Watershed Managers Gather in Iowa to Address Midwestern Water Quality Issues

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A partnership, led by Sand County Foundation, brought together watershed project managers, and other key stakeholders, from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana for the third "Leadership for Midwestern Watersheds (LMW)" meeting. The meeting, held in Iowa, gave watershed managers an opportunity to discuss opportunities and challenges they have encountered through their work to improve water quality in the rivers, lakes and streams of the Midwest.

Midwestern watershed managers convened in Ankeny, Iowa to address issues of water quality.

Watershed managers from several midwestern states convened in Ankeny, Iowa to address issues of water quality.

Improving water quality by reducing agriculture's impact is a difficult and complex task but it is necessary work that requires a commitment to clean water by farmers and those who work in cooperation with them. - Joseph Britt, Sand County Foundation

Sand County Foundation and its partners hosted the third "Leadership for Midwestern Watersheds (LMW)" meeting to provide midwestern watershed project managers an opportunity to exchange ideas about effective watershed management.

The meeting, held at Iowa Soybean Association’s headquarters in Ankeny, Iowa on October 31 and November 1, involved watershed project directors and other key stakeholders from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

“The partnerships represented at Ankeny represent the new face of conservation in the Midwest,” said Joseph Britt, Agricultural Incentives Program Director, Sand County Foundation. “Improving water quality by reducing agriculture’s impact is a difficult and complex task but it is necessary work that requires a commitment to clean water by farmers and those who work in cooperation with them.”

Some of the themes discussed at the meeting included farmer engagement, economics, targeting conservation practices, meaning the application of nutrient reduction practices where they can do the most good, and scaling up lessons learned from watershed projects. Chad Ingels of Iowa State Extension described the active participation of landowners and farm operators in a model watershed project in northeast Iowa, which served as the basis for comparison of experience with farmer engagement in other watershed projects. Michelle Perez of World Resources Institute and North Carolina State University’s Deanna Osmond focused on the practice of targeting, drawing on surveys of watershed projects across the country. Minnesota State Conservationist Don Baloun spoke of the need for different approaches in the face of declining federal spending on conservation and changes in the farm economy. Farmers today have money to spend on conservation, noted Baloun, but also have economic incentives to put more land into production.

Sand County Foundation began the Leadership for Midwestern Watersheds series in the spring of 2011. LMW meetings are organized in cooperation with Iowa Soybean Association, American Farmland Trust, The Great Lakes Regional Water Program and The Nature Conservancy,.

The charge of LMW meetings is to advance toward improved water quality in the context of a healthy farm economy, through communications among watershed project leaders and key stakeholders. The ultimate objective is to lay the foundation of a movement for better water quality in the Midwest and to share lessons learned from projects with farmers regionally and nationally.

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Kevin Kiley
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