Calling on RAGBRAI riders to help plant milkweed for monarchs

Monarch butterfly enthusiasts have prepared more than 50,000 balls containing common milkweed seeds for riders participating in next week’s Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). As its name suggests, common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is the most prevalent among the 17 types of milkweed found in Iowa. However, the use of genetically-modified Roundup Ready corn and soybeans greatly diminished common milkweed on Iowa cropland. "Kelly Milkweed" Guilbeau and a friend scattered some milkweed seeds while doing RAGBRAI in 2014, then prepared about 2,000 balls of seed to hand out during last summer’s ride across Iowa.

Elizabeth Hill, who manages the Conard Environmental Research Area at Grinnell College, has collaborated with Guilbeau on the Milkweed Matters initiative, greatly expanded this year. I wish them every success; driving around Iowa last week, I saw huge stands of wild parsnip along too many roadsides.

I enclose below two pictures of common milkweed blooming, as well as a press release explaining where riders can pick up seed balls to toss in unmowed ditches along the RAGBRAI route, which runs across southern Iowa from July 24 through 30.

You can learn more at the Milkweed Matters website and receive regular updates on Twitter (@milkweedmatters) or Facebook. Butterfly fans can find more good links at the Monarchs in Eastern Iowa website. Although I’m not skilled at identifying butterflies, I enjoy the occasional "butterfly forecasts" by the Poweshiek Skipper Project.

P.S.- Hill will always have a special place in my heart as the accidental godmother of Bleeding Heartland’s Iowa wildflower Wednesday series.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: White wild indigo (largeleaf wild indigo)

Today’s post is dedicated to Mike Delaney, whose birthday is July 6. The founder of the Raccoon River Watershed Association has been a tremendous advocate for Iowa’s water, soil, and native plants and animals. He was a key lobbyist for a wild turtle protection bill that was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal legislative session for the Iowa environmental community. Mike has helped organize Citizens for a Healthy Iowa and the Iowa Conservation Voters PAC.

I took all of the pictures enclosed below at a prairie Mike has been restoring on farmland he bought in Dallas County during the late 1980s. The biodiversity on this relatively small patch of land along the Raccoon River is phenomenal. I tried to capture some wider views in the last three photos.

This week’s featured plant is White wild indigo (Baptisia alba var. macrophylla or Baptisia lactea). Also known as largeleaf wild indigo or white false indigo or prairie false indigo, the plant is native to most of the Midwest and plains states.

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Iowa DNR allows Bakken pipeline to run under Indian burial site

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources amended a permit to allow Dakota Access to run the Bakken pipeline under a sensitive area in the Big Sioux River Wildlife Management Area, William Petroski reported for the Des Moines Register on June 20. The amendment means Dakota Access is no longer subject to the stop-work order the DNR imposed last month. DNR spokesperson Kevin Baskins told Petroski the company will run the pipeline "about 85 feet underground" to avoid disrupting sacred ground, which may include American Indian burial sites.

State Archaeologist John Doershuk said in an email last week to DNR Director Chuck Gipp that the proposed directional boring construction method is a satisfactory avoidance procedure from an archaeological standpoint that he supports in this case. However, Doershuk emphasized he could not speak for American Indian tribes that have expressed concerns about the pipeline project.

Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access, maintains that a 2004 archeological review of the site in question did not turn up any areas of cultural significance. Gavin Aronsen posted that document and comments from a company spokeswoman at Iowa Informer.

Now that the DNR has lifted the stop-work order and the Iowa Utilities Board has changed its stance to allow pipeline construction before Dakota Access has all federal permits in hand, only two legal obstacles stand in the way of completing the project across eighteen Iowa counties. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to issue permits covering a small portion of the Iowa route—though I would be shocked to see the federal government stand in the way once construction has begun. A series of landowner lawsuits are challenging the use of eminent domain for the Bakken pipeline, saying a 2006 Iowa law does not allow farmland to be condemned for a private project by a company that is not a utility.

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A plea to Iowa supporters of Bernie Sanders

Although I caucused for Hillary Clinton this year, in most presidential elections I have ended up where Bernie Sanders supporters are now: disappointed and convinced that the candidate I preferred would have been a better president as well as better positioned to beat the Republican nominee.

In a speech to his supporters last Thursday, Sanders did not explicitly concede the Democratic nomination. He vowed to do his part to "make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly" while leading "our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become."

Whether you accept the "inevitable" or still believe Sanders can become the Democratic nominee for president, whether you are willing to "hold your nose" and vote for Hillary or are firmly #BernieOrBust, I have one request for the Iowans who backed Sanders throughout this past year.

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Heidi Heitkamp cancels what might have been an awkward Iowa appearance

U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota was supposed to be the keynote speaker at tonight’s Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame event in Des Moines. However, the party announced last night the senator would be unable to attend "due to a scheduling conflict." At this writing, the Iowa Democratic Party has not responded to my request for further details on the cancellation.

Heitkamp’s planned Iowa debut could hardly have come at a more awkward time. Among the least progressive Senate Democrats on a number of issues, Heitkamp was noticeably absent this week as some 40 senators took part in a filibuster led by Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut to force a vote on gun control measures. In 2013, she was one of just four Senate Democrats "who sided with the vast majority of Republicans to shoot down a bipartisan proposal to strengthen and expand background checks for gun purchases." At the time, she said she opposed the bill drafted after the Sandy Hook mass shooting because "the focus should be on mental health issues, full and accurate reporting into the NICS database and ensuring that we are prosecuting criminals in possession of or trying to possess firearms. This conversation should be about what is in people’s minds, not about what is in their hands."

In numerous social media postings this week, Iowa Democratic activists have criticized Heitkamp’s history of being a reliable vote for the National Rifle Association.

Even before last weekend’s massacre at the Pulse gay club in Orlando drew attention to the availability of assault weapons designed for use in military combat, I was expecting protests outside the hall and some heckling during Heitkamp’s speech, because of her ties to the fossil fuel industry. Opponents of the proposed Dakota Access (Bakken) pipeline have objected to giving Heitkamp such a prominent role in what is usually the Iowa Democratic Party’s second-largest event of the year. I enclose below a letter to the Des Moines Register by Wally Taylor of the Sierra Club.

Recent high school graduate Ryan McDaniel of Marshalltown will replace Heitkamp on tonight’s program, Jason Noble reported for the Des Moines Register. McDaniel won one of the Eychaner Foundation’s fourteen Matthew Shepard scholarships this year. I’m excited to hear him speak.

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Iowa Conservation Voters PAC

Guest posts on behalf of progressive advocacy groups are welcome here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

The following post is submitted by Mark Langgin, Mike Delaney and Rob Davis, board members of Iowa Conservation Voters. Langgin is a partner with GPS Impact and has worked with a number of local and national conservation organizations. Delaney is founder of the Raccoon River Watershed Association and a leading environmental activist. Davis is a former broadcast journalist, former business owner, and in retirement worked as a clerk in the Iowa House of Representatives.

If you’re interested in clean drink water, protection of Iowa’s water/land/wildlife, access and permanent protection of public lands, and fighting global climate change, listen up.

The 2016 legislative session was a major disappointment – with little to no progress on significant water quality legislation, continued underfunding of REAP and a wide array of other environmental failures. The lone exception was legislation to help protect turtles from overharvesting for profit.

If you are as disappointed as we are, then you know Iowa needs legislators who are committed to protecting Iowa’s water, land and wildlife from pollution and climate change.

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