Category Archives: Conservation

Clean Water Advocates and Experts Gathered at Iowa Water Quality Summit

Clean Water Advocates and Experts Gathered at Iowa Water Quality Summit
Izaak Walton League Brings Community Together To Address Water Pollution Across Iowa

Des Moines, IA – Water pollution is a persistent threat in communities across Iowa. Last weekend, the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) brought together advocates, academics, and agency staff to discuss water quality challenges specific to Iowa and map out steps to create a state-wide volunteer network to monitor water quality and push for changes to improve water quality.

“Monitoring is the first step to improving water quality,” says Sam Briggs, IWLA Clean Water Program Director. “You have to know what’s wrong to be able to fix it. Our goal is to train more stream monitors across Iowa and provide a home for their monitoring results that the public can use to find water quality information for their communities.”

IOWATER, the state’s volunteer water quality monitoring program, no longer has funding to continue, so the League is working to find other ways for individuals and organizations to collaborate on a state-wide volunteer water quality monitoring program. The League partnered with our local Des Moines Chapter to host an Iowa Water Quality Summit.

“Iowa has over 750 impaired waterways and is one of the main contributors to the ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico,” says Mike Delaney, Conservation Director for the IWLA Iowa Division. “Public health and recreation continue to be threatened by polluted waters. Monitoring waterways is critical to gauge how we are doing – for better or worse.”

Delaney opened the summit, followed by a warm welcome from Richard Galloway, President of the IWLA Des Moines Chapter. Sam Briggs shared information about how the League’s Clean Water Hub (cleanwaterhub.org) provides a nationwide database to share local water quality monitoring results. Due to the urgency of Iowa’s water quality problems, the League recently dedicated a full-time position staff person to Iowa to serve as the Midwest Save our Streams Coordinator. This is a huge step forward to help expand water quality monitoring efforts in Iowa.

Speakers, panel discussions, and breakout sessions incorporated knowledge, experience, challenges, and successes based on long-term programs. Presenters and panel members included Mary Skopec (Iowa Lakeside Laboratory), Steve Konrady (Iowa DNR), Chris Jones (IIHR), Dan Haug (Prairie Rivers of Iowa), Ted Corrigan (Des Moines Water Works), Susan Judkins (President, Watershed Management Association), and Rich Leopold (Polk County Conservation). Attendees left the summit feeling optimistic that collaboration will continue and expand with the support of the Izaak Walton League of America.

The Iowa Water Quality Summit followed two other important water quality events in Des Moines this summer. The League’s annual National Convention was held in West Des Moines July 16-19, and the Iowa Water Festival was held at the League’s Des Moines Chapter on June 23.

To learn more about how to get involved in improving water quality in Iowa, contact Save Our Streams Coordinator Zach Moss (zmoss@iwla.org) or visit www.iwla.org/cleanwater.

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Founded in 1922, the Izaak Walton League of America (www.iwla.org) protects America’s outdoors through education, community-based conservation, and promoting outdoor recreation.

Monthly Feature: Species 101: Iowa’s Aquatic Turtles

Snapper Photo Courtesy of pixabay.com 

Iowa has 17 species of turtles with most being aquatic out of the 356 species found worldwide. Turtles are the oldest reptile and fossils found date during the Jurassic time period, older than snakes and crocs.

Tortoises and fresh water turtles are the most threatened with extinction than any other vertebrate. They have a lot of human pressure against them with the large Asian trade, over harvesting, water and land pollution and habitat destruction.

Another challenge turtles face is they do not reach sexual maturity until they are several years old and do not mate annually. Unfortunately, turtles are difficult to re-establish once gone from an area. They can be defined as in a “fragile” state with fingers crossed for their sustainability.

Most are considered in the common category, however there are some species that are threatened in the state and all around turtle abundance of common species of years gone by is no longer their current status and overall are declining. It is no longer typical to see logs and logs of turtles sunning as you recreate on rivers. You may paddle some rivers and sections and not see any turtles.

Iowa turtles have many challenges with loss of habitat and over harvest and only recent regulations placed.  Many are sold to Asian markets by commercial hunters resulting in lower populations of turtles across some of their past locales. Iowa’s regulations and limits began in 2017.

Current Iowa Turtle Season and Regulations: 
 
Spiny softshell, smooth softshell and painted turtles
  • Open December 15 until May 14.
  • Closed May 15 until July 15.
  • Open July 16 until January 10.
Common snapping turtle
Continuous open season.
Iowa Turtle Limits:
You can take and possess a maximum of 100 pounds of live turtles or 50 pounds of dressed turtles.
Spiny softshell, or smooth softshell, Daily catch limit – 1
Painted turtle, Daily catch limit – 1
Common snapping turtle, Daily catch limit – 4
Iowa Turtle Regulations:
  • You need a fishing license to take common snapping turtles, spiny softshells, smooth softshells, and painted turtles.
  • Nonresidents can only take common snapping turtles, spiny softshells, smooth softshells, and painted turtles from the Missouri, Mississippi and Big Sioux rivers.
  • You must have a special license to sell live or dressed turtles.
  • You cannot take turtle eggs from the wild.
  • You can take turtles only by hand, turtle hook, turtle trap or hook and line.
  • You cannot sort, cull, high-grade, or otherwise replace any turtle in possession.
  • Turtle traps must have no more than one throat or funneling device.
  • All turtle traps must have a functional escape hole provided with a minimum diameter in all directions of 7-1/2 inches to let fish and small turtles pass through.
  • The 7-1/2 inch escape hole on hoop type traps must be in the last hoop to the tail-line.
  • Set all turtle traps with the top of the trap visible above the waterline at all times.
  • You must attach an all-weather gear tag above the waterline to each piece of gear. The gear tag must plainly display the name, address, and license number of the licensee.
  • Check each trap and empty the catch at least every 72 hours (3 days). When checked, turtles shall be taken into possession or released immediately.
Blanding’s Turtle
Painted Turtle 
False Map Turtle 
Turtle Photos Courtesy of Kip Ladage
For more information on the Iowa’s aquatic turtles, click here:
Info credits to:  Iowa DNR, Wikipedia, “Turtles in Trouble” by the Turtle Conservation Coalition, Iowa Sierra Club.

News from Genoa National Fish Hatchery

The Higgins’ eye pearlymussel is native to the Mississippi River and some of its northern tributaries. It is usually found in areas of swift current and buries itself in mud-gravel bottoms in water up to 15 feet deep with only the edge of its shell and its feeding siphons exposed.
Higgins’ eye populations are in immediate danger of being eliminated in the Upper Mississippi River. One of the strategies to save the species is the propagation of the Higgins’ eye at Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin.
Article Credit to Genoa National Fish Hatchery
Photo Credit: Gary L. Wege, USFWS

Heavy Rainfall Causes Multiple Wastewater and Manure Releases

Following heavy rainfall and flash flooding throughout much of Iowa, the DNR encourages Iowans to stay out of Iowa streams until after the waters recede.

While fast stream currents are the biggest risk for people, high waters can also carry dangerous debris and bacteria. “For their own safety, we encourage people to stay out of the water until several days after streams return to normal,” said Scott Wilson in the DNR’s Spencer field office.

“About 70 wastewater discharges have been reported over the Memorial Day weekend, and the calls are still coming in,” Wilson said. With more rain predicted, additional discharges are expected.

“Some cities have reported multiple wastewater discharges, and two have reported storm water backups into basements,” he added. Both the Iowa DNR and the Department of Public Health have helpful links for people dealing with disasters and flood cleanup.

Some livestock facilities, particularly in northwest Iowa, have had two to four or more inches of rain. “Most of these facilities are OK, but we are working with a few to stop runoff,” Wilson said.

Facilities that are discharging or expecting to discharge should contact their local DNR field office. “We’ll work with them to identify solutions and minimize impacts to nearby streams,” Wilson said.

After hours, facilities can call the DNR emergency spill line at 515-725-8694. The DNR website has more information about spill reporting requirements.

For the Iowa DNR article go to: https://www.iowadnr.gov/About-DNR/DNR-News-Releases/ArticleID/2470/Heavy-rainfall-causes-multiple-wastewater-and-manure-releases

Tips for Helping a Turtle Cross the Road

Eastern Box Turtle

Article credits to: By Danielle Brigida, USFWS

Photo credits to:  by Danielle Brigida, USFWS

This time of year many wildlife, like turtles, are on the move. As the weather warms, turtles go in search for new territory, breeding opportunities and quests for food. Also, many females will travel to find ideal places to lay their eggs and will often cross the roads. Please keep a lookout for them while you’re driving this season.

Helping Turtles Cross the Street

  1. Always keep your own safety in mind — watch out for oncoming vehicles, signal properly when pulling over and recognize your surroundings first before working to help save an animal.
  2. Be very careful when moving the animal (it could be injured or it could bite you depending on what species). If possible, sometimes it is best to just stand guard as the animal crosses the road on its own.
  3.  If the animal needs to be moved, move it to the other side of the road in the same direction it was going. Using a car mat can be a good way to help the turtles across without actually picking them up. By using a car mat or putting something under the turtle, you can slide the turtle in the direction it was going.
  4. Do not pick the turtle up by the tail. Some turtles may be frightened and will try to bite (like snapping turtles). Do not pick them up by the tail! Here’s a great video showing ways to safely help a snapping turtle in the road such as the car mat trick, or by holding them at the
  5.  Do NOT take it with you — please only focus on helping it get safely to the other side.
  6. Get involved with roadside restoration and transportation projects: We’re working to make our roads and roadsides work for transportation and the environment. Learn more about road ecology and wildlife for ways to get involved at a local level.
    base of the shell and not the side.
  7. Learn more about wildlife laws in your state. Contact your State and Territorial Fish and Wildlife Office to verify what is legal for your state and ways you can get involved. You also are always welcome to contact your closest National Wildlife Refuge to learn more about what species to look out for.

    8. If possible, snap a photo and report sightings Herp Mapper to help track the movements of these reptiles.

Clean, Drain and Dry to Avoid Aquatic Hitchhikers

 

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds all boaters and anglers to “Clean, Drain, and Dry” their boats and equipment to protect Iowa lakes and rivers from aquatic hitchhikers.

Aquatic hitchhikers are invasive species – everything from zebra mussels to Eurasian watermilfoil – that move from one waterbody to another by hitchhiking on boats, in bait buckets and on other equipment used in the water. They often grow quickly and spread fast when brought to another lake or stream due to lack of natural controls.
“The best way to control the negative impacts of aquatic invasive species in Iowa is to prevent their spread to new waterbodies,” said Kim Bogenschutz, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Iowa DNR.

These aquatic invasive species can create serious problems for Iowa waters by reducing native species and making lakes and rivers unusable for boaters, anglers and swimmers.
Boaters and anglers can unintentionally spread aquatic hitchhikers if they do not take the proper precautions each time they leave a lake or river.

  • CLEAN any plants, animals, or mud from your boat and equipment before you leave a waterbody.
  • DRAIN water from all equipment (motor, live well, bilge, transom well, bait bucket) before you leave a waterbody.
  • DRY anything that comes into contact with water (boats, trailers, equipment, boots, clothing, dogs). Before you move to another waterbody either: Spray your boat and trailer with hot or high-pressure water; or Dry your boat and equipment for at least five days.
  • Never release plants, fish, or animals into a water body unless they came out of that water body and empty unwanted bait in the trash.

It is illegal to possess or transport prohibited aquatic invasive species. It is illegal to transport any aquatic plants on water-related equipment in Iowa. Signs posted at public accesses remind boaters to stop aquatic hitchhikers and identify infested waters.

Boaters must also drain all water from boats and equipment before they leave a water access and keep drain plugs removed or opened during transport. It is also illegal to introduce any live fish, except for hooked bait, into public waters.
Find more information about aquatic invasive species and a list of infested waters in the current Iowa Fishing Regulations or at https://www.iowadnr.gov/ais.

Iowa Threatened & Endangered Species

You cannot take, possess, transport, import, export, process, sell or offer for sale, buy or offer to buy, nor can a common or contract carrier transport or receive for shipment any of the following species of fish, frogs, turtles, mussels or salamanders:
Fish:
Lake Sturgeon, Pallid Sturgeon, Pugnose Shiner, Weed Shiner, Pearl Dace, Freckled Madtom, Bluntnose Darter, Least Darter, American Brook Lamprey, Chestnut Lamprey, Grass Pickerel, Blacknose Shiner, Western Sand Darter, Black Redhorse, Burbot, Orangethroat Darter, Topeka Shiner
Frogs:
Crawfish Frog
Turtles:
Yellow Mud Turtle, Wood Turtle, Ornate Box Turtle, Common Musk Turtle, Blanding’s Turtle
Mussels:
Spectacle Case, Slippershell, Buckhorn, Ozark Pigtoe, Bullhead, Ohio River Pigtoe, Slough Sandshell, Yellow Sandshell, Cylinder, Strange Floater, Creek Heelsplitter, Purple Pimpleback, Butterfly, Ellipse and the Higgin’s Eye Pearly Mussel
Salamanders:
Blue-spotted Salamander, Central Newt and the Mudpuppy.
Info credits to Iowa DNR
Photo credits by Wikipedia 

Keep It Clean! Keep It Fun! By Guest Author Ruth Dunlevy of “Back Water Paddlers”

The following is a “guest article” contribution to the IWTA about how anyone can help create a more positive culture on the river and focusing on how to politely get would-be litterers to take and use a Keep It Clean /Keep It Fun mesh litter bag! A brief description of the Iowa DNR campaign will follow the article.

” I started paddling at a young age in Ohio and fell in love with rivers. Living in Iowa, I started working at Sea-ta-Sea Watersports in 2007. I was doing kayak demonstrations, sales and volunteering as a kayaker for local triathlons. Now I work with Eric at Up a Creek in Central City doing pretty much the same thing.

We started Backwater Paddlers right after Sea-ta-Sea closed down. We were meeting so many people on the river and our group has now grown to over 700 followers. People appreciate that we let the river determine when and where we are going to paddle every Sunday, usually starting in April every year.

We post on Facebook where and what time we are going and people show up.
I started speaking at Paddle Day at Indian Creek and I met up with Todd Robertson from the Iowa DNR. He had these amazing blue Keep it Clean, Keep it Fun bags that we could tether to our outside rigging on our kayaks so we didn’t have to bring yuck into our boats. I have used the same bag over and over again for cans and bottles and other trash.

At the start of every event when we have new paddlers to the group, I offer them a blue bag and show them how to use it. I also give them to fisherman, tubers and others enjoying our rivers to keep the garbage out of our waterways.

Last year I started a fund with all the cans we collect. We just sent our first check into Iowa Rivers Revival. I chose this nonprofit group because our watersheds are being neglected and underfunded by our state. Our water is one of our greatest resources we have here in Iowa to promote a lifestyle and tourism. IRR works endlessly on keeping our watersheds clean. Making that small effort every time we paddle helps to keep our water ways cleaner. ”

Keep It Clean! Keep It Fun! 

The campaign goal: To improve behavior on Iowa’s rivers and lakes. An Iowa DNR public relations campaign to improve that behavior called Keep It Clean, Keep It Fun, was initiated on a limited scale in 2013.

“We want people to have fun on the river, but not at the expense of others, ” says Nate Hoogeveen, director of the Iowa DNR’s river programs.

The message is simple:

Keep It Clean. Pick up trash as you go and pack out the trash you bring in.
Keep It Fun. Use respectful language and behavior.
For Everyone! Respect private property.

“More and more livery businesses are handing out litter bags to all of their customers who go out to enjoy a day on the river”, says Todd Robertson, outreach coordinator for rivers programs at the Iowa DNR. “To see anglers and boaters wanting one for their tackle boxes and boats is so awesome, it really makes a difference.”

Later in 2019 there will be many County Conservation Boards and more retail stores stocking bags that can be picked up for free on a limited basis. Bait stores across the state will also be stocking a few.

For now, you can email todd.robertson@dnr.iowa.gov and request a bag starting now and either pick it up at the Iowa DNR in Des Moines or it can be mailed to you.

Monthly Feature: Species 101: North American River Otter

Photos Courtesy of Steven Niewoehner

 

 

 

 

 

The North American River Otter is a playful and curious semi-aquatic mammal found in rivers, lakes and marsh habitats of quality water. Luckily, Iowa enjoys populations of river otters. Many states in the mid-west do not enjoy this delightful member of the weasel family as it is very sensitive to environmental pollution and habitat losses and its range has been reduced across its former habitats.Through some reintroduction programs, the otter has enjoyed a stable population in its current range.

Their thick water-repellent coat helps them swim up to 6 mph. They can hold their breath for up to 4 minutes and typically weigh in at 11 to 30 pounds. They live in family groups in late fall through winter during breeding season, then the female is alone with the babies from spring until late fall.

The female establishes a burrowed den along the waters edge with numerous tunnels connecting under water where litters consist of 1-6 babies with 1-3 an average. Interestingly, they are very near-sighted and can get too close to boats and people.

They are very active year round, typically at night during the spring through fall seasons, then are active mostly during the daylight hours in the wintertime.

Their diet consists mainly of fish and crustaceans. However, they will eat small mammals, young ducklings, aquatic insects, mussels and hibernating turtles.

Info credits to Wikipedia

Southwest Iowa will be home to 14 new trumpeter swans on May 9 and 10


The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will release 14 trumpeter swans at three locations in southwest Iowa as part of the effort to create a self-sustaining population of swans south of Interstate 80. All releases will occur rain or shine.

  • Six swans will be released on the north side of Lake Icaria at the east boat ramp on May 9 at 9:30 a.m., in partnership with the Adams County Conservation Board.
  • Two swans will be released at Viking Lake near the restaurant/beach area on May 9 at 1 p.m.
  • Six swans will be released at Lake Anita on May 10 at 1:30 p.m., in partnership with the Cass County Conservation Board.

These releases are part of the Iowa DNR’s statewide effort to restore trumpeter swans to Iowa that began in 1993. Trumpeter swans were once common in Iowa, but were gone from the state by the late 1880s. By the early 1930s, only 69 trumpeter swans remained in the lower 48 states.

It takes six years, on average, before trumpeter swans successfully nest. Last year, Iowa was home to 54 pairs of nesting trumpeter swans; however, only two of those nesting pairs were south of I-80. Dave Hoffman, wildlife research technician with the Iowa DNR, said the goal is to raise that number to eight, which would likely create a self-sustaining population.

“We are hopeful to get them nesting here in a year or two,” Hoffman said. “We had swans displaying some territorial signs at Lake Icaria, which is encouraging.”

As the largest North American waterfowl, these all-white birds can weigh up to 32 pounds and have an 8-foot wingspan. The trumpeter swans being released are young and flightless and will imprint on the area where they learn to fly, returning each year as open water is available. The swans were donated to the project from zoos in Cleveland, Kansas City, Green Bay, Wis., Oklahoma City, Bronx, Anchorage, Alaska and Maryland.

Each event includes a swan and wetland presentation, an opportunity to touch and view the swans up close, and a photo opportunity with the kids. Staff from the Kansas City Zoo will be on hand offering educational activities, and filmmaker Steve Harryman may be at these releases collecting footage for an upcoming documentary “Return of the Trumpeter Swans, in partnership with the Trumpeter Swan Society.

For more information, contact David Hoffman at David.Hoffman@dnr.iowa.gov or 641-425-0737.