Make Iowa great again: Yes, we can

Paul W. Johnson wrote this piece in 2017, when Republicans in the state legislature passed a budget bill that defunded Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and eliminated it from the Iowa Code. Governor Terry Branstad signed the bill and left in place the sections redirecting funding away from the Leopold Center to the newer, corporate-friendly Nutrient Reduction Center at ISU. But he item-vetoed the section that would have removed all code references to the Leopold Center. Consequently, the center still exists but with no funding for research and education on sustainable agriculture. -promoted by Laura Belin

Aldo Leopold was born in Burlington, Iowa, in 1887. He died in 1948 while fighting a grass fire on his neighbor’s farm. He and his wife, Estella, are buried in a cemetery in Burlington. Aldo Leopold is known today as the father of the wilderness idea, the father of wildlife management in the U.S., and the father of the land ethic. The land ethic encourages us humans to understand that we belong to the community of all life on earth and that we need to learn to love and respect it.

“Conservation means harmony between men and land. When land does well for its owner and the owner does well by his land: when both end up better by reason of their partnership, we have conservation. When one or the other grows poorer, we do not.” -Aldo Leopold  

That is why we established the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in 1987.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: A DIY bee house using native prairie plants

Patrick Swanson interrupts the winter hiatus of Bleeding Heartland’s Iowa wildflowers series with some lovely pictures and useful tips. -promoted by Laura Belin

Here we are in the deep throes of winter. A wistful melancholy arises from memories of greener and more colorful landscapes, and the dark days and cold dampness of our climate this time of year seems to cage us indoors, leaving us restless with cabin fever.

But the winter landscape has its own serenity, and those adventurous enough to face the chill are often rewarded by sights and sounds unique to the season. 

Last year about this time, I posted an essay here with pictures from a winter snowshoe trek depicting how the new-fallen snow transformed plants on my prairie into more magical, snow-capped versions of themselves.

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Brent’s Trail: Envisioning a state trail through the Loess Hills of western Iowa

Patrick Swanson describes a project to highlight “the unusual geology and scenic value of the Loess Hills, their importance as a wildlife corridor and a home to the largest tracts of native remnant prairie left in the state, and the presence of many protected areas along the backbone of the hills.” -promoted by Laura Belin

Earlier this month, I attended the dedication of Brent’s Trail, a new eight-mile hiking trail in Harrison County, near the town of Little Sioux, that links Murray Hill Scenic Overlook, Loess Hills State Forest, and Gleason-Hubel Wildlife Area.

The idea of a long-distance trail through the Loess Hills was envisioned by Brent Olson, whose career as area forester for the Loess Hills State Forest spanned 25 years before his untimely death in 2016 from cancer at age 53. His vision was championed by those who followed to create such a trail and name it in his honor.

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It's good to be orange

Chris Jones is a research engineer (IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering) at the University of Iowa. This post first appeared at the author’s blog. -promoted by Laura Belin

Many have written how earth’s species are undergoing a mass extinction right now, the sixth such event in the planet’s history. These writers include Elizabeth Kolbert and the famous biologist Edward O. Wilson. Extinctions are occurring now at a faster pace than any time since 65 million years ago, when earth’s collision with a 7-mile wide asteroid caused the 5th great extinction, wiping out 70 percent of all species.

One species that did survive the fifth extinction was the Pallid Sturgeon. This fish entered earth’s evolutionary record about 70 million years ago. “Pallid” means absence of color, and true enough, the pallid sturgeon is nearly white. It is one of the largest (up to 85 pounds), longest-lived (as long as 100 years) and ugliest (like a bizarre cross between a shark and an armadillo) fish species in North America. The fish is endangered because we wrecked the Missouri River.

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