3 Lessons from the Iowa Water Conference

3 Lessons from the Iowa Water Conference

Several of our staff attended the Iowa Water Conference on March 12 and 13.  The event brings together hundreds of smart, hard-working people that are working  to improve water quality, restore aquatic habitat, and control flooding across the state of Iowa.  We always learn a lot from both the presenters and the other attendees, and come away energized.  Here are our top three lessons we learned this year: 1. Farms can simultaneously improve water quality and wildlife habitat Adam Janke, Extension Wildlife Specialist, talked about how the practices being used for nutrient reduction can also benefit many of Iowa's species of greatest conservation need.  For example, trumpeter swans like CREP wetlands. Migrating ringneck ducks and Topeka shiners use oxbow wetlands.   Meadowlarks use prairie strips. We will be pursuing these kinds of synergies in three watersheds with a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, so it was great to hear specifics. 2. Retailers of agricultural products need to be part of water quality solutions Chris...
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National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Grant

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Grant

Prairie Rivers of Iowa has been awarded a Conservation Partners (CPP) Grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to provide one-on-one technical assistance to landowners and farmers working to improve water quality and wildlife habitat in Story County. The focus area includes three subwatersheds within the South Skunk River Watershed which contribute to excess nutrients into the Mississippi River (map below). The primary objective of the grant is to engage farmers and agriculture in best practices, innovation, and stewardship. "We are excited to expand our work to two additional watersheds within the South Skunk River Watershed with this grant. This project will provide great opportunity to improve the acres and quality of conservation lands for soil health, water quality, and wildlife habitat,” said Prairie Rivers of Iowa Watershed and Waterways Program Coordinator Kayla Bergman. Our watershed work has been focused on collaborating with local and statewide groups to improve water quality by educating citizens and stakeholders about vital practices that...
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Watershed Planning Update

Watershed Planning Update

An update on our watershed planning efforts is long overdue.  Our NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant for the “Keigley” watershed project wrapped up in September of 2018.  Here’s some of the highlights from 2017-2018 and what we’ll be doing next. A change in focus:  No more need to explain that by “Keigley Branch Watershed” we really mean “part of the South Skunk River.”  In the future, we’ll be working with the entire 200,556-acre watershed that drains to the South Skunk River above the confluence with Squaw Creek in Ames. On paper, a single ten-digit hydrologic unit (HUC10) seemed like a more manageable project, but as we talked with the public it became clear that watershed plans and partnerships would be more effective if the river’s headwaters in Hamilton County were included sooner rather than later. A new Watershed Management Authority (WMA):  The Headwaters of the South Skunk River WMA was formed in August 2018 with seven signatories: Story County Supervisors Story County Soil...
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Pioneers of Transcontinental Travel

When one is doing research of pioneers of transcontinental travel and the Lincoln Highway, the two names that pop up immediately are Carl Fisher and Henry B. Joy, president of the Packard Motor Car Company.  Carl Fisher, owner of the Prest-O-Lite (headlight) Company, supplied almost all of the headlights to the Detroit car manufacturers. He had already developed the Indianapolis 500 race and thought a "Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway" would be a good way for people to have a place to drive their cars. Plus it would help car sales! He enlisted the help of auto makers and Henry B. Joy became a very strong supporter as well as the first president of the newly formed Lincoln Highway Association. They renamed the route as the Lincoln Highway to pay tribute to President Abraham Lincoln because a memorial to him did not exist yet. But today's writing is about a lesser known pioneer for the Lincoln Highway, Henry C. Ostermann, the first Field...
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Watersheds + Waterways Program: Message From Our Director

Watersheds + Waterways Program: Message From Our Director

Guiding and leading a not-for-profit is unique when offering solutions to citizens and their problems.  In Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s case, our solutions are supporting Iowa’s environment and natural resources.  This unique place our organization finds itself in is the opportunity to work with a variety of people who care and love Iowa as much as we do.  In order for our work to be relevant, we must have vision that encourages Iowans to learn, understand and be committed to our natural resources in some way. I am always asking our staff to look in the past some and keep an eye on the day-to-day, so we can plot our direction for the future.  It sounds challenging; but often looking back can show us how far our work has lifted up an idea, a solution, and commitments to change.  Our plans for today must be realistic and support where people are in their mindset and how they value our environment.  We...
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Delivering Technical Assistance to Under-served Small Landowners: A Pilot Project in the Squaw Creek Watershed

Delivering Technical Assistance to Under-served Small Landowners: A Pilot Project in the Squaw Creek Watershed

We all see it. We all drive through it and we, for the most part, don’t think much about it.  It is that transition that happens when you leave the city limits of a community like Ames and you head into the county or farm land of Iowa.  It is that zone where structured homes and home development transitions to acreages and single family dwellings and continues to small farms or even larger acreages and eventually moves and transitions into the more traditional larger production farming agriculture of Iowa.  This transition area is what Prairie Rivers of Iowa has come to call the Urban Fringe.  It is that land and group of landowners, homeowners, and farmers that occupy that transitions ground between the city and large-scale agriculture. These landowners have chosen to live here for many reasons, some being: more space, aesthetics, fewer neighbors, space for animals and gardens, and the ability do and have more.  The reality is that...
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Cover Crop Week: October 14-20, 2018

Cover Crop Week: October 14-20, 2018

October 14-20, 2018 is Cover Crop Week in Iowa! As harvest continues (if the rain ever subsides), you will start seeing green in fields again. The green is actually cover crops, which are plants used in the off-season of cash crops planted to protect the soil in the vulnerable months of October through May. We have created a video about cover crops to give you an overview of the use and benefits of cover crops: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDBqx5Eurro. We have also created a fact sheet about cover crops to learn more: ...
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Counting our blessings: 1,165 acres of grassed waterways

Counting our blessings: 1,165 acres of grassed waterways

Look down from a plane in any part of the state and you will see Iowa farmers’ commitment to soil and water conservation etched into the landscape.  Using aerial photos and Lidar from 2007-2010, the Iowa DNR and Iowa State University recently completed a statewide project to map and inventory six conservation practices. The finished maps are available for most* of the Squaw Creek Watershed, so we tallied up the results.  It's encouraging to see that even in a flat part of the state, producers have been doing a lot to control soil erosion.  Thank you for your stewardship! 100 acres of contour buffer strips 1,165 acres of grassed waterways 173 miles of terraces 230 water and sediment control basins 21 farm ponds However, while Iowa has made a lot of progress in addressing soil erosion, we are just beginning to address nutrient losses.  The dead zone in the Gulf this year was the size of Connecticut and shrinking it will require...
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Cover Crops Can Pay! – Environmental Defense Fund Study Concludes Financial Benefits

Cover Crops Can Pay! – Environmental Defense Fund Study Concludes Financial Benefits

A recent study published by the Environmental Defense Fund outlines the financial benefits of cover crops in a row-crop operation. This, coupled with the environmental benefits, creates a practice that is both practical and vital to our state. This study used an agricultural accounting firm, called K-Coe Isom, to take an in-depth look at three producer's financial books after using cover crops and no-till. One of the farmers in the study is from Nevada, Iowa and the other two farmers are from Kansas and Ohio. Items that were considered for the study were fertilizer costs, herbicide costs, and crop yields after long-term use of cover crops and no-till. The budget categories identified were revenue, input costs, variable costs, and fixed costs. Key Findings from the study include: Conservation practices can pay. Farmers who adopted conservation practices - combinations of no-till, cover crops, nutrient optimization, and crop rotations - reported a cascade of cost savings throughout their budgets, including lower fertilizer, labor, fuel, and equipment...
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Historical Gas-Food-Lodging Stop at the Reed-Niland Corner

Historical Gas-Food-Lodging Stop at the Reed-Niland Corner

If you are looking for a unique, historical experience in middle America look no further than the Reed-Niland Corner in Colo, Iowa. This restored cafe, motel, and museum-like gas station location is a premiere stop on the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway. Whether it is the enticing good food, more-than-reasonable motel rates, or glow of the neon light in the Iowa landscape, this one-stop location has an appeal for the traveler like no other location in Iowa or even in the nation.                                               Photo credits: City of Colo It is literally in the middle of America. The Lincoln Highway was designated in 1913 and runs east and west at the north side of the town of Colo. It is now known as County Road E41. The Lincoln Highway begins in Times Square in New York and travels to San Francisco in California. The...
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