Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week is April 29 to May 6. It is an opportunity to recognize the important conservation work that has been placed on the Iowa landscape and bring attention to the ongoing work by farmers, landowners and urban residents to protect the state's soil and water resources.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad last week signed a proclamation recognizing April 29 – May 6 as Soil and Water Conservation Week in the state. "Soil and Water Conservation Week recognizes that the abundance of our agricultural products and the quality of life we enjoy are dependent upon the proper use and management of soil and water resources," he notes
"Iowa's soil and water, along with the efficiency of our famers, is what makes our state so productive," adds Bill Northey, Iowa secretary of agriculture. It is vital that we preserve these resources that are responsible for such a significant part of our state's economy. Soil and Water Conservation Week is a great opportunity to highlight the important work being done to prevent soil erosion and protect water quality in Iowa."
Important work being done to prevent soil erosion, protect water quality in Iowa
Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week this year is being coordinated with national Stewardship Week, which is sponsored by the National Association of Conservation Districts. This year's Stewardship Week theme is "Soil to Spoon" and is designed to focus the nation's attention on the stewardship of our natural resources.
The severe erosion during the "Dust Bowl" years of the 1930s brought about the first efforts to prevent soil erosion, which also helped protect water resources. Iowa passed a law in 1939 to establishing a state agency and the means for soil and water conservation districts to organize. This legislation declared it the policy of the State of Iowa to: preserve soil and water; protect the state's tax base; and promote health, safety and public welfare of people of Iowa.
Today, Iowa is a national leader in the implementation of water quality and watershed projects, soil conservation and buffer programs. Iowa currently leads the nation in the USDA's continuous Conservation Reserve Program buffer initiative with more than 600,000 acres participating. Iowa also has more than 60 active watershed and water quality projects across the state.
Iowa is a national leader in water quality and watershed projects on the land
The Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship's Division of Soil Conservation and the 100 Soil and Water Conservations Districts located in each county are fulfilling Iowa's conservation mission declared over 70 years ago. The department's conservation partners include USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Iowa State University, among many others.
The state ag department's Division of Soil Conservation provides state leadership in the protection and management of soil, water and mineral resources and assisting soil and water conservation districts and private farmers and landowners to meet their agricultural and environmental protection needs, in both rural and urban landscapes.
"With new environmental concerns, flooding and conservation issues, the work of the our department's soil conservation division and all the conservation partners in the state remains vitally important," notes Northey.
Iowa agriculture department also has expanded urban conservation program
In recent years, the department has also created an urban conservation program that takes the lessons we have learned from that 70 years of working with farmers and landowners and applies them to our urban areas. "Iowa towns and cities also get rain and we've found that parking lots, streets and yards can also generate runoff that impacts water quality in our state and can contribute to flood flows, especially in smaller urban streams with a significant amount of development in their watersheds," he says.
The department now has five urban conservationists that work with homeowners, developers, businesses and community leaders across the state. They help educate them about strategies and practices that can be installed so rainwater movement is slowed down and allowed to infiltrate into the ground rather than run-off and carry any pollutants with it. Urban conservation practices include rain gardens, bioretention cells, soil quality restoration, native landscaping, permeable pavement and others.
They have also created a "Rainscaping Iowa" campaign. One of the goals of this effort is to train landscaping professionals in designing and installing these urban conservation practices so homeowners can work with these professionals to install these practices in their community. For more information on the different types of urban conservation practices or to find a "Rainscaper" near you just visit www.rainscapingiowa.org.
Much more work to do, but working together Iowans can make progress
"We still have work to do, but working together, in partnership, I'm confident we can build on the conservation ethic of Iowans and continue our efforts to improve the quality of the air, soil and water in our state," concludes Northey. Northey, a corn and soybean farmer from Spirit Lake in northwest Iowa, is serving his second term as Iowa Secretary of Ag. His priorities are the expanding the opportunities surrounding renewable energy, promoting conservation and stewardship, and telling the story of Iowa agriculture.