Environment

Environmental stories

Clay Masters / IPR

It’s that time of year when Midwest farmers are preparing to plant their crops. This year though more may be thinking about the water in their fields, that’s because a lawsuit by Iowa’s largest water utility is targeting the nitrates farms send downstream and polluting the Des Moines metro's drinking water sources. Local governments and big agriculture interest groups alike are now watching this lawsuit.

Amy Mayer/IPR

The state's largest water utility has voted to proceed with its lawsuit against three northwest Iowa county boards of supervisors. Des Moines Water Works first announced its intent to sue back in January.

The water utility says high nitrate levels in the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers, which supply the city's drinking water, are a result of nitrogen fertilizer runoff from farms in Sac, Buena Vista and Calhoun counties.

Jason Mrachina via Flickr

One of the famous Decorah eagles, a juvenile known as Four, died as a result of electrocution last week. 

Iowa DNR

Water use in Iowa has climbed 72% since the 1970’s, and according to state officials, current usage rates are unsustainable. 

Amy Mayer/IPR

Three new natural gas-powered boilers are moving Iowa State University closer to compliance with new federal environmental regulations.

Dennis Brown via Wikimedia Commons

Temperatures outside have been frigid, but there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy gardening and prepare for the spring.

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

What do you throw away? Do you think about it? Do you care?

Rachel Gardner

The groundhog predicted six weeks of winter, and that means six more weeks to plan for spring.

gapowell / flickr

Monarch butterfly numbers have declined dramatically. Now it looks like they may be put on the Endangered Species List.

Photo by John Pemble

The board of the state's largest water utility has voted unanimously to sue three northern Iowa counties, holding them responsible for the high nitrate levels in rivers the utility uses for source water. Des Moines Water Works CEO and General Manager Bill Stowe says there have been significant peaks in nitrate levels throughout the last three years.

Seney Natural History Association / Flickr

Not too long ago, the call of the Trumpeter Swan was unheard in Iowa; the last nesting pair was seen in 1883. But with concentrated effort from biologists and conservationists, the species has made a comeback in the state.

Iowa DNR

If you’re looking for a healthy way to start the New Year, take a hike. IPRs Julie Englander spoke with Todd Coffelt, the bureau chief for state parks with the Department of Natural Resources. He says on January first, Iowa State Parks are participating in America’s State Park’s First Day Hikes…

For more information on Iowa State Parks First Day Hike go to the Iowa Department Natural Resources events calendar at www.iowadnr.gov.

Charity Nebbe

The population of bald eagles in Iowa appears to be plateauing. That’s according to wildlife biologist Jim Pease.

Brooke Raymond

Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley says the Senate will soon vote on the long-delayed tax extenders bill. The legislation groups more than 50 tax breaks, including wind energy incentives.

Because Iowa is a leader in wind energy production, Grassley has been vocal on the need to extend the tax credits. But Grassley says the bill doesn’t go far enough.

John Marvig

A proposal to modify the Clean Water Act from the Environmental Protection Agency will face stiff opposition come January, says U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley.  That’s when both the House and the Senate will be held by the GOP.

Grassley and other Republicans have spoken harshly against the Waters of the U.S. rule, which would increase federal oversight of U.S. waterways.

Jim Pease

Jaguars don’t roam the prairies and Hyacinth Macaws don’t perch in our oak trees, but today on Talk of Iowa we learn about the wild creatures of Brazil with wildlife biologist, Jim Pease.

Big cats, small primates, colorful birds, and rodents of unusual size. We also find out why the biodiversity of the Amazon matters here in Iowa.

"While we still celebrate the wildlife that we have here in Iowa, I think we need to remember how diverse it once was," says Pease. "Visiting places that are these 'mega-diversity' places is important for a number of reasons."

courtesy of Blank Park Zoo

The Blank Park Zoo euthanized one of its giraffes last Thursday. Shani, a 21-year-old female, had lived at the Des Moines zoo since 1996. 

Kenneth Mertes

Many scientists believe that Earth is in the midst of a sixth great extinction. On this edition of Talk of Iowa, threats to biodiversity in the Midwest.

Eric Bégin

Furbearer season starts Saturday in Iowa. Hunters and trappers will likely see greater numbers of raccoons and coyotes from previous years, but fewer red foxes. 

Jeremy Weber

"Our problems with wolves stem from jealousy and competition...they're just like us," says Doug Smith, Yellowstone National Park wildlife biologist.

Clay Masters / IPR

Imagine being able to drive an all-terrain vehicle right up next to a sacred earthen Native American burial mound.

Photo extracted from a Dove Program poster circulated on the White Earth Indian Reservation.

The recipient of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation’s highest honor is being recognized for her environmental work while serving on the Jasper County Conservation Board and elsewhere. The Newton woman credits her Native American heritage for instilling a love of Mother Earth.

The head of a major environmental organization will lead  a new initiative to get farmers to comply with water quality standards.     But other  environmentalists are skeptical the new standards will work as long as they remain voluntary.    

Mark Stevens

A mother black bear and her two cubs were spotted earlier this week, on the border of Fayette and Clayton Counties, in northeast Iowa.  The next day, a beekeeper discovered bear scat and paw prints near some damaged hives.

Also this week, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources confirmed the state's first mountain lion of 2014. A deer carcass with signs of mountain lion predation was found in Cherokee County, in northeast Iowa.

Officials with the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management agency  released to the general public the routes rail lines take to haul crude oil through the state from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota.    The rail lines are complying with a new federal mandate to report shipments of more than a million gallons.     

slappytheseal

A report released today by Environment Iowa Research and Policy Center listed Cargill Meat Solutions’s pork processing plant in Ottumwa as the state’s number one disposer of toxic chemicals into waterways.

In 2012 Cargill disposed more than 2,800,000 lbs of chemicals into the Lower Des Moines River.

Wikipedia

Effigy Mounds-Yellow River Forest in northeast Iowa’s Allamakee County is designated as the first globally important bird area for Iowa, and it’s all because of a very small blue and white bird with a lovely song called the Cerulean Warbler.  Bird Biologist with Iowa DNR Bruce Ehresman says it’s the largest important bird

conservation area in the state with about 135 thousand acres….

A dedication of the state’s first globally important bird area takes place May 31st at the Yellow River State Forest headquarters.

Sandy McCurdy / Sandy McCurdy Photos

Last spring, flooding destroyed 19 percent of trumpeter swan nests in Iowa.  Then in the fall many of the juveniles, or cygnets, died from drought.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources wildlife research technician Dave Hoffman says modification of Iowa’s watershed causes this severe weather.

“Wetlands…act as sponges to clean and hold the water in the spring, but also…hold the water in the fall (to) provide the moisture we need.”

Amy Mayer/IPR

Each year, the statewide nonprofit organization Iowa Rivers Revival honors a community for its commitment to the river that runs through it. This year the group named Decorah as its River Town of the Year. 

On a cool spring day, fish splash at the trout hatchery in Decorah as a few hearty men in waders angle nearby. Alongside the Upper Iowa River is a multi-use, four season trail. The recreation options are among the reasons Iowa Rivers Revival selected Decorah and the Oneota Valley for this year's award. 

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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