Environment

Environment
8:00 am
Sun March 2, 2014

Rusty Blackbird Blitz in Iowa

Rusty Blackbrid
Credit G.Hoffman & C. Mettke Hoffman

Although the current weather may not feel like spring is near, many birds are already beginning to migrate. And that includes the Rusty Blackbird. But the species is declining. And that is where the Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz comes in. It’s a bird count of sorts.  The event’s Iowa coordinator Chelsea Underwood says there are several ways to identify the bird….     For more information go to www.rustyblackbird.org. Or, contact your local bird-watching group.

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Environment
11:30 pm
Thu November 28, 2013

Air Quality Concerns from Frack Sand to be Studied by UI Team

A sand pile at the Pattison Sand Company mine in eastern Iowa's Clayton County. It's the only site in Iowa actively mining for sand to be used in hydraulic fracturing.
Credit Sarah McCammon / Iowa Public Radio

Researchers at the University of Iowa have received a $125,000 federal grant to study the effects of frack sand mining on air quality.

The rise in hydraulic fracturing in the US and Canada has created demand for silica sand, used in the fracking process. There’s currently just one major frack sand mine in Iowa’s Clayton County. But parts of northeast Iowa are rich in these sand deposits.

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Environment
10:53 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Bison Roundup at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge

Three bison at Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge at dawn on the day of the roundup.
Sarah Boden Iowa Public Radio

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) manages almost 1,400 bison spread out amongst seven herds located in Iowa, Colorado, Oklahoma, Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota.  About 70 of these bison live at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City.

FWS aims to preserve the species genetic diversity with as little human intervention as possible by allowing the forces of natural selection determine which bison live and die.  However, because herds are isolated from each other the agency conducts genetic testing to prevent inbreeding.

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Environment
3:20 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

Iowa Politicians Critical of Investigative AP Report on Ethanol

Credit Sarah McCammon

Critics are challenging an investigative report by the Associated Press that says ethanol production is damaging the environment. As Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters reports, the debate comes as the Environmental Protection Agency is getting closer to finalizing how much ethanol will be blended into gasoline in 2014. 

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Environment
4:15 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

Urban Wetlands Play a Part in Improving Iowa Water Quality

The Raccoon River in Des Moines.
Credit Clay Masters / IPR

 Iowa homeowners and municipalities can use urban wetlands to capture nutrients that pollute state waterways and improve water quality. That’s according to a new report out Wednesday. But researchers say it would only be a small part of improving the state’s water quality.

The amount of pollution municipalities put into the state’s rivers and streams are regulated. This new report from the Iowa Policy Project documents what else cities and homeowners to reduce polluted storm runoff. 

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Environment
2:59 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Environmentally Sensitive ‘Driftless’ Region Highlights CAFO Concerns

Chris Wasta fly fishes on Bear Creek in Winneshiek County, Iowa. The trout stream is a region of the Midwest known as the 'driftless' region.
Credit Clay Masters / IPR

   

Thanks to tight competition, hog farmers are feeling a push to expand or get out of the business. That means indoor confined animal feeding operations – or CAFOs – are growing even in the most environmentally sensitive areas.

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Environment
9:04 am
Tue September 24, 2013

Scientists Fight Bat Fungus in a "Race Against Time"

Dr. Julie Blanchong, an associate professor in ISU's Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management (right), works with a student to set up a recording device used to capture bat calls.
Credit Sarah McCammon / Iowa Public Radio

As the weather gets colder, bats will soon head into hibernation. But Iowa’s bat population is at an important juncture: Scientists are watching to see whether a devastating fungus that has already been discovered once in the state, will infect cave-dwelling bats.

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Environment
6:02 am
Mon September 2, 2013

Sioux City May End Glass Recycling

The cost of hauling glass to a recycling center often exceeds the value of the material, prompting communities including Sioux City to consider stopping collection.
Credit Dean Borg

Sioux City’s garbage contractor is asking the City Council to discontinue collecting glass for recycling.

The City Council will vote next week on the request to exclude glass from the city’s curbside pickup of recyclable materials.

Glass is easy to recycle, but expensive to haul to a recycling center - and inexpensive to make new.

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Environment
6:00 am
Wed August 28, 2013

Farmers, Policymakers Debate Water Quality Regulation

Farmer Tim Smith stands by a creek that cuts through his property near the north central Iowa town of Eagle Grove. He does several water quality conservation practices on his land including a bio-reactor, strip tilling and cover crops.
Clay Masters IPR

This summer, officials in Iowa have been asking farmers to voluntarily reduce the amount of fertilizer they use. That’s because the fertilizer contains nitrates that are being washed into state waterways and creating environmental concerns locally and nationally. The runoff has been particularly bad this year, and the outcry over typical crop practices is growing. To find if Iowa farmers are complying with the government’s request, Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters followed the water trail.

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Environment
9:39 am
Wed June 12, 2013

5 years later, Iowans learning to live with floods

Donnarae MacCann stands by a wall of sandbags surrounding her home on Normandy Drive, in Iowa City.
Durrie Bouscaren Iowa Public Radio

It has been five years since the floods of 2008. Now, a week after another round of flooding in Eastern Iowa, IPR’s Durrie Bouscaren looks at how many Iowans are adapting to changing times.

More than a thousand runners participated in “Run the Flood,” an annual race through Cedar Rapids to commemorate the anniversary of a flood that would change the landscape of many Iowa cities and towns. Carmen Covington says she participates every year.

“It was shocking,” Covington said. “It was sad to see everything I had known my entire life to be destroyed under so much water,”

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Environment
8:13 am
Fri April 19, 2013

Are Iowa Fertilizer Plants at Risk?

Smoke rises as water is sprayed after an explosion at a fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas.
Credit Mike Stone / Reuters

The deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas is prompting questions about regulatory oversight there.  In Iowa, officials say fertilizer is only produced at a handful of sites across the state, but many others store it.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokesman says the agency regulates 700 retail facilities in Iowa that store more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer, an ingredient that can be particularly volatile.

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Environment
8:40 am
Thu April 11, 2013

As Rustic Camps Struggle, Girl Scouts Look at Modernizing Camping

The Girl Scout logo outside the offices of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois in the Quad Cities.
Sarah McCammon Iowa Public Radio

Officials with Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois are voting on whether to downsize four of their Girl Scout camps. The proposal is a step back from an earlier plan, to sell all four camps entirely. Girl Scouts officials say today's girls want a more modern camping experience.

There are certain traditions that are essential to being a Girl Scout: reciting the Girl Scout Pledge, selling cookies, and – for many girls over many decades – going to summer camp.

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Environment
5:30 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

It's not easy being green; University of Iowa Hospitals try composting

Compost piles sit at the Iowa City Landfill in late March.
Durrie Bouscaren Iowa Public Radio News

A longtime composting program in Iowa City is about to gain a major participant; the dining halls at the state's largest hospital. Iowa Public Radio's Durrie Bouscaren looks at how landfills are turning food waste into a smelly source of garden soil.

At the Iowa City landfill, there are tall rows of compost; a goulash of food waste and lawn trimmings. Each pile is about the size of a city bus, but it’s the smell that you notice first. When it’s cold, you can see steam coming off of the mounds.

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Environment
8:39 am
Tue March 5, 2013

Some Northeast Iowans Fear Expanded "Frac" Sand Mining

The sand mined at Pattison comes from a rock layer called the St. Peter sandstone, found in many of northeast Iowa's hills.
Sarah McCammon Iowa Public Radio

Northeast Iowa is known for the big, scenic hills that dot the Mississippi River Valley and beyond.  Many of those hills contain sandstone. They can be used in hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas.

But some residents are concerned that more sand mining would harm the area’s environment.

Iowa Public Radio’s Sarah McCammon looks at the current state of “frac” sand mining in Iowa…and the potential for more.

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Environment
7:24 am
Mon March 4, 2013

Economic Opportunites and Environmental Concerns Set Up Debate Over 'Frac' Sand Mining

A pile of recently-mined sand sits on the ground at Pattison Sand Company in Clayton County, Iowa.
Sarah McCammon Iowa Public Radio

You’ve probably heard about controversies over the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing – the technique known as “fracking.” There’s no oil or gas fracking in Iowa…but the increasing use of the technique is affecting the state. It’s creating a market for finely-grained silica sand from northeast Iowa.

And some residents of the area are in conflict over the future of frac sand mining.

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Environment
7:17 am
Wed February 20, 2013

Frack Sand Mining Stirs Up Controversy in Northeast Iowa

The Pattison Sand Co. in Clayton County, Iowa, is mining sand for use in hydraulic fracturing. Residents of neighboring counties are concerned mining may expand there.
Credit Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

Controversy over so-called “frack” sand mining is heating up in northeast Iowa. A community meeting Wednesday evening in Decorah will focus on concerns about the possibility of mining development in Winneshiek County.

Fine sand can be used in the hydraulic fracturing process known as “fracking.” The technique is used to remove natural gas and oil from deep underground. There’s not any oil or gas fracking in Iowa right now – but there is a sand mine in northeast Iowa’s Clayton County, which is shipping frack sand out of state.

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Environment
7:52 am
Thu January 24, 2013

Does Drought Have an Upside?

Snus Hill Winery is already bottling some white wine from the 2012 grape harvest, which was improved by the dry weather.
Sarah McCammon IPR

Over the past several months, we’ve been reporting on lots of problems caused by a lack of rain. And for good reason – the historic drought plaguing Iowa and much of the nation has dried up crops, destroyed landscaping, and killed off fish.

But like with most things, there can be a silver lining.

John Larson makes wine at Snus Hill Winery in Madrid, Iowa. This time of year, he’s not growing grapes – but he is mixing wine in giant, silver tanks.

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Environment
7:16 am
Tue December 11, 2012

Des Moines street chosen for EPA partnership

Since 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has picked five cities each year for its Greening America's Capitals project. On this year’s list? Des Moines.

The project will focus on revitalizing the 6th Avenue Corridor in downtown Des Moines.  The idea is to make the corridor friendlier to pedestrians, with wider sidewalks, improved lightning and larger bus stop shelters.

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Environment
10:48 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

Deer numbers down

Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley was in a car that hit a deer last month and that was the beginning of a series of tweets to see if other Iowans have had similar experiences this fall. Senator Grassley says in addition to the vehicle crash, he began noticing a significant amount of dead deer along the highway.

Department of Natural Resources deer biologist Tom Litchfield admits there are certain pockets in the state where there are high concentrations of deer, but for the most part

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EPA and Iowa Water
4:31 pm
Wed November 28, 2012

More Money for Livestock Inspectors

The head of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources  asked the governor and his budget advisors for  more than a million dollars to hire new inspectors for the state’s livestock facilities.  But that  may not be enough to prevent the federal Environmental Protection agency 

from taking over enforcement of clean water standards.

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Environment
4:32 pm
Mon November 19, 2012

Branstad Unveils Water Pollution Strategy

The darker regions show watersheds with high levels of nitrogen pollution. The squiggly grey lines represent the 818 watersheds that flow into the Gulf of Mexico.
Credit USGS

  A strategy on how Iowa will cut back farm and sewage treatment pollution released today by Governor Branstad’s office is being criticized for being too friendly to farmers. As Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters reports, its intent is to shrink a dead zone in the nation’s top commercial fishery in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Environment
8:06 am
Mon November 19, 2012

Iowans Seeing Rare, White-Tailed Squirrels

Experts say the white-tailed squirrels being seen in Iowa are likely a result of a genetic mutation which could become more prevalent or disappear.
Credit Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

We’re all too familiar with whitetail deer. But there also have been a few recent sightings in Iowa of rare white-tailed squirrels.

The rodent with the bushy, snow-white tail is snow white. It’s been seen in the Witmer Park area near Drake University. Earlier this year, several were spotted in the town of Osage.

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Environment
4:45 pm
Thu October 4, 2012

Drought's Impact on Iowa Trout Streams Could Intensify

Manchester Fish Hatchery Manager Dave Marolf holds a net with Brook and Rainbow trout. The DNR has released 15,000 trout into northeast Iowa's streams because of low stream levels.
Clay Masters IPR

The attention often centers on agriculture when a drought hits. But new Iowa Department of Natural Resources numbers show the state’s stream flows are well below normal and groundwater levels are reaching historic lows. There's a ripple effect in how the drought will affect the state’s fish.

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Environment
11:31 am
Tue August 7, 2012

A year after flood, Hamburg hopes to keep levee

The rising Missouri River swallows a home near Hamburg, Iowa, in 2011.
Nati Harnik AP

Last summer, Iowa and Nebraska were in the grips of major flooding along the Missouri River. Now, a small southwest Iowa community hopes to make permanent a levee that protected them from the river. 

To find out more about the levee project, click here.

Flood Recovery
3:27 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

Four years after flood, Cedar Rapids still recovering

Waters rose to 31 feet in parts of the city
http://www.cedarrapidsfloodstory.com/statistics/

 

This weeks marks four years since the 2008 flood in Cedar Rapids.

The worst natural disaster in Iowa’s history dislocated tens of thousands of people from their homes and is costing many millions of dollars in public money.

As Iowa Public Radio’s Kate Wells reports, even now the impacts of the flood are everywhere you look.

Environment
5:30 am
Mon May 21, 2012

Joplin, One Year Later

Ian Coday and Martha Goldman with a glass shard from their former home. The tornado leveled their neighborhood. The couple hid in their closet, which turned out to be the only part of the house left standing.
Liam Kieffer

One year ago – on May 22, 2011 – one of the deadliest tornados in U.S. history struck the city of Joplin, Missouri. The twister killed 160 people and injured hundreds more.

Recently, IPR’s Ben Kieffer traveled to Joplin to talk with tornado survivors. 

He also spoke with researchers from Iowa State University who went to Joplin in the immediate aftermath. They surveyed structural damage to find out what it reveals about how best to survive a tornado.  

Environment
5:00 am
Thu April 12, 2012

Manufacturing means thriving economy, but polluted air and water for Muscatine

Mark Warner

A southeastern Iowa town located on one of the sharpest bends of the Mississippi River is known for its flourishing local economy and picturesque sunsets. While Muscatine is considered a shining example of American manufacturing, it’s also known as the most polluted city in Iowa, and one of the most poisonous cities in the U.S. Iowa Public Radio’s Joe Cadotte looks into one of Muscatine’s most thriving industries and the slew of environmental violations it’s collected over the past five years.

Environment
5:00 am
Wed April 4, 2012

Trumpeter Swans Rebound

Vince Evilsizer, with the DNR, keeps control of a young Trumpeter Swan
Department of Natural Resources

Something remarkable is happening in the countryside of Iowa this spring; something that hasn’t been seen to this extent, in more than 120 years. Wildlife experts are cheering the rebound of North America’s largest water fowl.

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