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 His family wanted to share the text of these previously unpublished remarks, delivered to the Iowa Environmental Council’s Annual Conference on October 11, 2013.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's looming water and drought crisis

Tyler Granger: Impaired waterways and the ongoing drought are a 1-2 punch that could create incredible hardships for Iowans in 2021. -promoted by Laura Belin

The coronavirus and the economic fallout from the pandemic has made 2020 one the hardest years for Iowans. Unfortunately, two environmental catastrophes are on the horizon for 2021.

Nearly 60 percent of Iowa’s bodies of water are impaired, according to a report the Iowa Department of Natural Resources released this week. The trend is concerning, since Iowa has lax laws on scientific measurements regarding water quality as well as an inadequate, all-voluntary strategy to reduce toxic nutrients in our lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.

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Iowa's water can't wait

This piece was co-authored by Emma Schmit, Iowa organizer for Food & Water Watch, and Danielle Wirth, a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch. -promoted by Laura Belin

Water is life. It’s undeniable. It’s also a fragile, finite resource that requires our protection. As catastrophic events, from drought to wildfires, ravage the United States, it’s clear that time is running out to mitigate the climate crisis and ensure everyone has access to safe, clean water.

While Iowa is known to most Americans for our cornfields, Ashton Kutcher, our cornfields, Hawkeye football, and our cornfields, what most don’t know is that we are enduring a water crisis.

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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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When is it safe to get in the water?

Angelisa Belden is director of communications for the Iowa Environmental Council. This post first appeared on the council’s website on August 21. -promoted by Laura Belin

I was born and raised in Iowa, but hailing from the far northeast corner meant more visits to Minnesota lakes or Lake Michigan than central Iowa. That’s likely more due to family in those regions, but when I settled my family in Des Moines two years ago to work at Iowa Environmental Council, many of the recreational opportunities here were new to me. That includes Clear Lake.

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