Finding a path for people and wildlife in the Loess Hills

Patrick Swanson takes over this week’s edition of Iowa wildflower Wednesday. -promoted by Laura Belin

Earlier this month marked the first of what I hope to be a more common event in western Iowa: an organized multi-day hike through the Loess Hills. 

Conceived and orchestrated by Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) and other partners, the Lo(ess) Hi(lls) Trek, as it was called, gave about 30 folks the opportunity to walk a route through and between conservation lands in Monona County. Golden Hills RC&D recently posted an excellent day-by-day synopsis of the LoHi Trek, so I won’t recap the details here.

As a participant, I would like to offer some of my reflections on this journey.  

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Earth Day 2021: Iowa needs more nature imagination

Neil Hamilton shares remarks he delivered on “Iowa needs more nature imagination: Lessons from our missed opportunities at the Des Moines Area Community College Earth Day event on April 22. -promoted by Laura Belin

It is a pleasure to be with you as we celebrate Earth Day 51. Unfortunately, festivities for Earth Day 50 came and went with hardly a whisper, a casualty of our unfolding COVID pandemic. But even as our attention was drawn to the challenges we faced – the power of nature and being outdoors continued working on our lives. There are many lessons we will take from this shared experience but among the most significant is how it reaffirmed the valuable role nature plays in keeping us healthy and sane.

That is why it is fitting on Earth Day 51 as we emerge from our cocoons – we use this opportunity to think critically about our future with Iowa’s land and water. To do so it is important to consider some history – especially some of our most significant lost opportunities – and identify any lessons for the years ahead. The good news is we have a legion of conservation champions working to protect nature in Iowa and the ranks are growing.

The bad news we are still in the minority and face stiff headwinds.

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Gas companies want to profit off Iowans

Michael Schmidt, staff attorney for the Iowa Environmental Council, wrote this post, which first appeared on that organization’s blog. -promoted by Laura Belin

This legislative session has kept the Iowa Environmental Council busy, in part because of a bill that would protect gas company profits at the expense of Iowa customers. House File 555 and its companion, Senate File 455, would hurt Iowans by stopping cities and counties from protecting their local residents from dangerous gas infrastructure, high energy bills, and polluting fossil fuels.

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The Iowa land ethic

Editor’s note: Paul W. Johnson died on February 15, 2021. His family wanted to share the text of these previously unpublished remarks, delivered to the Iowa Environmental Council’s Annual Conference on October 11, 2013. Paul was introduced by Ralph Rosenberg and recorded by Matt Hauge. Mike Delaney shared this text in a February 16, 2021 special edition of the email “Raccoon River Watershed Association News.”

I can’t help but comment on Ralph; he was the chair of our Energy and Environmental Protection Committee for years in the Iowa legislature when I was there, and when David [Osterberg] was there. We had a wonderful time–it was almost Camelot–we couldn’t do anything wrong. Whatever we wanted to do Ralph would guide us and we got it done. We did REAP [Resource Enhancement and Protection]; we did energy efficiency we did groundwater protection, a number of things, and it was a lot of fun. And it was bipartisan believe it or not; we really worked together.

We had a unanimous vote on REAP in the Iowa House of Representatives. I think there were 98 members there that day, and everyone voted for it, so it was a good time, and I often think back on those times as some of the best times of my life.

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Iowa agriculture, climate change, and "SWAPA"

Paul W. Johnson is a preacher’s kid, former Iowa state legislator, former chief of the USDA Soil Conservation Service/Natural Resources Conservation Service, former director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and a retired farmer. -promoted by Laura Belin

In the early 1980s there was a serious farm crisis in Iowa. Land and commodity prices were falling, so banks were calling in farm loans and foreclosing on farmers who couldn’t pay up. Maurice Dingman was bishop of the Des Moines area during those years, and he was speaking up strongly for farmers who were suffering during this time. I was impressed by his defense of family farmers.

In 1987 David Osterberg and I were serving in the Iowa legislature–he representing Mount Vernon, I representing Decorah–and working on groundwater protection. Industrial agriculture sent their lobbyists to weaken our legislation, and newspapers were carrying stories about their fierce opposition to our work.

During this time, Bishop Dingman phoned us and suggested we have lunch together. 

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