmentally sensitive areas and infill development. . . .

The City Council and the Linn County Board of Supervisors have declared 2008 the “Year of the River.” . . .

— Dennis Goemaat, “Corridor Addressing Environmental Issues,” The Gazette, May 4, 2008, p. A4.

      This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Linn County Conservation program. . . .

The fledgling operation had no land, limited assets and no written plans. . . .

The conservation program has remained focused on providing outstanding recreational opportunities and enhancing environmental quality for Linn County residents. It seems cliche to say that the conservation program enhances people’s quality of life, but that is an overriding reason for the program.

Today, the conservation program has grown to 27 areas and nearly 7,000 acres of land for outdoor enjoyment.

These areas include regional parks, wildlife areas, trails and preserves to meet diverse community needs.

Camping, picnicking, hiking, bicycling, hunting and fishing are traditional outdoor pursuits . . ..

— George Kanz, “Linn Conservation Board Celebrates 50 Years,” The Gazette, May 4, 2008, p. A4.

      For environmental groups, there’s no better illustration of their gripe with the Legislature than this: One of the 2008 legislative session’s signature environmental measures is a five-year odor study — with no funding.

Most environmental groups opposed the study on its merits, saying it was another effort to delay real action on odor issues. With a tight budget year, though, lawmakers managed to further antagonize by approving the study without funding.

“The fact that they passed the bill shows they don’t want to move forward on protecting rural residents or combating odor,” said Matt Ohloff, a rural community organizer with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a grass-roots environmental group. “Then they don’t fund it. These studies have already been done. We already know of technologies that exist.

— Henry C. Jackson, “Groups Say Environmental Issues Ignored,” Associated Press/The Gazette, May 4, 2008, p. B7.

      One hunter stands quiet, communicating with a smile and his hands. He is Daniel Myers. He is deaf.

Myers spends several days each fall in a tree, somewhere in Plymouth County. A seasoned pro, he isn’t about to divulge his precise location. . . .

What’s the appeal of hunting to Myers?

“He likes to bow hunt because it is more challenging,” his daughter says. “He likes hunting in general because he’s alone and out in nature.”

— Associated Press, “Hunter Relies on Sight Alone to ‘Rack’ Up Big Buck,” The Gazette, May 4, 2008, p. B11

    Friends of Hickory Hill Park plant sale, May 16-18

— “Friends of Hickory Hill Park Asking for Flowers,” The Gazette, May 4, 2008, p. J1


      Representatives from the departments that work in the Iowa City Federal Building and U.S. Post Office picked up a shovel to add dirt around four Autumn Blaze Maples, along with the help of 4- and 5-year-olds from the Apple Tree Children’s Center.Brad Freidhof, naturalist with the Johnson County Conservation Board, said the trees would be a valuable addition to the area. . . .

“We desperately need to stop our deforestation and loss of trees,” he said.

The Earth already has lost about 50 percent of its natural forest cover, he said.

Rachel Gallegos, “Arbor Day event restores trees,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 26, 2008, p. A3.

      Video game-entranced, iPod-isolated and over scheduled kids are losing touch with nature.


      The trend lines are inescapable, according to a recent Gazette story. A Nature Conservancy study shows that each year fewer Americans are fishing, camping or participating in other outdoor activities. . . .

The consequences of trading the joys of the outdoors for a joystick indoors are troubling — obesity, lack of socialization, a lack of understanding and appreciation for how nature impacts us and even bad grades.

Some schools are trying to help, and that’s admirable. But it’s parents who have the real power and responsibility to reconnect their children with the outdoors.

Wielding that power can be frightening, especially with the media’s penchant for scaring the daylights out of parents who might otherwise let their children tramp, unsupervised, into the woods. Caution tempered by common sense should be the rule.

And there are countless ways families can get back to nature, together. Hike or bike on local trails, hunt elusive morel mushrooms or dust off your tent and stay a night or two at a local camping area. Take advantage of Iowa’s free fishing weekend June 6 to 8. Another benefit: increased family interaction.

If kids learn to enjoy nature now, there’s a good chance they’ll love outdoor activities their entire lives. And that’s a precious gift.

— Editorial, “More nature,” The Gazette, April 23, 2008, p. A4.

      In listing the reasons why we must act to stop global warming, we should start exactly where the Bible does: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth … and saw how good it was.”

That simple affirmation reminds us that the world we inhabit is God’s sacred creation; created for the good of all creatures, and entrusted to our stewardship. Creation is God’s gift, and care for creation is a religious duty and test of our faith. [And see, National Catholic Rural Life Conference/Web of Life — Stewardship of Creation.]

Timothy Kautza, “Climate change: The moral imperative,” Des Moines Register, April 22, 2008.

      Q: How are the plans to connect Cedar Rapids and Iowa City with linked trail systems coming?

A: Plans to link existing trail systems in both Linn and Johnson counties are slowly moving forward, but are awaiting green lights in different areas before construction can begin.

Janelle Rettig, chairwoman of the Johnson County Trails Advisory Committee, said the trail development in Johnson County is still in the planning stages. . . .

“This is a concerted effort to connect the Corridor,” Rettig said, “but it is much broader than that because we would be creating a major destination trail.”

— Megan VerHelst, “Newstrack: Plans to link Johnson, Linn counties with trails continue,” The Gazette, April 21, 2008, p. B1.

      Indian Creek Nature Center Director Rich Patterson wants to buy 28 acres of woods overlooking the Cedar River southeast of Cedar Rapids, and he doesn’t want to do anything with it.

He wants to keep it the way it is: a section of quiet woods where Thursday afternoon a handful of deer and a wild turkey retreated into the trees during a brief April sunshower.

“People are going to need these areas for solitude,” Patterson said. “It’s a place for kids in 100 years.”

— Adam Belz, “Nature Center Raising Funds to Buy 28-Acre Wooded Area,” The Gazette, April 19, 2008, p. B3

      Armed with rakes, garbage bags and good intentions, seventh graders from North Central Junior High will take to nature Tuesday.

About 100 seventh graders will clean up Muddy Creek for Earth Day, continuing the work that began with last year’s Muddy Creek Clean Up event.

— Meredith Hines-Dochterman, “Muddy Creek on Earth Day; North Central Junior High Students Pitch In With Cleanup Project,” The Gazette, April 19, 2008, p. E1.

      It’s not easy to get a wheelchair through the woods. Firing a rifle with only one hand is no piece of cake, either. But with the right attitude, it can be done.

That attitude, said hunter Derrick Meyer of Albia, may be stubbornness. When he takes terminally ill or disabled young people into the outdoors, the only reason he wants to know their limitations is so he can figure a way around them.

— Associated Press, “Making outdoors for everyone; Albia couple’s efforts bring outdoor access to disabled youths,” The Gazette, April 18, 2008, p. C6.

      It’s sickening that Iowa legislators are considering a proposal to let livestock producers store piles of dry manure uncovered outdoors as close as 400 feet from most waterways.

When it rains, such a setup makes it more likely ammonia and bacteria will be washed into streams. It would be a step back at the very time the state is putting in place new water-quality standards to protect streams from pollution.

The increased threat to Iowa’s water is reason enough for lawmakers to reject the proposal, which is part of House File 2692. Earlier this month, The Des Moines Sunday Register reported that manure and commercial fertilizers spread on frozen ground this spring contributed to record ammonia levels in water supplies across the state, even forcing the Des Moines Water Works to draw on alternative sources to provide enough water to users.

Editorial, “Uncovered manure a threat to streams,” Des Moines Register, April 18, 2008.

      Preliminary results from a livestock manure stockpile study show harmful pollution is seeping into groundwater, even though state officials say none has gotten into drinking systems.

The issue is significant in light of a legislative proposal that would allow more confinement operators to stockpile manure in outside areas.

Jason Clayworth, “Manure pollution found to seep into groundwater,”
Des Moines Register, April 18, 2008,/strong>

      [A]s the post-World War II use of the pesticide DDT began to exact its toll, peregrine populations plummeted. By the early 1960s, the species had all but disappeared from eastern North America.

The toxic chemical got into the food chain, making the falcon’s eggshells so thin that they broke before hatching.

But sometimes, a vanished species gets a second chance.

DDT was banned in 1972, and through the combined effort of captive-breeding projects and conservationists [in Dubuque and elsewhere], the peregrine falcon began its long flight to recovery.

— Associated Press, “Numbers Soaring; State Program Helps Recover Falcon Population,” The Gazette, April 17, 2008, p. B5.

      “That does not protect our precious groundwater drinking supplies nor does it protect the neighbors who have to put up with the stench, the stink or the flies,” said Rep. Mark Kuhn, a Charles City Democrat.

Kuhn brought a bucket of turkey manure to the Capitol Wednesday to help urban lawmakers understand the sickening smell that’s the subject of legislation they’re considering. So far, the bucket has remained in the back of his pickup truck. No lawmakers have volunteered to take a sniff.

“I don’t think some members of this body know what it smells like,” Kuhn said.

Animal confinements built after January 1, 2006 are to keep manure in a covered area until disposal. Manure is often by spread on fields as fertilizer. Older confinement facilities may stockpile the materials outside.

Environmental laws prohibit or tightly regulate manure stockpile runoff. Some piles can be higher than 25 feet tall and half the length of a football field. Owners who violate the laws face up to $10,000 per incident fines and costs to replace wildlife and repair any damages caused by their practices.

Jason Clayworth, “Lawmakers consider allowing more manure stockpiles,” Des Moines Register, April 16, 2008

      Since it first sprouted in 2006, Iowa City-based Backyard Abundance has continued to grow.

“We’re definitely more popular,” group founder Fred Meyer said. “One of the things we’re trying to do now is show folks how to actually do some of these environmentally friendly features in their yard.”

And the group’s goal is just that – instructing people how to help better the environment in “their own little space,” Meyer said.

Brian Stewart, “How Green Are Their Backyards; A Local Environmental Group, Backyard Abundance, is Taking Root and Helping Locals’ Backyards Blossom Into Eco-Friendly Domains,” The Daily Iowan, April 16, 2008, p. A4.

      As business developers make advances, more and more wetlands and streams come across their paths and meet their ends. . . .

The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently announced a new rule that . . . encourages the replacement of wetlands ands streams farther from their original location. . . .

“It is very hard to re-create what nature created itself,” said Erin O’Brien, a wetland policy and conservation specialist at the Wisconsin Wetlands Association. “We don’t have the expertise or knowledge; there is not a perfect recipe for rebuilding a wetland. You rarely get back what you have taken.”

Julie Sibbing, a wetlands expert at the National Wildlife Federation, said . . . “We think it is a horrible rule,” . . ..

Judy Krieg, the president of Earthview Environmental, [noted Iowa] . . . does not have many wetlands left to be affected. “Over 90 percent of Iowa’s wetlands have been lost to agriculture,” she said.

Melanie Kucera, “Wetland Rule Sparks Ire; A Controversial Ruling on Wetlands and Streams is Causing Some Uproar Across the Nation,” The Daily Iowan, April 15, 2008, p. A2.

      In an increasingly digitized world, conservationists worry that a new generation of joystick-wielding, video-watching mouse clickers will become too disconnected from nature to care for it.

[Dick Jensen and his Echo Valley Environmental Nature Trail along Otter Creek. Photo Credit: Jonathan D. Woods photos/The Gazette.]

“This generation has lost its roots in nature. They don’t feel a part of it,” said Dick Jensen, an Elgin farmer and environmental missionary who is investing his time and money to reverse the trend.

Apart from the harm sedentary children do to their own physical and mental health, Jensen, 70, and other conservationists worry that people who don’t wade in streams will not appreciate the value of clean water, that people who don’t watch or hunt wildlife will be less likely to support critical habitat.

But perhaps worst of all, people who withdraw from nature deprive themselves of the peace and joy that come from living in harmony with their environment, said Jensen, who often uses the word “baptized” in discussing the introduction of a child to the wonders of nature.

Orlan Love, “Losing Touch With Mother Nature,” GazetteOnline, April 12, 2008, 10:11 p.m.; Orlan Love, “Disassociation with outdoors harmful to children, environment; Nintendo vs. Nature,” The Gazette, April 13, 2008, p. A1.

      An Iowa City group is closer to its fundraising goal for buying land to dedicate for Hickory Hill Park.

Dee and Carrie Norton, longtime supporters of Friends of Hickory Hill Park, made a contribution to help the group reach total of $160,000 raised so far, said Sarah Walz, a member of the organization’s board of directors. The gift, the amount of which was not specified, will help the Friends buy the Willa Dickens Preserve, 16 acres of green space located north of the 185-acre Hickory Hill Park that includes a low wetland as well as wooded and open areas. . . ..

[T]he land . . . will be held in trust and maintained by the Johnson County Heritage Trust, Walz said. . . .

Friends of Hickory Hill Park [was] founded in 2000 to preserve the park as an “urban sanctuary” . . ..

Rob Daniel, “Gift puts Hickory Hill group at goal,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 8, 2008, p. A3.

      Year after year, Iowa lawmakers have failed to adequately fund recreation and conservation. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is left crossing its fingers, wondering whether dollars will be there to manage parks, lodges, beaches, trails and camp sites. Communities hope there will be money for green spaces and trails.

Iowans travel to Missouri or Minnesota for better outdoor vacations. And this state ends up ranking an embarrassing 48th in the country for funding recreation.

But things are looking up.

The Iowa Senate overwhelmingly passed Senate Joint Resolution 2002 to amend the state constitution to dedicate a portion of state sales and service tax revenue to the outdoors. The resolution establishes a natural resources and outdoor recreation trust fund, to be financed with money generated by a sales-tax rate of three-eighths of 1 percent.

Editorial, “Let Iowans Vote on Outdoor Funding,” Des Moines Register, April 8, 2008.

      Manure and commercial fertilizers spread on frozen ground contributed to record ammonia levels in water supplies across Iowa this spring, threatening tap water in Des Moines and harming fish and other aquatic life, officials said.

Sampling by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources found sharply elevated readings across the state, prompting environmental groups to urge new restrictions for farmers who use the fertilizers.

Perry Beeman, “High ammonia levels threaten D.M.’s water,” Des Moines Register, April 6, 2008, p. A1.

      When Cedar Rapids made a cost-cutting reorganizational sweep through its city departments in July, one of the lost jobs stuck out to some like a sore green thumb.

The head horticulturist position was pruned, paring the full-time staff from three to two.

In a city known for its lush seasonal plantings, the public worried the program would whither.
Thankfully, the public didn’t just ponder, it came to the rescue. A volunteer crew of about 60 gardening enthusiasts organized into official city greenhouse help and made a long-term commitment to the parks department. And the parks department, never having leaned on such help before, didn’t let precedent or municipal red tape get in the way.

— Editorial, “Maintaining the city’s flower power,” The Gazette, April 5, 2008, p. A4.

      The Linn County Conservation Department, as part of its 50th anniversary this year, has undertaken a geocache game in which 50 caches will be hidden in county areas for people to find.

Geocaching, a game in which participants use Global Positioning System receivers to hide and find caches, is a great way for people to expand their outdoor activities and discover new places while enjoying the thrill of the hunt, said Dennis Goemaat, deputy director of the Conservation Department.

Local members of the Iowa Geocachers Organization will be placing the caches over the course of the year on county areas, Goemaat said. Each month a featured cache will include clues used to discover the final cache of the year.

“Geocaching gives me an opportunity to see many great natural areas and scenery that I would otherwise miss,” said Jeff Goodson of Hiawatha, a member of the Iowa Geocachers . . ..

— Orlan Love, “GPS game offers thrill of a hunt,” The Gazette, April 4, 2008, p. C6.


      “[W]e’ve [the AFL-CIO] got our eyes on Congress as it considers reauthorizing the farm bill, a bill that most people know will help farmers and ranchers.

What is less well known is that this bill also allocates much-needed funds to protecting land from development.

Why is the AFL-CIO, the federation representing 10 million working men and women, worried about conservation in the farm bill? Because working people across the country hunt and fish, including roughly 70 percent of union members in the building and construction trades. The farm bill has a huge impact on the quality of life of working people when they’re away from work. The AFL-CIO is joining the nation’s leading sportsmen and conservation organizations to make conservation a national priority. As a nation, we value our wide-open-spaces and time spent outside.”

Richard Trumka, “Boost conservation-program funding; help workers enjoy the outdoors,” Des Moines Register, March 31, 2008.

      “Armed with gloves, rakes, hacksaws and shears, students from Kirkwood, the University of Iowa, West High and City High joined together to pick up trash and clear brush from the creek that flows through southwest Iowa City.

The organizer of the event, Carol Sweeting, the public information and education coordinator for the city’s Public Works department, said the cleanup was part of the city’s storm water program. Sweeting said the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency mandate that cities the size of Iowa City clean up creeks to reduce the environmental impact of soil erosion and pollution.”

Lee Hermiston, “Getting dirty cleaning up; Volunteers clean up Willow Creek,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 31, 2008, p. A3.

      “Johnson County Conservation officials said that after a long and brutal winter, they have their work cut out for them to get area parks ready for spring.

Dan Campbell, a park ranger at F.W. Kent Park, said crews have to strike a balance when they start doing maintenance in the county’s outdoor recreation areas. The Johnson County Conservation Department manages several native prairies, river access areas, small community parks and the 1,082-acre F.W. Kent Park.”

Kathryn Fiegen, “County gets parks ready for spring; Crews conduct maintenance, prairie burns, start classes,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 31, 2008, p. A1.

      “[Sharron] Dixon, who worked in food sales for years, . . . now owns and operates Inbound Iowa, a 2-year-old tour-planning company that specializes in Iowa outings. . . .


    Most of Inbound Iowa’s tours focus on the Des Moines area and central Iowa. But she has created packages for the Loess Hills and Council Bluffs.”

Tom Perry, “Tourists See It, Then Believe It,” Des Moines Register, March 30, 2008, p. E1.

      “Soldiers from Johnson County who gave their lives in war soon will have their own permanent memorial.

The Johnson County Veteran’s Trail Commission plans to build a monument to be placed at the start of the Veteran’s Trail at East Overlook at the Coralville Reservoir. The monument will list the names of 422 military service people from Johnson County who died fighting in American conflicts . . ..”

Rob Daniel, “A monumental task; County group to honor fallen soldiers with monument,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 29, 2008, p. A3.

      “2008 marks the 40th anniversary of what . . . were forward-thinking city leaders who secured a federal grant, persuaded local voters to match it and bought about 1,000 acres of flood-prone land on both sides of the Cedar River and up stretches of Indian and Prairie creeks.

The move was a flood-control initiative coupled with an ambitious plan to create what today is the Sac and Fox Trail . . ..”

— Rick Smith, “Environment: This land in Cedar Rapids is Our flood buffer zone; 40 years ago, the city snatched up flood-prone land, giving us some peace of mind and a recreation trail,” The Gazette, March 27, 2008, p. A1.

    “The country’s treasured open spaces are no more immune to air pollution from coal-fired power plants than are its big cities. Sulfur dioxide causes acid rain and kills trees. Mercury emissions poison streams. Nitrogen oxides and sulfates create smog and haze. . . . The air in these parks will only get worse if the administration proceeds with its latest rules opening the way for more downwind power plants. Members of Congress and nearly every environmental organization have asked Mr. Bush to abandon this ruinous idea. Doing so would improve not only the parks but also whatever positive legacy Mr. Bush hopes to leave behind.”

Editorial, “Parks in Peril,” New York Times, March 24, 2008.

      Coralville city officials are in the planning stages for a high-tech trailhead on Clear Creek trail near Camp Cardinal Boulevard to be built next year.

City Parks and Recreation Director Sherri Proud said the project will be the first of four . . .

City officials also are working with the University of Iowa Civil and Environmental Engineering Department to install a system near the water that monitors the level of bacteria in the creek from day to day.

“That is really cool,” Proud said. . . .

The Clear Creek trailhead also is a part of the Clear Creek Master Plan, Proud said. The plan calls for the preservation of the 300 acres of green space between UI property and the interchange between Interstate 80 and Interstate 380.

Kathryn Fiegen, “Coralville planning for multi-use Clear Creek trailhead; Set to be built next year; will be first of four such structures,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 20, 2008, p. B1.

      “Not only will this gift [40 acre addition to Stone State Park from Millie Acklin and Shelley Sweeney of Sioux City] keep on giving to generations of Iowans, it’s especially significant for the [Iowa Natural Heritage] foundation. Those acres bumped the group over the 100,000-acre mark in land it has protected. . . .

Nearly 70 percent of the [foundation created land] land is owned by government agencies that manage it as fish and wildlife habitat, parks and trails. Most of the rest is privately owned, but protected by legal agreements. . . .

As growth around metro areas gobbles up prime farmland and as high crop prices translate into pressure to farm every available acre, Iowa must work even harder to protect some of its natural spaces. That remains possible when people are willing to do the right thing and donate the resources to make it happen.”

Editorial, “Help Protect Natural Spaces,” Des Moines Register, March 18, 2008.

      “Iowa’s senators are at odds over a plan to allow landowners to get federal conservation benefits in tax credits rather than direct payments.

The plan, which would affect the land-idling Conservation Reserve Program, would benefit high-income landowners because the tax credits would reduce their federal tax liability each year. Under existing rules, landowners who enroll acreage in the program can only receive taxable annual payments.”

Philip Brasher, “Harkin, Grassley Disagree on Conservation Benefits,” Des Moines Register, March 15, 2008.

      “A proposed addition to Stone State Park in Sioux City marks the 100,000th acre preserved by the nonprofit Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. . . .

The group now has protected 711 sites located in 93 of Iowa’s 99 counties. Nearly 70 percent of the 100,000 acres are owned by government agencies that manage the land as fish and wildlife habitat, parks, preserves or trails. Most of the rest is in private ownership, protected by legal agreements that prevent development. . . .

‘Iowa is arguably the most human-modified state in the nation,’ [Foundation President Mark] Ackelson said. ‘It really comes down to quality of life for our residents. If we want a healthy environment, a healthy economy and healthy citizens, we need more natural areas permanently protected and restored.’

The Iowa Wildlife Action Plan calls for 4 percent of Iowa’s land to be protected by 2030. The figure stands at 2 percent.”

Perry Beeman, “Park Addition Would Include Group’s 100,000th Saved Acre,” Des Moines Register, March 14, 2008

      The Iowa Wildlife and Nature in Art Show and Sale gives the public an opportunity to bring the great outdoors inside — without the mess.

More than 30 Midwest artists will showcase their work at the annual art show, held Saturday and Sunday [March 15-16] at the Coralville Marriott Conference Center. . . .

The art show is one part of the two-day event which also includes environmental education seminars and a “Conservation Corner.” The corner will consist of booths with information on everything outside, from mushrooms to whitetails. . . .

The Wetlands Classic Dinner/Auction is Saturday night. . . . Wetlands naturally clean Iowa’s water while providing a habitat for hundreds of plant species and wildlife.

— Meredith Hines-Dochterman, “Midwest artists gather for Iowa Wildlife and Nature in Art Show and Sale,” The Gazette, March 12, 2008, p. D1.

      “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a cost-effective, environmentally sound and taxpayer-friendly way to keep a lot more of the snow off the roads and out of the ditches?

Well, “living snow fences” could be a difference maker.

Basically, these natural fences include a row of shrubs, a row of evergreen trees and a buffer of native grasses planted near roads that run through flat, open land, often fields for crops. These barriers, properly placed and designed, slow and trap much of the snow before it drifts into the ditches and onto the roads.

— Editorial, “The Potential of living Fences,” The Gazette, March 12, 2008, p. A4.

      “The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the presence of mercury above consumption advisory levels in tissue samples from largemouth bass . . ..

Every year Iowa DNR biologists collect samples of fish for laboratory analysis to determine the wholesomeness of fish for human consumption. Edible portions of these fish are analyzed by certified labs and results are compared to consumption advisory levels as identified by the DNR and Iowa Department of Public Health in the state’s consumption advisory protocol. The risk-based protocol went into effect in 2006 and is based on US EPA and FDA guidance. This protocol is the basis for issuing consumption advisories for Iowa waters.

This marks the eleventh current consumption advisory for fish in Iowa.”

“Mercury Confirmed in Some Iowa Lake Bass,” Des Moines Register, March 11, 2008.

    “Nearly 40-percent of drinking water in the nation’s largest cities might contain prescription drugs. . . . But a new report finds it also contains trace levels of birth control pills, steroids, narcotics, and more.

Becky Ogann, “40 Percent of Tap Water Might Contain Prescription Drugs,” KCRG-TV, March 10, 2008

    “The Johnson County Board of Supervisors agreed Thursday [March 6] that the $20 million bond issue presented by the Johnson County Conservation Board should go before voters in the November election.

Rachel Gallegos, “Voters to decide on Conservation Board bond issue,” Iowa City Press-Citizen (online), March 6, 2008, 11:22 a.m.; other stories regarding this major development include Briana Byrd, “Voters to Decide on Land Preservation; The Johnson County Board of Supervisors Approve Adding a $20 Million Bond to the General Election Ballot in November,” The Daily Iowan, March 7, 2008, p. A5; Rachel Gallegos, “Supes OK $20 million bond issue,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 7, 2008, p. A3; Gregg Hennigan, “Johnson sends $20 million bond to voters; Funds would be used to buy undeveloped land for preservation,” The Gazette, March 7, 2008, p. B1.

      “Des Moines residents want to be able to take walks or ride their bicycles along the river, and they want their tax money to pay for such activities, according to results of a recent survey about the city’s recreation needs. . . .

– Seventy-two percent of respondents have used a trail in the past year; 66 percent have used a picnic area or shelter. . . .

– Respondents feel there is an unmet need for wildlife habitat, nature and observation areas; year-round enclosed park shelters; nature and hiking trails; riverfront parks; and river cruises and dining opportunities.”

Melissa Walker, “Survey finds people want riverfront improvements,” Des Moines Register, March 4, 2008.

    “The community — which has 14 houses either built or under construction — relies entirely on a wind turbine and solar panels for electricity, said Lonnie Gamble, the subdivision’s founder. He said filtered rainwater and a pond provide water for the community, while a constructed wetland uses plants to break down and clean the sewage.”

— Associated Press, “Fairfield residents go off grid to live green; Small subdivision has own solar, wind power; sewer, water system,” The Gazette, March 3, 2008, p. B5.


    “Iowa’s waters are highly polluted with sediment, nutrients and other pollutants which run off the land. Farmers and others who wish to solve this are turned away because good programs lack funds. Iowa’s already small amount of park lands have suffered from decades of backed up work needed to maintain them. Economic development officials frequently recommend that Iowa needs to improve its natural amenities to help reverse the brain drain, to attract firms like Microsoft and to enable Iowa companies to attract top notch talent.”

Andrew Hug, “Don’t Wait on Iowa’s Environment, Act Now,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 29, 2008, p. A9.

    “It’s a situation found statewide, [Johnson County Assessor Bill] Greazel and other officials said: People living in rural areas can have their property classified as agricultural even when assessors believe it’s not farmland. . . . He [former Congressman Jim Leach] . . . said that it [his 138-acre residence/farm] had been committed to conservation reserve programs that required most of the land be kept in prairie grasses instread of row crops.”

— Gregg Hennigan, “Unfarmed Farmland; Ag Designation Gives Tax Break for Some Rural Dwellers,” The Gazette, February 23, 2008, p. A1.

      “An increasingly urban population in Iowa expects that the quality and quantity of outdoor environmental and recreational resources will be maintained. Iowa’s efforts to encourage new economic development and attract a quality work force will require recreational opportunities and amenities that can compete with those in other states. . . .

Our recent study for the Sustainable Funding for Natural Resources Study Committee has identified the importance of a recreation industry in Iowa that is derived from the natural environment and the value that Iowans place on their natural resources. Several conclusions flow from that study:

– Opportunities for outdoor recreation are important to Iowans. Iowa state parks and lakes receive more than 25 million visits each year, and county parks receive an estimated 23 million visitor groups. . . .

– Outdoor recreation is a large industry in Iowa. . . . [W]e estimate about 50 million visits and spending levels of $2.63 billion. . . .

– Outdoor recreational amenities and activities in Iowa create direct economic value to users, beyond the spending impacts. . . . [T]he aggregate economic value is over $1.1 billion annually.

– Natural resources and avenues for outdoor recreation are important to retaining and attracting skilled workers in the state. . . .

– New investments to improve the environment and add recreational amenities generate economic benefits. . . .

. . . Investments in Iowa to reduce soil erosion, restore lakes, provide recreational trails and expand outdoor recreational opportunities can address the needs of a changing population without diminishing the role of agriculture.”

Daniel Otto and Catherine L. Kling, “Outdoor recreation needs to thrive alongside agriculture,” Des Moines Register, February 23, 2008.

      “Rivers and streams are in the process of getting a makeover, but it may come at a costly price.

The environmental services of the state Department of Natural Resources sent in new and improved standards to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December 2007; it learned on Feb. 11. that they had been approved.

As a result, rivers and streams in Iowa will have more protection that will allow them to become more fish-and swimmer-friendly.”

Melanie Kucera, “Protecting the Water,” The Daily Iowan, February 22, 2008, p. A4.

      “The Web site

    is a great resource for information and communication. The Nature Center obviously identified strong interest in the connection of paddling and the environment. Let’s hope Paddle Day is the first of many more.”

— Gregg Stark, “Paddle Day Showcased Iowa’s River Opportunities,” The Gazette, February 21, 2008, p. A5.

    “Ihave lived in Cedar Rapids for nearly 30 years in the same home surrounded by beautiful woods with abundant wildlife . . ..”

— David Faribault, “Don’t Destroy East Post Area,” The Gazette, February 21, 2008, p. A5.

      “Conservative Christians and political liberals, animal rights advocates and hunters, farmers and realtors, bicyclists and bird watchers, golfers and environmentalists, regulators and libertarians, wealthy and poor, academics and entrepreneurs, young and old.

What do these Iowans have in common?

A surprisingly diverse array of individuals have independently come to the same conclusion: We need to do something, now, to preserve Iowa’s natural resources.

Nicholas Johnson, “Preserving for Our Grandchildren,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 20, 2008, p. A13

    “Seventy-five percent of the farmers responding to the 2007 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll say removing corn stover [crop residue; to produce “cellulosic ethanol”] will increase soil erosion. . . . Thirty-two percent of the poll respondents agreed that moving to feedstocks such as switchgrass or poplar trees for ethanol production would increase wildlife habitat, . . ..”

— George C. Ford, “Farmers have say; Poll: Corn stover use may lead to erosion,” The Gazette, February 19, 2008, p. B6.

      The outcome of a sometimes contentious effort to protect Allamakee County blufflands from over development is significant to a unique portion of Northeast Iowa. After several years of trying to find a balance between the public’s interest and private ownership rights, a citizens group and a committee of county officials are bringing this issue to a head.

Their actions are important for many generations to come because they will affect one of Iowa’s most important natural treasures . . . a mix of woodlands, grasslands and farmland . . . crowned with dramatic bluffs . . ..

Lennie Burke, chairman of the Allamakee County Board of Supervisors, [says] “People say, ‘You can’t tell me what to do with my property.’ But we need some kind of rules. . . .”

Aptly put. Private property rights must be respected. Yet owners don’t have the right to do whatever they want with their property . . .. That’s why cities and counties have zoning laws.

. . .

Some of the bluffland area already is protected from development. State and federal governments own nearly 4,700 acres in Allamakee and another 4,500 in Clayton, Dubuque and Jackson counties. The private, nonprofit Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation has negotiated voluntary private easements for another 6,600 acres. . . .”

— Editorial, “Protecting the Priceless Blufflands,” The Gazette, February 17, 2008, p. A9.

    “The Engelbrechts are among the few in Iowa to offer farm stays, which treat the farm as a mini-theme park, with cows and chickens instead of roller coasters and bumper cars. About 80 percent of the approximately 1,000 tourists they attracted last year live in urban areas.”

Erin Crawford, “Iowa Farmers Hope to Sow Seeds of Agritourism,” Des Moines Register, February 17, 2008.

    “The League of Women Voters of Johnson County supports the protection and preservation of the natural environment, parks and open spaces and is pleased that the Johnson County Conservation Board developed a comprehensive plan for parks, open spaces and for the preservation of natural areas. The league also supports the development of bicycle trails.The bond issue is a forward-looking step toward acquiring land for trails and land preservation before land in Johnson County becomes even more expensive.”

— Barbara Beaumont [President League of Women Voters of Johnson County], “Acquiring land for trails makes county attractive,” The Gazette, February 15, 2008, p. A4.

      “Like most conservation groups, the Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association promotes participation in and enjoyment of its members’ favorite sport while working to conserve and enhance the natural resources that make the sport possible, said President Brad Mullin of Cedar Rapids.Established in 1975, the club has about 400 members . . ..

Money raised through the club’s annual fundraiser supports habitat improvement projects and public land acquisitions.”

— Orlan Love, “Hawkeye Fly Fishers Set to Tie One on in Cedar Rapids,” The Gazette, February 15, 2008, p. C6.

    “It may have come as a surprise to some Iowans to learn our state is one of the nation’s worst offenders when it comes to releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”

— Editorial, “Renew, Restrain, Rethink,” The Gazette, February 15, 2008, p. A4.

    “Videophilia is the love of electronic media. Those screens may be showing Internet, video games, movies or just plain TV. Young Americans are so glued to video that many rarely venture into the natural world outside. That troubles environmentalists, who see a growing estrangement from nature in high-tech societies. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the new study reported a similar trend in Japan and Spain.”

Froma Harrop, “Treating Nature-Deficit Disorder,” Providence Journal/Creators Syndicate, February 12, 2008.

      “The question of whether this is the ‘best time’ for a ballot measure to preserve lands important to the people of Johnson County is answered when one takes ‘enough time’ to understand the facts (“2008 best time for conservation bond question?” [

Iowa City Press-Citizen

      , Feb. 6).There is a growing sentiment, throughout the county, that mirrors a nationwide trend that our green infrastructure — the natural environment — is of equal or greater value when compared to gray infrastructure — buildings and development. We hear that comment more and more and much has been written in books, magazines and newspapers. Local organizations and individuals struggle to preserve some natural lands.

The Johnson County Conservation Board, which has the mandated responsibility, has responded by making a serious commitment to find ways to protect more remaining vestiges of unique natural areas before they are destroyed by the relentless march of development.

Harry Graves, “Time right for $20M bond issue,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 13, 2008, p. 14A

      “UI civil-environmental engineering Professor Jerald Schnoor said this study takes a new perspective by examining the role the land selected to harvest biofuels plays — specifically, how it was previously utilized.’If the converted land from went from already being put to good use to an intensive use for ethanol production, there may be negative implications for net greenhouse production,’ Schnoor said.

Land that could be more beneficial to the environment before being converted for biofuel harvesting could include conservation reserve land, such as prairie or forests, he said. These lands take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as well as house many animals, which is better use of the land for aiding the environment than producing ethanol, Schnoor added.”

Samantha Miller, “Doubt Cast on Biofuels,” The Daily Iowan, February 11, 2008, p. A1.

      “Agriculture has become consolidated. The majority of economic control of Iowa ag is vested with a few multinationals headquartered outside of Iowa. Profits are deposited in East Coast banks, not in locally owned Iowa institutions. . . .

In the total structure of Iowa agricultural economics, as a collective citizenry, Iowans are now relegated to a powerless ‘tenant farmer’ status in our home state. . . . Iowa needs intelligent economic development way beyond petroleum, pigs, prisons and poker!

A reality-based economic science must include the long-term environmental and social costs of any economic activity. Local farmers can best protect our land as they now wake up and reclaim control of Iowa agriculture.”

Michael Richards, “Reclaim Control of Agriculture to Benefit Iowa,” Des Moines Register, February 11, 2008.

    “As we recently editorialized about the success of the Friends of Hickory Hill Park to secure land through private donations (“Praise in order for friends of Hickory Hill,” Jan. 31), we think county residents would benefit by having more land set aside for preservation. And we’re not alone. A telephone survey of 400 county residents in October found more than a supermajority’s worth of such support for setting land aside. Harry Graves, the conservation board director, described the proposal as being as necessary as other efforts to maintain infrastructure such as roads and utilities.But getting people to say they’d like to see more land preserved is very different task than getting 60 percent of likely voters to willingly increase their property taxes.”

Editorial, “2008 best time for conservation bond question?,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 6, 2008

    “A group of public officials, engineers, academics, students and environmentalists will host a bus tour of the Iowa River on Friday, in hopes of showing people just what it takes to care for a river, one official said.Caring for a body of water, like a river, takes the efforts of just about everybody, said University of Iowa English Professor Barbara Eckstein, one of the trip’s organizers.”

Kathryn Fiegen, “Group to Host Bus Tour of Iowa River,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 5, 2008.

    “Gov. Chet Culver on Monday threw his support behind a proposal to let Iowans vote whether they support a state sales tax boost to establish a constitutionally protected funding source dedicated to improving natural resources, water quality and recreational opportunities in Iowa.”

— Rod Boshart, “Culver backs public vote on resources fund,” The Gazette, February 5, 2008, p. A5.

      “Trout Run Trail, an 11.5-mile, hard-surfaced loop, will encircle Decorah like a bejeweled necklace when it’s finished, according to the chief grant writer for the $6 million project. The jewels refer to all the natural and cultural attractions the trail will link, said Lora Friest, coordinator of the Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development agency, whose grant-writing skills have secured more than $3 million for the $6 million project.

In one circuit of the trail, hikers, bikers, birdwatchers, anglers, skiers, skaters and joggers will treat their eyes to an unending succession of forested limestone bluffs, sparkling trout streams, gushing springs, prairies, church steeples, courthouse domes, grazing cattle and rustic barns.”

— Orlan Love, “Outdoor: Happy trail Grant boosts 11.5-mile loop around Decorah,” The Gazette, February 5, 2008, p. A1.

    “With its 20th anniversary approaching, state leaders, environmentalists, farmers and outdoor enthusiasts are hoping this is the year Iowa’s nationally recognized resource conservation program finally gets what should be coming to it. The state’s Resource Enhancement and Protection program has never been fully funded since its inception in 1989. But Gov. Chet Culver has made it a priority to find $20 million for REAP in the fiscal 2009 budget lawmakers are starting to assemble.”

— Rod Boshart, “Natural Resources: REAP benefits Environmental program has funding challenges despite its many fans,” The Gazette, February 4, 2008, p. A1.

    “The Johnson County Conservation Board will ask for $20 million to help preserve natural land in the county.Harry Graves, conservation board director, said he hopes the supervisors will put a $20 million bond referendum on the Nov. 4 general election ballot. The money, he said, would go toward buying land that then would be preserved from development for prairie and woodland. He compared the move to maintaining infrastructure such as roads and utilities, saying it was necessary.”

— Rob Daniel, “County board seeks $20M; Conservation group wants to save natural land,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 4, 2008, p. A3.

      “He’s [Will Prather] become a grassroots force in Marion County. He . . . may have the calm of a former school principal but he also has the directness. The nearly half-silted-in lake is mainly the result of agricultural practices that farmers need to change.

. . .

The vast watershed, which covers nearly a fifth of Iowa from southern Minnesota to southeast Iowa, drains through farmlands into the river, encountering the dam near Knoxville and Pella.

Corps officials estimate 465,000, 15-ton loads of soil flow into the lake yearly.”

Mike Kilen, “Saving Red Rock Lake,” Des Moines Register, February 3, 2008.

      “Within most faiths is a call to members to be good stewards of the Earth. So calling on congregations to “go green” makes sense, say area coordinators of a movement encouraging faith groups to become more environmentally aware. . . .

Mark Kresowik, 23, of Des Moines, is interim director of Iowa Interfaith Power and Light, which helps coordinate green efforts in churches across the state.

He said the movement for congregations to become more ecologically minded is not new, nor is it focused in Iowa or the Midwest.

There are Interfaith Power and Light groups in 25 states, he said, ‘and we’re not the only group out there.’ ‘I think part of it is that churches truly recognize the challenge that we are facing in terms of our moral obligations to take care of God’s creation, the Earth,’ Kresowik said. ‘Certainly with issues like global warming in particular, we are not doing our part.’”

— Molly Rossiter, “Faith & Values: Stewards of the Earth; Corridor congregations get serious about tracking carbon footprints,” The Gazette, February 2, 2008, p. B1.

    “A move is under way in Johnson County to sell $20 million worth of tax-supported bonds to buy undeveloped rural land and preserve it for parks, wetlands and conservation areas. The Johnson County Conservation Board has been working on the idea for more than a year and is ready to take it to the public.”

— Megen VerHeist, “$20 million sought for land buy; Johnson County Conservation Board wants to sell bonds to fund preservation purchases,” The Gazette, February 1, 2008, p. A1.

January 2008

      “At a time when many groups are trying to hit up the Iowa City Council for more money, it’s encouraging to see the Friends of Hickory Hill Park so successfully raising funds on its own to purchase and to preserve 16 acres of land adjacent the park (“Park group exceeds fundraising goal,” [

Iowa City Press-Citizen

      ], Jan. 29).The local organization announced Monday that it raised more than $28,000 between Thanksgiving and the end of 2007 to meet a challenge grant of $20,000 from an anonymous donor.

* * *

Working with Johnson County Heritage Trust — a local non-profit organization committed to the preservation and enjoyment of natural areas — the group is purchasing land owned by Willa Dickens for $160,000 by May 2009. The area offers a permanent buffer between parkland and urban development, thus allowing the group to preserve important historical and natural features adjacent to the park.”

Editorial, “Praise in order for friends of Hickory Hill,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 31, 2008.

    “Where government can and should do more is to improve the quality of life, to make this a state where workers and businesses want to stay or come. State lawmakers can:- Invest more in parks, . . .. Offering a variety of free or low-cost recreational and cultural opportunities raises the standard of living for average Iowans. . . . Parks and recreational trails offer entertainment and exercise for families at little cost.”

Editorial, “Make Quality of Life Iowa’s Edge,” Des Moines Register, January 27, 2008.

    “Congratulations to the Iowa branch of the Nature Conservancy for exceeding its goal of raising $9.5 million to help save the “last great places in Iowa.” Congratulations, as well, to the contributors who have donated more than $18 million to the cause.This suggests that Iowans are concerned enough about preserving unspoiled land to dig deeply into their own pockets to save what little remains. The Nature Conservancy’s fundraising campaign comes at the same time that the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation has set a goal of raising $40 million over five years to protect unique Iowa landforms. These efforts could represent the largest investments in land preservation in Iowa history. And they come at a time when competition for land in Iowa is especially intense.”

Editorial, “Cheers to Groups Preserving Iowa’s Treasure: Its Land,” Des Moines Register, January 25, 2008.

    “Barack Obama believes that we have a responsibility to our children to leave this Earth better than we found it. All Americans have an interest in the protection and proper maintenance of our irreplaceable national treasures. Conservation is also vitally important to providing clean drinking water, cleaning our air and reducing greenhouse gas pollution. Barack Obama believes we need a new vision for conservation that both protects our existing publicly-owned lands while dramatically expanding investments in protecting and restoring forests, grasslands, and wetlands across America for generations to come.”

Barak Obama, “Preserving Our Land” in “Promoting a Healthy Environment,” 2008, p. 8


    “The state’s economic vitality and its citizens’ quality of life also depend on the quality of air and water, availability of natural areas and habitat, and diversity of wildlife. The protection of these natural resources depends on a steady allocation of money to fund the public employees and programs that are the designated stewards of the state’s environment.”

Teresa Galluzzo, “Investing in Iowa’s Environment: Budget Trends 1997–2006,” The Iowa Policy Project, December 2006.

    “When the presidential hopefuls flock to Iowa City this fall, they’ll find more than political rallies.Surrounded by hills and bisected by the Iowa River, . . . the University of Iowa’s nearly 30,000 students keep this oak-lined Pleasantville real, . . . Athletes pride themselves on their ingenuity: . . . mountain bikers have built singletrack networks through prairie lands in 200-acre Sugar Bottom Recreation Area. That wins our vote.”

Christina Erb, “Best Towns 2007: Iowa City, Iowa,” Outside Magazine, August 2007.

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