The third module builds on the lessons and understanding of Iowa's ecosystems and geology earned in the first two modules to find opportunities for conservation in Iowa's modern landscapes. We'll discuss the major challenges presented by Iowa's highly modified landscape and discuss opportunity areas for conservation in agricultural, urban, and natural areas in the state.
At the end of this session, participants should:
- Understand the key conservation challenges in agricultural, urban, and natural areas in Iowa.
- Be familiar with conservation practices that can be employed to address conservation challenges throughout the state.
- Recognize key conservation programs and policies that provide public funding for actions on private lands and how some actions are strategically implemented to provide the greatest public benefit.
Before coming to the in-person session, complete the following elements.
- Watch the recorded lecture (60 minutes; download PDF of slides here) by Dr. Adam Janke and Ann Staudt to learn about conservation, challenges, practices, and programs in Iowa's natural areas, agricultural areas, and urban areas.
- Explore the resources below to learn more about practices and programs in your area or in ecosystems you're interested in.
References supporting materials covered in this module. Explore as you have time and interest!
Episodes of Iowa Land and Sky program
The Iowa Land and Sky program from Iowa Public Broadcasting has a wonderful library of short, educational videos about Iowa's landscapes and ecology. Here's a list of episodes that add to the focus of this module.
- Water quality in the Mississippi and Missouri River watersheds in Iowa (6:42)
- Iowa's cities, towns, and waterways (26:52)
- Water management in a river city: Cedar Rapids (5:28)
- Reclaiming Iowa's abandoned coal mine lands (8:27)
- Protecting Iowa pollinators (6:03)
Resources from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
- The Whole Farm Conservation Best Practices Manual (pdf) is a detailed publication from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach that helps landowners and land managers walk through the diversity of possible water-quality conservation practices that can be used on working farms and find those that may work for them and their land. Practices profiled include edge of field practices, like wetlands, bioreactors, and saturated buffers, as well as in-field conservation practices like tillage practices and cover crops.
- The People in Ecosystems Watershed Integration game, or PEWI is a digital game-based learning tool that helps people understand the impacts of agricultural and natural land uses. Users can learn how to explore the impacts of 15 land uses on biodiversity, water quality, wildlife, production agriculture, and more complex topics such as carbon sequestration. The game is fun for all ages, but may be especially useful in the classroom setting.
- The Prairie Strips Project is a conservation practice with potential to have multiple benefits for wildlife, soil, and water quality in Iowa.
- The Iowa Learning Farms program has an number of resources on conservation practices used in agricultural landscapes. Below the most relevant pages are indexed.
- Edge of field practices like engineered wetlands, bioreactors, terraces, and buffers.
- Cover crops
- Soil conservation practices including strip tillage and no-till.
- The "Talking with your tenant" and "Talking with your landlord" articles on this page help non-operator landowners or renters have conversations about conservation on Iowa farmlands.
- The water quality extension page has a number of resources on water quality conservation practices including this cool story map about how nitrogen moves through agricultural environments.
- Information on creating outdoor classrooms with native plants.
- Water quality practices series from the Iowa Watershed Approach project:
- Other articles on water quality practices
Conservation Programs and Resources in Iowa
- To find district foresters, private land biologists from the DNR, Pheasants Forever, or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NRCS offices, and County Conservation Board offices, and others that can help with conservation on private lands in your home county, use the Wildlife Contacts application on this website.
- A Guide to Iowa Conservation Programs from the Iowa NRCS. For a more interactive review of key conservation practices available through NRCS, check out their website and publication called Conservation Choices.
- Iowa DNR Resource Conservation and Enhancement Program (REAP) grant program for private landowners.
- Iowa's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) installs nutrient treatment wetlands in strategic watershed.
- Rainscaping Iowa is a program that promotes urban water quality practices.
- The Iowa Watershed Approach is an coordinated effort for water quality in key watersheds around the state. Learn more on their website and from this 2018 interactive report.
- The Clean Water Iowa website has a nice overview of conservation practices being used in agricultural and urban landscapes in Iowa.
- Conservation Easements can be an effective tool for protecting agricultural and natural lands for some landowners. Learn more about the practice on the Landowner Options website from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.
- Plant. Grow. Fly. initiative of the Blank Park Zoo to encourage more diverse, native gardens in Iowa.
- Learn about resources for wildlife-friendly landscaping in Iowa
Learn from some of Iowa's Conservation Champions
- Seth Watkins farms in Taylor County. Learn more about his approach to land stewardship and agriculture in this video (7 minutes).
- Tim Smith farms near Eagle Grove. Learn more about his approach to farming and conservation in this video from the Walton Family Foundation (2 minutes).
- Wendy Johnson farms outside Charles City. Learn more about her farm and approach to conservation in this video from the Walton Family Foundation (2 minutes).
Examples of Strategic Conservation Strategies in Iowa
- Iowa Wildlife Action Plan
- Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy
- Iowa Bird Conservation Areas
- Agriculture Conservation Planning Framework
- Iowa Watershed Approach
- Bringing Nature Home: How you can sustain wildlife with native plants, (2009) by Douglas W. Tallamy and Rick Darke
- The Tallgrass Restoration Handbook: For Prairies, Savannas, and Woodlands, (2005) Edited by Stephen Packard and Cornelia F. Mutel
Do you have ideas for how we can improve this online module? Did we miss a resource that you think should be included? Were elements too long or too short? Too technical or not technical enough? Please help us improve the Master Conservationist Program by providing feedback on this short online form?