Category Archives: Conservation

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.

Local Iowa Groups Can Receive Financial Assistance To Launch Clean Water Campaigns

DES MOINES- Iowa groups looking for help implementing innovative, regional and locally led Clean Water Awareness and Education Campaigns can apply for funding from the Iowa DNR Watershed Improvement Section.

Through a grant program, the DNR looks for proposals that clearly demonstrate an ability to put in place innovative, targeted, impactful and sustainable Clean Water Awareness and Education Campaigns.

The DNR seeks to award grants to eligible local entities to develop and implement locally led Clean Water Awareness and Education programs. Educational campaigns will improve public knowledge of and promote actions to reduce non-point source pollution and improve water quality. The DNR seeks projects that will use innovative methods for reaching diverse audiences and stakeholder groups.

Campaigns must be achievable in the grant’s 18-month time frame and within the funding amount requested.

Applications are due by close of business May 31. Successful applicants will be awarded contracts beginning no later than Oct. 15, 2019, and ending no later than Apr. 30, 2021 (18 months).

These grants were developed after the DNR contracted with the University of Northern Iowa to survey Iowa’s residents in 2015 to measure their knowledge of water quality and identify potential behavior changes. This is the next step in the Non-point Source Management Plan. (For more details, see Objective 2.5 of Goal 2 of Iowa’s Non-point Source Management Plan and the results of the survey).

The survey will be repeated when grant-based educational campaigns are completed to track progress. The first round of Education Campaign contracts were awarded in Dec. 2018 and projects are ongoing.

For more information and grant application materials, visit http://iowadnr.gov/watershed. Contact Steve Konrady, DNR, at 515-725-8388 or  http://Steven.Konrady@dnr.iowa.gov with your questions.

Dam Mitigations All Around Iowa

Sure. You may be delighted those frigid temperatures are a thing of the past. But in a wet year, the low temperatures from January through March kept water levels low enough in rivers around Iowa to get contractors moving on dam removal and mitigation projects statewide. These projects were each years in the making, and the latest wave of them will change how Iowans recreate and navigate. Here’s a run-down:

Ames

https://www.cityofames.org/government/departments-divisions-i-z/water-pollution-control/construction-projects/north-river-valley-low-head-dam

This project replaces the River Valley Park Dam with a divided channel, half for whitewater waves and half for fishing and fish passage. It also preserves the dams water supply function.

 

Fort Dodge (2 dams)

Little Dam (also called Lower Dam) was removed in February, completing the project. Paddlers can safety float from the Phinney Park Access on Lizard Creek down to Dolliver State Park unimpeded, and fish can move freely as needed as far upriver to the remaining portion of Hydroelectric Dam. A rocky bed was uncovered in this area.

Hydroelectric Dam, formerly a 16-high dam, is removed down to a few feet high through summer, when it is expected to be completely removed. The removal is staged into 2 steps in order to prevent all sediment in the impoundment from being released at the same time. HOWEVER, recirculating currents will continue to be a safety hazard remaining portion of the dam until the dam is fully removed because the dam’s height will still be about 5 feet. All boaters should avoid the stretch between the Hydroelectric Park Access and mouth of Lizard Creek until the rest of the dam can be removed – most likely later this summer.

Speaking of that first stage of removal, check out this time lapse video:

https://www.facebook.com/115815355132446/videos/349587482317072/

 

Quaker Mill Dam

Phase 2 of the project was completed this winter and the Maquoketa River takes a meandering course through the former bed of the Quaker Mill Pond.

 

Littleton Dam

The Littleton Dam on the Wapsipinicon River is completely removed. High water after ice-out prevented completion of the rock arch rapids that will take the place of the dam, and contractors will resume work after flows are reasonable for work to be done.

Monthly Feature: Species 101: American White Pelican

Photo by Pam Wolter 
Sweet Marsh, Bremer County

 

The American White Pelican can be seen this spring in fresh water lakes and marshes across Iowa and North America on their way to their summer grounds up north. They have the second largest wingspan of  North American birds with a span of nine foot, only behind the California Condor in size. They can weigh up to 30 pounds with 11 -20 an average.  They are bright white except for blacks edges on their wing ends. They eat around four pounds of fish and crayfish daily by fishing for it as the fish swim by. They are unlike the Brown Pelican who dives for their dinner.

The spring migration to the breeding grounds occurs in March and April. During spring breeding both male and females develop a small horn on their top beak that later falls off after breeding and egg laying.

Nesting begins early April through early June. After one week of courtship and egg laying, the male assists the female with incubating the nest of 2 to 3 eggs with 6 the maximum laid. They incubate for a period of one month. The juveniles leave the parents care around three weeks after learning to fly. The Pelicans leave for their winter grounds along the Mississippi River (south of Saint Louis), Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coastal lakes in September and October.

Currently the North American Pelican has a stable population. However, due to human impact, they suffer habitat loss, nest abandonment, fishing gear entanglements, poaching and boating disturbances.

Credits to and for additional detailed info, click onto this link.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_white_pelican

Forgotten Endangered Species: Freshwater Mussels

Photo courtesy of Cedar Valley Paddlers Club

Article by Alexandria Vollman. Originally published on ModernConservationist.com.
Reprinted with permission.

The phrase “endangered species” elicits many images: fluffy grizzly bears, majestic gray wolves, stealthy panthers, lovable manatees. But many of the 1,467 current endangered or threatened species on the endangered species list (ESL) are unfamiliar to the average American.
In a 2018 survey conducted by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the majority of respondents said they believed there were approximately 100 species on the ESL. Young people were even more off, with most putting the number at 80.
Out of sight and mind, the other 1,300-plus animals on the ESL garner less public support and thus fewer funds for their recovery. Yet these less flashy, cuddly and majestic creatures – like all flora and fauna – play a critical role in the ecosystems they are a part of and are deserving of the time, energy and money necessary for them to once again thrive.
Freshwater mussels, for instance.
With nearly 300 subspecies in North America, mussels make up an important component of the biodiversity of America’s rivers and streams.

Their Contributions:

Although North America has the largest number of species of freshwater mussels – or clams – in the world, approximately 72 percent of those are endangered, threatened or designated as a special concern by the states in which they are located. The majority are found in the Midwest, where more than half of the region’s 78 species are classified as such. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), “No other group of animals in the Midwest is so gravely imperiled.”
Compared to 16.5 percent of mammalian and 14.6 percent of bird species, 70 percent of mussels in North America are extinct or imperiled, according to The Nature Conservancy. This is particularly alarming as they are such hardy creatures capable of surviving harsh conditions.
Because they act as a purification system, filtering water for food, mussels are vulnerable to water pollution – from herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, mining waste and residential and livestock sewage. Although they can close their shells for short periods of time to avoid toxins, long-term exposure is often what kills them.

“The fact that so many mussels are imperiled in the Midwest shows that there have been significant, long-term changes to our lakes and waterways,” the FWS website reads. “And those changes have been so dramatic that these aquatic animals have trouble surviving.”
The fact that so many mussels are imperiled in the Midwest shows that there have been significant, long-term changes to our lakes and waterways.
Easy to overlook, mussels line the bottom of rivers, streams or lakes in large groups called “beds,” covering as much as several acres. Beyond purifying bodies of water, they act as a food source for a variety of animals, including otters, egrets, herons and raccoons.

Their Demise:

In addition to the conditions caused by pollution – sedimented, muddy and contaminated river bottoms – many elements have contributed to the demise of mussel species, with dams being another leading cause.
Because of the way in which mussels reproduce – larvae attach to the gills or fins of certain fish, where they remain for several weeks as they transform into juvenile mussels before detaching – dams have been a large impediment to their existence. Present on most large waterways, dams limit fish movement and thus the ability of mussels to reproduce. They also affect the water flow, harming some subspecies that are unable to survive in slower-moving or lower-water conditions.

Non-native, invasive species are another threat to freshwater mussels. The invader currently wreaking havoc on native species is the zebra mussel, which is believed to have been introduced in the Great Lakes by large European ships. By attaching to boats, the zebra mussel has spread to the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.

“They increase in numbers faster than non-native mussels and attach to almost any hard surface, including native mussels,” the FWS website reads. “They reproduce so fast and in such abundance that the native mussels’ movement, feeding, and reproductive behaviors are stifled.”
Although they may not be as endearing as other endangered species, mussels contribute in considerable ways to our aquatic ecosystems, and their presence is indicative of healthy water – good for both humans and wildlife. And while the Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts have done much to aid in the recovery of mussels, much work remains to ensure they will thrive again one day.

Speaking Up For Wildlife: How To Report Wildlife Crime:

 

Blanding’s Turtle crossing the road. Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for protecting America’s wildlife from poaching, illegal commercialization and other kinds of wildlife crime. While our special agents and wildlife inspectors within the Office of Law Enforcement work with our federal, state and tribal conservation partners across the country to investigate these crimes, we also depend on tips from concerned citizens. People just like you step up and share information that helps us protect everything from native turtles and pallid sturgeon to bald eagles and white-tailed deer. Help us close the next case and you may be eligible for a monetary reward.

Wildlife crime is much more than elephant ivory and rhino horns. America’s native plants and animals need your help across the country. While it’s true that we are actively fighting illegal commercialization, commonly referred to as wildlife trafficking, wildlife crime is far more domestic than you may realize. It can happen in your local parks, wildlife refuges and even on your own land. Many of our law enforcement investigations are solved because people who see unlawful activities reach out to us or their local game warden. In tandem to this community effort, we established the use of financial rewards to people who provide critical information. This program allows us to thank everyday people who help us investigate and stop these crimes, all while protecting their anonymity in the process.

Be situationally aware and trust your gut when things just don’t seem right. This happened to a woman in Minnesota while she was on a bike ride and saw someone putting Blanding’s turtles in their trunk. She knew that these mild-mannered turtles are protected and extremely vulnerable during breeding season as they move to nesting habitat to lay eggs. She reported the vehicle’s license plate number and other identifiable information to an officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and her tip ultimately helped to uncover a multi-state, illegal trafficking scheme based in Wisconsin. The man involved pleaded guilty to a felony Lacey Act violation, served time in prison and paid heavy fines. During the investigation, officers recovered an incubator with 120 native map, painted and softshell turtle eggs that he had illegally collected in the wild. This wildlife trafficker also left an incriminating digital footprint, using online retailers to traffic additional wild reptile and amphibian species. Just one person speaking for a couple of turtles made a positive impact on local wildlife. In this case, we were able to recognize her contributions with a $1,500 reward through the Lacey Act Reward Account, all while maintaining her anonymity. You can remain anonymous when reporting.

Know the law:

Another way you can help is by knowing the laws that protect wildlife. Migratory birds native to the U.S., including their nests and eggs, are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which dates back to 1918. Knowing what’s in season under state and tribal law is important too, because poaching isn’t the only wildlife crime, hunting out of season and falsifying records are also criminal offenses. Ethical hunters and anglers respect the biological reasoning behind bag limits and speak up when something doesn’t seem right.
Do you have a wildlife crime to report?
If you believe you have information related to a wildlife crime, email or call us with information about where and when it occurred, along with what you witnessed. Include any photos or videos you may have.

How to report a wildlife crime:

If you think you’re witnessing a crime in progress, maintain a safe distance and protect yourself.
Make use of your cell phone and take photos or videos, if you can do so safely.
Write down any information about the person committing the crime, including any vehicle information, what you witnessed and where the event took place.
If you suspect that someone is trafficking in wildlife online, include the full website URL and take screen captures of the potentially illegal sale. Send us an email with all related information or call us using the FWS TIPs line at 1-844-FWS-TIPS (1-844-397-8477).
Please discuss the possibility of a reward with the special agent receiving your information.
Together, we can make a positive difference in the health of America’s fish, wildlife and iconic habitats.

Learn more about the federal conservation laws that guide our law enforcement work on behalf of America’s fish and wildlife. For more information, contact https://www.fws.gov/

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service.

Iowa Project Aware: Year 17! Boone River in Hamilton and Wright Counties

Registrations are now available online for sign up at http://www.iowaprojectaware.org.

HAMILTON & WRIGHT COUNTIES – The Boone River in north-central Iowa will be a lot lighter, and arguably prettier, in just a few short months. This July, hundreds of volunteers will spend their vacations muscling trash from sixty-one contiguous miles of the river between Goldfield and the Boone Forks Wildlife Area near Stratford.

Iowa Project AWARE, an abbreviation for A Watershed Awareness River Expedition, is scheduled for July 7-12. Now in its seventeenth year, Iowa Project AWARE is a one of a kind, multi-day, family friendly annual river cleanup. It is one of the few opportunities in Iowa for outdoor recreation and environmental education fully coordinated by volunteers, for volunteers.

“We are excited to be part of this year’s project on the Boone River,” explained Hamilton County Conservation Director Brian Lammers. “Not only will the cleanup directly benefit our local river ecosystem and improve water quality and recreation potential, the event also brings awareness to the community and brings volunteers together to work on the effort.”

During the cleanup, participants paddle canoes searching for river and riverbank trash by day and camping in local campgrounds and communities by night. Throughout the week volunteers also attend educational programs emphasizing local history, culture and nature. While the expedition lasts six days, participants can register for as few or as many days as they choose. Paddling equipment, boats, and daily meals are included with daily registration fees.

N-Compass, Inc. is the nonprofit organization who produces Iowa Project AWARE. The group is working with the Webster City-based Boone River Cleanup Committee, which has organized local cleanups in Hamilton County since 2007. Despite years of successful local cleanup efforts, local organizers report there is always trash to be found. With the expedition starting in the Wright County hamlet of Goldfield, cleanup volunteers will traverse nearly the entire navigable portion of the Boone River.

In the past 16 years, more than 2,610 volunteers from across the country have participated in the multi-day river cleanup. This includes paddling 1,200 river miles of Iowa waters, removing 436 tons of trash with more than three-quarters of which has been recycled.

For more information about Iowa Project AWARE, N-Compass, Inc. and to register as a river cleanup volunteer for the 2019 event please visit http://www.iowaprojectaware.org.

Iowa Great Lakes Curlyleaf Pondweed Management Plans

Spirit Lake – Invasive curlyleaf pondweed has become a common site in the spring on portions of the Iowa Great Lakes in recent years. The 2019 plan for managing this plant will be similar to 2018, but treat more acres.

A team of leaders from the county, local cities, lake associations, drinking water utilities, Iowa Lakeside Lab, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have been working together over the past two years to manage this invasive aquatic plant that has caused water access and navigation issues on portions of the Iowa Great Lakes.

“Curlyleaf pondweed has been in our lakes since the middle of the last century, but conditions have allowed it to gain a foothold growing to form dense mats impacting recreation and access,” said Mike Hawkins, Iowa DNR fisheries biologist. “This plant is common throughout the Midwest, causing similar issues on hundreds of lakes.” Unlike native plants, curlyleaf pondweed germinates in the fall, grows under the ice and hits the surface by early May. It dies back naturally in late June.

Terry Wilts, with the East Okoboji Lakes Improvement Corporation, has helped spearhead the management effort over the past few years and explains there are no easy options to solve this problem.

“This plant impacts hundreds of acres. As a team, we realize we can’t treat all of it, but should prioritize our funds and efforts,” Wilts said. “The 2019 plan builds on efforts from past years. We’ve taken what we’ve learned and are applying this knowledge to maximize our impact.”

The 2018 project treated 61 acres of curlyleaf with a combination of mechanical harvesting and the use of an aquatic herbicide. The 2019 plan includes a similar combination, but an increase in treatment area to 85 acres. The team was able to increase the number of acres while keeping the overall cost the same.

The 2018 project was considered successful. Boater access was improved and the project stayed on budget and on-time despite the late ice out. Twenty acres along the shoreline was treated with an aquatic herbicide and 41 acres (1 million pounds) was harvested using a mechanical plant harvester. The herbicide was used more than five miles from any drinking water intake even though water testing at the treatment area showed levels well below the drinking water standard right after treatment. The 2019 plan increases the herbicide treatment to 60 acres while still proposing mechanical harvesting of 25 acres.

The DNR and project partners want to emphasize the importance of not illegally applying herbicides.

“We can’t tolerate lakeshore residents illegally applying herbicides. Iowa law restricts their use and only the DNR has the authority to treat plants in the lake with a herbicide. Everyone living or vacationing in this area gets their drinking water from our lakes. Not following the law endangers that precious resource,” said Eric Stoll, with Milford Utilities, which supplies drinking water for thousands of customers in the region states.

Funding for the project will come from local contributions to the East Okoboji Lakes Improvement Corporation and the DNR’s Marine Fuel Tax Fund which is dedicated to improving boater access in Iowa.

Media Contact: Mike Hawkins, Fisheries Biologist, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 712-336-1840.

Curlyleaf Pondweed:
Photo credits to Wikipedia