A small group of young adults is hard at work in a few of Iowa’s state parks again this summer. The Americorps trails crew, comprised of 11 current undergraduates or recent college graduates, is working with Iowa Department of Natural Resources staff on several projects. Whitney Davis, Trails Program Coordinator for the DNR, says the Americorps employees are paid a “modest living stipend” for some very difficult and dirty – but ultimately rewarding – work.
“We pride ourselves on using a lot of hand tools and manual labor to accomplish things that might be done with a machine if we brought in a contractor,” Davis says. “We do have some machines of our own that we use…but we can finesse things a lot better by hand.” The crew has moved into Springbrook State Park near Guthrie Center as they work to stabilize a trail surrounding a lake and bring back a pathway from the trail, up a hill, to a park.
“There are railroad tie stairs that go up to it, but they haven’t been used for quite some time and they’re in disrepair,” Davis says. “The trail crew is refurbishing that staircase. It’s pretty long and takes you up to a nice picnic area.” Other projects on the trail crew’s agenda this summer include improvements to equestrian trails within Lake of Three Fires State Park in Bedford and work in Bellevue State Park along the Mississippi River.
Davis says the Bellevue project involves construction of hiking trails. The workers are also scheduled to attend the 5th annual Iowa Trail Summit in Cedar Falls that features more than 20 panelists speaking about the future of Iowa’s trails. Last year, according to Davis, the trail crew’s most significant projects took place at Brushy Creek State Park, Bellevue State Park, and Stone State Park.
SIBLEY, Iowa (AP) – A northwest Iowa man has pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with the theft of farm and construction equipment. Michael Block, of Sibley, entered his written plea Thursday in Osceola County District Court. He faces seven counts of first-degree theft, 10 counts of second-degree theft and one count each of third- and fourth-degree theft.
The Sioux City Journal reports Block is accused of stealing farm and construction equipment that was reported missing in four Iowa counties. The equipment is valued at more than $200,000. Block turned himself in to authorities in April, after Osceola County sheriff’s deputies served warrants on his property and found items that had been reported stolen.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today (Friday) announced that five watershed demonstration projects have been selected to receive $1.7 million in funding through the Iowa water quality initiative over the next three years. In addition to the state funds, the eight projects will provide an additional $2.2 million in matching funds to support water quality improvement efforts as well as other in-kind contributions. The five projects are within the large priority watersheds prioritized by the Iowa Water Resources Coordinating Council (WRCC), which include the East and West Nishnabotna, Floyd, and Skunk watersheds.
Locally, the Bluegrass & Crabapple – East Nishnabotna Watershed Project received a $325,000 grant for a $1.2-million dollar project, where the Audubon Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) will expand on existing partnerships and foster a peer-to-peer network to help promote and spread adoption of nutrient reduction practices in the Bluegrass and Crabapple watersheds. An advisory group made up of partners and farmers has helped develop this project and help shape watershed-wide demonstrations.
And, the Walnut Creek Watershed Project – Subwatershed of the Nishnatbotna River Water Quality Initiative (WQI), received a $480,000 grant toward the $1.082-million project cost, to build a network of producers, local agribusiness representatives, and agencies to promote and demonstrate conservation practices detailed in the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. Thee partnerships – lead by the Montgomery County SWCD – will ensure the best information is used to help present a regional focus on management and implementation of these practices.
In all, the demonstration watersheds selected cover 345,449 acres. The projects will implement and demonstrate the effectiveness and adaptability of a host of conservation practices including, but not limited to: cover crops, nutrient management, wetlands, terraces, bioreactors, buffer strips, no-till, strip-till, nitrogen inhibitors, extended rotations, conservation cover, drainage water management and manure management.
Another round of funding for new watershed demonstration projects may be available later this year depending on funding availability.
Cass County Zoning Administrator Rich Hansen reported to the Board of Supervisors, Thursday, a business north of Atlantic is requesting a change of zoning for their property on North Olive Street, to keep up with growing business demands.
Hansen says the request from the Farm Service Cooperative (FSC), who wants to expand their operations 4.6-acres to the north. The move will help the company grow its agronomy and chemical sales on the site. Plans call for a scale, office and agronomy buildings.
Hansen says the Zoning Board is expected to hear their proposal on June 12th. The Zoning Board’s recommendation stemming from that meeting on the proposed rezoning request, will be sent to the Supervisors for final action.
Iowa residents may fish without a license on June 6, 7 and 8 as part of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources free fishing weekend. Free fishing weekend allows Iowans an opportunity to try fishing without purchasing a license. All other regulations remain in place.
“We are experiencing some excellent fishing across the state right now at Green Valley Lake, Little River Lake, Hawthorne Lake and our trout streams and our fisheries at Rice Lake, Silver Lake and Lake Miami are being improved to provide better fishing in the future,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of the Iowa DNR’s Fisheries Bureau. We hope that someone who gives fishing a try during free fishing weekend will enjoy the experience and want to go fishing more often and become a license holder,” Larscheid said.
Free fishing weekend is scheduled during what is traditionally the time when bluegills are close to shore and aggressive. “This is a great time to take kids fishing because the chance for success is pretty good,” he said. The best way to catch bluegills, according to Larscheid, is to use small tackle – little hooks, a bobber no larger than a quarter, 4-pound test line and small bait.
Anyone catching their first fish is encouraged to take a photo of it and send it in to receive the DNR’s first fish award. The DNR will commemorate the event with a certificate suitable for framing and the submitted photo.
Information on the first fish program is available in the Iowa Fishing Regulations and online at http://www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing/MasterAnglerFirstFish.aspx
Qualifying fish caught during free fishing weekend are also eligible for master angler recognition. For bluegills, the minimum length for master angler award is 10 inches.
A bill to improve the nation’s waterways could help grain farmers in the Midwest compete in the global marketplace. The Waterways Resource Reform and Development Act, or WRRDA (pronounced ‘word-uh’), has been over a year in the making. It authorizes spending $12 billion for improvements such as deepening ports. Grain farmers hope it will ultimately allow for larger ships to carry corn, soybeans, and wheat to foreign markets. Corning, Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser is president of the American Soybean Association.
“The demand for soybeans, that protein and oil that we have from the soybeans, has just been growing so terrifically in the last 20 years and meeting that demand is important,” Gaesser say. Exports are an increasingly important part of grain marketing, but according to Gaesser, many locks and dams are 80 years old and new modern ships are too big for the depth of some ports.
“That infrastructure, that ability to effectively and efficiently move our products within the United States and throughout the world…it’s a big deal to agriculture,” Gaesser says. Congress passed WRRDA earlier this month, but President Obama has yet to sign it. Congress must still decide exactly how and whether to appropriate the funding.
Some Iowa cattle producers report they’re having trouble qualifying some of their acreages with the federal government’s livestock forage disaster program. Ed Greiman of Garner, president of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, says the Farm Service Agency isn’t to blame, but the problem is with how the program is defined and who is eligible for assistance.
“I’ve certified all of my pasture acres as haying and grazing, which puts it in the category that does not qualify for the disaster program,” Greiman says. “It needs to be classified as grazing only. For instance, I’ve got sorghum that we were going to chop, we ended up grazing, that doesn’t qualify.” Greiman says he’s coordinating with Iowa U-S Senator Chuck Grassley, the head of the F-S-A and the U-S Ag Secretary to try and find the proper and most efficient solution to the difficulties.
Greiman says, “We’re working on, not only with Senator Grassley, but with Whitaker’s office and Vilsack, is can we maybe change those classifications because we ended up grazing them.” He says most Midwest producers hay and graze their acres, so it’s not one-size-fits-all that brings the best program benefits.
WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) – Park officials are asking Iowa campers to burn all their firewood to slow the spread of the emerald ash borer. In Black Hawk County, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports park staff began making that request to Memorial Day weekend campers in hopes that wood carrying the insect wouldn’t be moved from place to place. The insect has been found in nine Iowa counties: Allamakee, Des Moines, Jefferson, Cedar, Union, Black Hawk, Wapello, Bremer and Jasper.
Vern Fish, the Black Hawk County Conservation Board’s executive director, notes the insects don’t travel far on their own, but “they’re carried in the back of a pickup truck.” Emerald ash borers destroy ash trees over several years. Some Iowa communities already have begun cutting ash trees in anticipation of the insects’ arrival.