Inspiration from Master River Stewards

Inspiration from Master River Stewards

Prairie Rivers of Iowa in partnership with Story County Conservation had the opportunity to host a wonderful group of river stewards through an 8-week course focusing on the whole river ecosystem. Session 1: Introduction/Watersheds The first week we began by getting to know each other and hearing from each group member on what inspired them to join the class and how they like to interact with rivers. We heard a lot of stories of frequent paddlers, wading, and general river exploration from youth to current times. We quickly realized we had a very professionally diverse group that all had a similarity of being passionate about river life and water quality. Our first speaker was one of the program founders, Jim Pease.  He gave an inspiring introduction to the course. This was followed by Prairie Rivers of Iowa's Watershed Educator, Dan Haug. Dan presented on the basics of watershed concepts and led an activity on how to delineate a watershed. Upon completion of the activity we went...
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Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway News

The Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway has been selected to continue on to the second round of the ArtPlace America Grant! Out of 1,000 applications, 70 were selected for a site visit and asked to submit a final application. Our Byway was one of those selected. Quite an honor! The Byway's proposed project is to work with Preston's Historic District in Belle Plaine, Reed-Niland Corner in Colo, and Youngville in rural Benton County to restore their old gas stations; add art, interpretive signs, and oral histories; and re-purpose the stations by adding electric charging stations. Many partners have gathered to bring this project together and we can not wait to know if we receive these funds. We will continue fundraising efforts to add to the overall project that will be jump-started with the ArtPlace America grant. We also have a new Recreational and Camping Brochure available. It has been placed in some Iowa Welcome Centers and a few key Lincoln Highway locations,...
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Hamilton County Farmer Receives 2017 Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award

Hamilton County Farmer Receives 2017 Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award

Larry Haren, a farmer in Hamilton County, received a 2017 Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award in a ceremony at the Iowa State Fair Wednesday, Aug. 16. The Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award is a joint effort of the Office of the Governor, the Office of the Lt. Governor, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. It recognizes Iowa farmers as local leaders who are taking steps to improve or protect the environment and natural resources in their farming operations. Those recognized have adopted best management practices and incorporated environmental stewardship throughout their farms and work to encourage other farmers to follow in their footsteps by building upon success.   Haren’s farm has been in operation for more than 10 years and covers over 400 acres. He installed a pond to drain his neighbors’ tile, which alone reduced nitrates by 50 percent. He then installed a denitrifying bioreactor to reduce the nitrate levels even further. Other...
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Urban Fringe Project to Begin in Squaw Creek

To expand our long-time efforts in the Squaw Creek Watershed, we are beginning an urban fringe project this fall. This project is funded by a Conservation Collaboration Grant from the Iowa NRCS and will be working specifically in the area just northwest of Ames.   In order to serve those landowners in the Squaw Creek that might have less resources or ability to implement the much-needed conservation practices in a critical area of the watershed, our Watersheds & Waterways team at Prairie Rivers of Iowa sought out the opportunity to expand our current successful implementation in the Squaw Creek Watershed. We will be working directly with landowners of 10-100 acres in the 5-mile urban fringe of Ames in the Squaw Creek Watershed to connect them to resources in order to understand soil health and water quality on a deeper level. We will also utilize our cost-share dollars from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, as well as cost-share programs from...
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River Clean-Ups: A Dirty, Yet Rewarding Activity

River Clean-Ups: A Dirty, Yet Rewarding Activity

The Conservation Corps of Iowa spent a very hot July day this past month wading in the South Skunk River to collect discarded garbage from the river. They worked on the 5-mile section of the South Skunk River from Anderson Access to Soper's Mill Access Point in Story County. This collection is just one of many clean-ups that happen throughout the year. A representative from the team sent in these photos, along with the comment of "The most common object that we collected were cans and bottles, which is disappointing since it is so easy to recycle those in Iowa. " To learn more about Conservation Corps of Iowa, visit: http://www.conservationcorps.org/.   Watershed Educator, Dan, also spent time recently doing a trash cleanup in College Creek (tributary of Squaw Creek) with the Live Green! program at Iowa State University. Crews were split in teams to tackle small stretches of the creek; 31 volunteers together collecting a total of over 1,000 pounds of trash. After the...
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Map your watershed

August is National Water Quality Month.  Help us showcase ongoing efforts to improve soil health and water quality in Squaw Creek Watershed and the larger South Skunk River watershed by uploading a photo to our crowd-sourced map. Do you have a photo of cover crops on your farm or a rain garden in your backyard?  If not, maybe you have a photo of a stream in your area that’s worth protecting.  Photos of flood control, stream restoration, and trash cleanup efforts are also fair game. Click here and log-in as a guest or using your Google or Facebook account.  Upload a photo and write a brief description.  If the photo was taken with a smartphone and has embedded GPS coordinates, a red circle will automatically appear on the map.  Otherwise, you can type in an address or zoom in and click on the map to set the location.  Your photo will appear on the crowd-sourced map once it is approved by the...
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ACPF: A menu of conservation opportunities

I’ll take some cover crops with a prairie filter strip on the contour, a side-dressed nitrogen application, a grassed waterway, and riparian buffer strip.  Hold the soil, please. The research that informed Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy made it clear that there’s a large menu of conservation practices that can keep nutrients and soil on our crop land and out of our waterways.  The Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF) is one way for farmers to explore those options. The ACPF toolbox is an add-on for ArcGIS software developed by the USDA Agricultural Research Service.  It uses high resolution elevation data along with soils and landuse data to map suitable sites for conservation practices including grassed waterways, saturated buffers, bioreactors, drainage water management, water and sediment control basins, nutrient removal wetlands, and contour buffer strips. For example, denitrifying bioreactors are a relatively new practice that can prevent excess nitrate in drainage water from reaching streams.  A buried bed of woodchips intercepts the flow from tile...
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Bringing People Together Can Be a Dirty Job

Bringing People Together Can Be a Dirty Job

  If you haven’t heard of Project AWARE, it’s time to listen up. For the past fifteen years, the Iowa DNR has successfully implemented a week-long river trash cleanup that most would consider too much of a logistical nightmare to even attempt. This past week however, marked Project AWARE’s (A Water Awareness River Expedition) fifteenth birthday. From July 10th to the 14th, over 500 people from all over the country, came together to paddle over 55 miles on the Cedar River, picking up literally tons of trash along the way. On just my two years having participated in AWARE, I’ve witnessed the group effort of digging out a speedboat from a sandbar, countless tires removed from the river bottom, and been up to my knees in river muck just to grab a single can or piece of plastic from the shoreline. It’s a dirty job, and although I’d like to say that someone has to do it, that’s just not true. People...
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What’s a HUC?  Understanding hydrologic units

What’s a HUC? Understanding hydrologic units

Story County is taking the forward-looking step of assessing all its HUC12 watersheds so it has solid information for managing its water resources.  Prairie Rivers of Iowa is excited to be part of the project: our team is busy mapping potential conservation practices using the Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework.  That's great, you might say, but what's a HUC? We're used to thinking of nested levels when it comes to our home addresses.  You live in a city or township within a county within a state within a nation. Jackson Township, Boone County, Iowa, USA In the same way, you have a watershed address.  Your land probably drains to a creek that drains to a river that drains to a larger river.  The further downstream you go, the larger the watershed. Onion Creek watershed, Squaw Creek watershed, South Skunk River watershed, Mississippi River basin The US Geologic Survey's Watershed Boundary Dataset is a good way of representing this watershed address.  The entire United States is divided up...
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Benefits of Prairie Roots in the Iowa Landscape

Benefits of Prairie Roots in the Iowa Landscape

Prairie Rivers of Iowa is now the proud owner of a prairie root display, grown by the University of Northern Iowa Tall Grass Prairie Center. The display boasts five foot tall Big Bluestem and Butterfly Milkweed roots. These examples of fibrous and tap prairie roots will help PRI staff engage the public in conversations about the importance of prairie roots in the Iowa landscape. The massive root systems of prairie plants hold soil in place, increase infiltration, and trap pollutants while building rich, absorbent, flood-resilient soil. Prairies are also an essential part of Iowa’s native wildlife habitat and ecosystem both above and below ground. Diverse communities of organisms are found in the extensive root systems. These communities may include ground squirrels, many types of fungi, invertebrates such as earthworms, and also symbiotic bacteria. Above ground, the ecosystem is ideal for an array of birds, mammals, and pollinators. Come see our prairie root display in action! Prairie Rivers of Iowa will be at...
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