Farewell, Vern Johnson

Ed Fallon remembers an Iowa farmer who fought “to the end” to stop his land from being taken for a pipeline. -promoted by Laura Belin

Sadly, those of us fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) lost one of our strongest allies this week. LaVerne Johnson died suddenly and unexpectedly on Sunday, April 7. My heart goes out to his wife, family, and closest friends — though he will be missed by more people than he would have imagined.

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Flood reduction and clean water solutions are not magic

Angelisa Belden is communications and development director for the Iowa Environmental Council. -promoted by Laura Belin

Iowans are dealing with the aftermath of receding flood waters this week. Heart-wrenching stories have emerged about returning to decimated homes, topsoil-choked streams headed for the Gulf of Mexico, and the sad task of removing lifeless bodies of young calves who couldn’t withstand the deluge.

Commentators and elected officials are missing the point – or at least failing to bring proper attention to – the obvious and science-based solution to not only water quantity but water quality crises facing our state. We must adopt policy and pass laws that slow down the water running off of our farm fields. That task starts with the federal Farm Bill but ends here at home with efforts to replace Iowa’s lax environmental rules with meaningful protections for land and water.

Senate File 548, the bill that would restrict the use of loans from the State Revolving Fund to purchase land for water quality projects, is a step in the wrong direction.

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When the floodgates open

Leland Searles is a photographer and ecological consultant with expertise in botany, hydrology, soils, streams, and wildlife. -promoted by Laura Belin

“The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” (Georg Hegel, German philosopher)

There are too many potential topics for this blog, the third in a series, and that leads to a certain amount of indecisiveness. Until something happens. That something is the flooding that has already occurred in the Midwest this year, and the expectation of more to come. So far, western Iowa, eastern Nebraska, and northwestern Missouri have experienced the worst of it, with a much larger area affected to some extent.

The degree of flooding in the Missouri basin this year is nearly unrivaled in the record books. Still, I want to push this point: we should have known, and we should have acted to prevent it or mitigate it. Dams do not work in the long run, and when the system of dams was built along the Missouri in the 1940s and 1950s, the year 2019 was a long time off. We are now in “the long run” that no one then foresaw.

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When advocacy works: One bad land bill defeated, efforts to stop another

Angelisa Belden is communications and development director for the Iowa Environmental Council. -promoted by Laura Belin

Iowans were up in arms this week in reaction to two bad bills aimed at restricting acquisition or expansion of public lands. House File 542, introduced by Republican State Representative David Seick, and Senate Study Bill 1221, introduced by GOP State Senator Ken Rozenboom, would severely limit the ability for state agencies, cities and counties, and private citizens to acquire or donate land for public projects.

In a state with just 2 percent of land in public holding, these bills were a drastic overreach to answer a problem that doesn’t exist.

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How poor soil health and missing infrastructure leave our rivers filthy

John Norwood is an elected commissioner of the Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District. -promoted by Laura Belin

On the evening of February 27, your Soil and Water Commissioners for Region 6 (including Polk, Dallas, and Madison Counties) gathered for our Spring Regional meeting in Winterset.

We heard from a variety of state and federal partners and discussed staffing, funding, and priorities for improving our soil health and water quality.

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Federal court tossed lawsuit targeting Dakota Access pipeline protestors

In a victory for freedom of speech and association, a federal court last week “dismissed a $1 billion racketeering lawsuit that the developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline filed against environmental groups and activists, saying he found no evidence of a coordinated criminal enterprise,” Blake Nicholson reported for the Associated Press on February 14.

Two of the named defendants, Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya, lived in Iowa when they repeatedly lit fires and used cutting torches to damage the Dakota Access pipeline. They later went into hiding, and Bleeding Heartland’s attempts to reach them for comment were unsuccessful.

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