Environment

Flickr / Takeshi Kuboki

Don’t look at the sun during Monday’s eclipse.

That’s the message from Dr. Michael Abramoff, an ophthalmologist and retinal specialist at the University of Iowa. He warns that during every total solar eclipse, about five or 10 people permanently damage their eyes.

Alliant Energy

Alliant Energy is launching a new program for customers who want more of their electricity to come from renewable sources. 

The program called “Beyond Solar” could get underway once a new solar power plant in Dubuque goes online this fall.  

But a challenge from environmentalists may stand in the way.   

At a recent workshop at the Iowa Utilities Board, Alliant Energy made the case for “Beyond Solar.” 

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Chemical runoff from Midwest farm fields is contributing to the largest so-called dead zone on record in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Scientists have mapped the size of the oxygen-deprived region in the Gulf since 1985. This year’s is estimated at more than 8,700 square miles, which is about the size of New Jersey.

 

Flickr / Julio Mulero

Bird watchers in the Lower Loess Hills region may see a greater diversity of species in the not-so-distant future.  The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is proposing a nearly 90,000-acre bird conservation area.

Bird conservation areas are created through a targeted effort on public and private lands to plant bird-friendly habitats in concentrated areas.

MrTinDC

It was not very long ago that eagles, osprey, peregrine falcons and other raptors were a rare sight in Iowa. One of the people who worked hard to bring these species back from the brink is Pat Schlarbaum. In this Talk of Iowa with Charity Nebbe, hear from Schlarbaum as he retires from a thirty-three year career with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  Also joining the conversation is Bruce Ehresman who has worked with Schlarbaum on many of his projects.

Sarah Boden/IPR

More than 130 Iowa religious leaders and clergy have signed a statement calling climate change “one of the most pressing moral challenges facing our world today.”

They say carbon pollution is an environmental justice issue, because power plants have historically been located near low-income neighborhoods, communities of color, and agricultural communities. They want local, state, national and international leaders to form policies and strategies that promote sustainable energy use. 

Carl Wycoff/flickr

Gov. Terry Branstad’s plan to spend nearly $850 million over the course of 12 years to clean Iowa’s waterways narrowly advanced in the Iowa Senate today, in spite of opposition from lawmakers of both parties.    

Iowa is under pressure from the federal government to remove nutrients from the water which are contributing to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. But at a subcommittee hearing for the Iowa Senate’s Committee for Natural Resources and Environment, the chair downplayed the seriousness of the problem.

Ken Brown

Ken Brown, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies at the University of Iowa Tippie School of Business, says he took the plunge and booked a trip to the remote continent of Antarctica, because his 81-year father Bob said such a journey was on his "bucket list."  It was a magical trip, Brown told us, but he still worries about the the continent's future.

U.S. Navy photo courtesy of National Marine Fisheries Service

On this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer interviews scientist and ecologist Ari Friedlaender, who has been working in Antarctica for about 20 years. 

During the course of his more than 25 trips to the continent, he has developed a long-term ecological research program that has led to many important discoveries about whales in that polar region.

He is an associate professor at Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, and he is featured in a new National Geographic documentary titled CONTINENT 7: ANTARCTICA.

Lulu Vision / Flickr

As we head into some of the biggest shopping days of the year, have you stopped to think about how the stuff you buy impacts your pocketbook, the environment and the people who make it? Most of us don't, but a class at the University of Northern Iowa asked students to give it some thought. It's called the un-shopping challenge, and students Alli Albright and Connor Tomke took part, and host Charity Nebbe talked with them about the experience on Talk of Iowa.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A coalition of state environmental groups called the Mississippi River Collaborative is pressuring the federal Environmental Protection Agency to do more to clean up waterways in the Mississippi River Watershed.

In a report released today, the group calls upon the EPA to take concrete action to force improvements in water quality.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

Farming in the fertile Midwest is tied to an environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But scientists are studying new ways to lessen the Midwest's environmental impact and improve water quality.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts the so-called "dead zone," an area of sea without enough oxygen to support most marine life, to grow larger than the size of Connecticut, or roughly 6,000 square miles.  

chesapeakeclimate / Flickr

Sandra Steingraber is proud of her PhD in biology, her position as Scholar in Residence at Ithaca College and her two arrests. Not necessarily in that order.

While Steingraber, an author, biologist, and activist, has studied science in a lab for decades, she knew she had to do more to effect the change she wanted to see in the environment. So she got herself arrested. Twice.

Wikimedia Commons

Invasive plant species are becoming pervasive in Iowa’s woodlands.  State Forester Paul Tauke says a recent survey found invasives present in 95-percent of forest inventory plots studied.  He calls it a “shocking” finding.

“When you have exotic invasive species, they expand into an area and they tend to crowd out the native species, and decrease your diversity in the system," says Tauke

Sarah Boden/IPR

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton says if she’s elected, she’ll bring diverse economic development to rural communities.

While speaking at a rally at an Omaha high school on Monday, Clinton told supporters one way she plans to do this is by making sure the U.S. has an electrical grid able to distribute energy from renewable sources. The former secretary of state cited Iowa’s use of wind energy as a successful example.

Amy Mayer/IPR file

The power company Alliant Energy says it aims to triple the amount of wind energy it generates in Iowa due to an up to $1 billion investment.

The company plans to expand a Franklin County wind farm, and possibly construct more turbines around the state.

Minnesota Historical Society Press

The "Big Marsh" was a source of bounty for wildlife, native people and settlers.  When it was drained it offered up fertile soil, but what was lost?  This hour, we talk to Cheri Register, author of the new book, "The Big Marsh; the Story of a Lost Landscape" (Minnesota Historical Society Press).

New Rivers Press

Who says poetry has to be monotonous and sentimental?  Definitely not the case with Debra Marquart's third poetry collection, "Small Buried Things" (New Rivers Press).  The Iowa State University English professor, who teaches in the M.F.A. program in creative writing, keeps you guessing throughout what her next topic will be. 

Ocean Biology Processing Group at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr, Creative Commons

First established in 1970, Earth Day is celebrated worldwide on April 22nd every year to celebrate and support the protection of the environment. Has it worked?

Ralph Rosenberg, Executive Director of the Iowa Environmental Council, says Earth Day has evolved from raising awareness, to sparking action, to returning results.

"There's an urgency now," says Rosenberg. "People have seen some progress in 46 years, but we do need to see awareness and action year-round."

Univ. of Iowa Press

Ecologist Cornelia F. Mutel of rural Iowa City has written a string of insightful books about the Iowa environment, beginning with "Fragile Giants: a Natural History of the Loess Hills" back in 1989.   At that time, grandchildren were in her distant future.  Now that she's a grandmother, she wants to do everything she can to make sure there will be a healthy earth for her grandkids' lives.

Julie Englander/IPR

If you find an injured raptor in eastern Iowa, there’s a place to take it. Two people have established a new raptor rehabilitation center because they felt there was a lack of medical resources for injured birds in the area.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

One of Iowa's U.S. Senators says he's surprised at how far the state's wind energy production has come. Iowa continues to lead the nation in wind energy, and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley was among its early backers. This week the US Department of Energy reported Iowa generates more than 30 percent of its power from wind, the highest percentage in the country. Grassley says back in 1992 when he pushed for tax incentives for wind energy, he didn't expect it would get this big.

"I'm glad it is," Grassley says, "but I'm just telling you I didn't foresee that."

Michael Leland/IPR

Iowa continues to grow as the nation’s leading wind energy state.

Governor Terry Branstad today is citing U.S. Energy Information Administration statistics showing 31-percent of all electricity generated in the state comes from wind power.

The data shows Iowa is the first and only state crossing the 30-percent mark in wind power.

South Dakota is second, generating 25-percent, and Kansas third with nearly 24-percent of total power generated coming from wind turbines.

USDA

A Republican lawmaker in the Iowa House who works in environmental protection in his day job has a new plan for paying for water quality, but his fellow Republicans have nixed the idea.  

Water quality is on the agenda at the statehouse this year because of a proposal from Governor Branstad to use some school funds to clean up Iowa waterways.

Representative John Wills of Spirit Lake works for the Soil and Water Conservation District in Dickinson County.  

Conservation Fund

Prairie-chickens once thrived in the prairies of Iowa, but by just after 1900, they were on the verge of extinction.  Today, these beautiful birds with a unique mating ritual can be found in only 9 of Iowa's 99 counties.

Photo by Amy Mayer

In a packed-to-capacity community room in Boone, the three-member Iowa Utility Board heard testimony today over the proposed Bakken oil pipeline, which would carry crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields, across Iowa, to Illinois.

Before testimony got underway, opponents of the pipeline staged a protest outside the community building on the Boone County Fairgrounds.

There was a time when it was a rare treat to spot a white-tailed deer in Iowa.  That treat is no longer rare.  Today, it's our monthly Wildlife Day on Talk of Iowa, with wildlife biologist Dr. Jim Pease of Ames.  Jim tells us about the history of deer in the Hawkeye State, their place in the environment and our complicated relationship with them.

Wikimedia Commons

Energy company Dakota Access wants to build a pipeline across Iowa to transport crude oil from North Dakota.   The company has initiated eminent domain proceedings against Iowa State University.  

But university officials say they’re willing to negotiate voluntary easements for the ISU property the pipeline would cross. 

Vice-President Warren Madden says the university will resist condemnation, but if the Iowa Utilities Board approves the project, then ISU is ready to negotiate terms.    

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

U.S. energy policy that effectively promotes corn ethanol is holding back a generation of more environmentally sound fuels, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.

To grow corn for ethanol, farmers have been plowing up new land and fertilizing big crops. Some research says that means corn-based ethanol can have a larger carbon footprint than traditional fuel.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad says he will not intervene in the controversial Bakken Pipeline project which is under consideration by the Iowa Utilities Board.  

And he is downplaying landowners concerns.    

Dakota Access wants to crisscross the state with a pipeline to transport crude oil from North Dakota.   

Some landowners have not granted permission.    But Branstad argues the company won’t be taking their land.

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