Environment

Environmental stories

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cwppra/ / Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection And Restoration Act

This year’s so-called "dead zone" off the coast of Louisiana is much smaller than expected. After monitoring farm runoff from the Midwest, that has some researchers surprised. 

Kate Payne / IPR

A non-profit organization hoping to restore native habitats in eastern Iowa is getting some help from a herd of goats.  Seventeen goats are currently eating their way through 40 acres of invasive plants on the Muddy Creek Preserve in Johnson County. Staffers at the Bur Oak Land Trust hope to ultimately restore the parcel to pre-settlement conditions, but they say they need the animals' help to get it done.

Stefan Maurer / Creative Commons

Wolves are a keystone species, but they haven’t lived in Iowa for years. Their successful reintroduction into the upper midwest and the Yellowstone National Park shows us the incredible impact wolves have on the ecosystem they live in.

For example, wildlife biologist Jim Pease says the wolves make sure there aren't too many elk and other grazing animals around. He points out some of the changes that resulted in Yellowstone National Park when the wolves returned.

 

NRCS via https://www.nrcs.usda.gov

Iowa regulators are not meeting some state requirements for water-quality related conservation practices, according to an analysis of the Department of Natural Resources by state Auditor Mary Mosiman. The DNR is not implementing a program to buy property rights to restore wetlands near agricultural drainage wells, as set out in state law.

Jared Krauss

The Mississippi River provides drinking water for millions of people living in cities along the water’s edge. It also carries runoff from Midwestern farms into the Gulf of Mexico.

Nutrient runoff from Iowa agriculture is one of the leading causes of the growing “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, an oxygen-deprived section of the Gulf, which last year was recorded to be the size of the state of New Jersey.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Blue-green algae blooms like the one that spurred a drinking water ban in one Iowa town are not widespread in the state, according to a state water analyst. 

Kate Payne / IPR

Iowa is a leading contributor to the so-called dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The low-oxygen area the size of Connecticut can kill fish and sea life. And it’s largely fueled by the runoff from Midwestern farm fields. Five years after the state created a plan to slow this process, researchers say Iowa isn't moving fast enough to cut its nutrient runoff.

Jace Anderson/FEMA

 

No matter how intrigued you may be about the impact of a flood, it’s best to avoid exploring the waters until some time has passed.

“I see people wading in that water and I think, ‘would you go wading in sewage water?’ Because that’s exactly what it is,” says home improvement expert Bill McAnally. “Whatever is in your yard, it comes around the gutter and down the storm sewer... I see everything possible come floating into that river.”

 

Claudia McGehee Illustration

Discussions about endangered species in Iowa often focus on the bigger, showier species that make headlines, like the bald eagle; but there are many species at risk that fly under the radar.

For instance, the Topeka Shiner, a small minnow that lives in Midwestern streams.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with ecologists and biologists who are looking out for Iowa’s smallest, most threatened species, including the Topeka Shiner, the Rusty Patched Bumblebee, the Wood Turtle, and many more.

Courtesy of the City of Cedar Rapids

This week marked a decade since histroic floodwaters ravaged a lot of eastern Iowa, including Cedar Rapids.  IPR's Clay Masters speaks with Cedar Rapids Flood Control Program Manager Rob Davis about progress made in the city since 2008.

Don Becker via USGS / https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rescued_Flood_Victims,_Coralville,_IA_(2593492801).jpg

Ten years after floodwaters pummeled Eastern Iowa, some local officials say they’re better equipped than ever to track the next big flood. 

FIRMM

Right now, chances are pretty good that you're surrounded by plastic. A plastic keyboard, plastic water bottle, the plastic fixtures in your car, perhaps even a plastic case on your phone. There's no denying that plastics are an integral part of our society, but they're also a huge factor in a major environmental disaster that's becoming increasingly apparent in our oceans and waterways. 

Mark Vitosh

In recent years, many Iowans have noticed something strange happening to the leaves on their oak trees. The leaf tissue becomes brown or purple and shrivels up, making the leaves look ripped or torn. This condition is known as “oak tatters.” 

Oak tatters has been observed since the 1980s and documented since 1995, but the cause remains a mystery.

Iowa HSEMD/CAP / https://www.weather.gov/dvn/flood2008_Overview

For years Cedar Rapids officials have been lobbying for federal funding to build a flood control system. But one local official says it may be time to again ask taxpayers for their support. 

Raptor Resource Project

From absentee parents to parenting by committee, it doesn't always take a village for animals to raise their young. 

On this Wildlife Day edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with wildlife biologist Jim Pease about the different parenting styles used by animals. John Howe of the Raptor Resource Project in Decorah also joins the conversation with an update on the Decorah eagles, who are being raised by a single mom after the recent disappearance of her mate.

John Pemble / IPR

For the past five or six years, there’s been a lot of attention surrounding Iowa's water quality. Last year, a federal judge dismissed the Des Moines Water Works’ lawsuit against drainage districts in three northern Iowa counties. The utility had claimed the districts were funneling high levels of nitrates into the Raccoon River, a major source of drinking water for 500,000 Iowans. Earlier this year, Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill she called "monumental," which allocates $282-million for water quality projects in the state. But the law is not without controversy.

Iowa Wind Energy Association / Facebook

Black Hawk County is moving forward with a plan to build 35 wind turbines, despite concerns from local residents. But an Iowa researcher says the impacts will likely be minimal.

John Fowler via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/snowpeak/27057517509/

A rollback of federal rules on migratory birds has conservationists worried. The federal government has announced it will stop prosecuting companies that accidentally kill species protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. They fear the changes could pave the way for industrial developments that pose a threat to the species in Iowa.

Clay Masters / IPR

The Missouri River has seen several devastating floods in the past decade. Now, a federal judge says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property damage over how it handled some of these floods. The ruling has intensified a debate about how best to manage the river that runs from Montana to Missouri.

A sign on the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge over the Missouri River between Council Bluffs, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska calls the Big Muddy “forever changed by the power of humans.”

Rachel Samerdyke/USFWS Midwest via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmidwest/9260033969/

Wildlife biologists need the help of Iowa residents to monitor frog and toad populations. The research could tell scientists more about the state’s water quality.

Jeff Bryant via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeff-m-bryant/

Wildlife scientists want southern Iowans to help monitor deer for chronic wasting disease. CWD is now in three counties in the state but conservationists are hopeful early intervention can slow its spread.

Kym Farnik via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/cypheroz/

Iowa’s largest utility is doing away with its coal ash ponds. Instead of putting the toxic dust in wet pits, the MidAmerican Energy Company will put it in sealed landfills, or recycle it. 

Community Environmental Council

In the last three decades, the Earth has lost half of its coral reefs. In 2016, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef lost nearly 30 percent of its coral. In 2017, this number rose to 50 percent.

While there are a number of different factors at play, it's increasingly clear that the warming of the world's oceans are a major contributor to this loss.

Michael Leland

Bison once roamed the plains in herds so thick they obscured the land. They were hunted nearly to extinction and now only live in controlled and managed herds.

On this hour of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks about the history of the American bison and their relationship with humans with author, conservationist, and bison rancher Dan O'Brien, author of Great Plains Bison.

"Their impact on the flora and fauna of the Great Plains is what makes the Great Plains what they are," O'Brien says.

Stepan Mazurov

This Valentine’s Day, while many humans woo potential mates with chocolate, flowers or other tokens, there are a number of other species that are also in the mood for love. Eagles are nesting, barn owls are calling, cardinals are singing, and love is in the air.

On this hour of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe sits down with wildlife biologist Jim Pease to talk about mating calls and other wooing habits of the animal kingdom. 

Minnesota Historical Society Press

 This program originally aired June 9, 2016.

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).

Snowy Owls Visit Iowa

Dec 13, 2017
Mike-Wise / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ - Cropping and lighting changes made

Iowans have been reporting snowy owl sightings across the state this year. In this wildlife day edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe is joined by wildlife biologist Jim Pease to talk through the unique characteristics of the snowy owl, and why they are in Iowa.

"It's a common thing that happens with northern critters. It includes everything from snowshoes hares in the boreal forest to snowy owls in the arctic. They go through regular cycles of boom and bust in response to the available food supply."

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

This weekend, U.N. climate negotiations that were held in Bonn, Germany ended. The two-week talks were aimed at laying the groundwork for faster action to curb climate change and deal with its impacts. The first public draft of the 4th National Climate Assessment was also released earlier this month.

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

When Martin Luther King Jr. gave his most famous speech, he did not say "I have a problem." A growing environmental movement called #EarthOptimism is taking that idea and painting a vision for a brighter future.

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Nancy Knowlton, who is chair of marine science at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian and founder of the earth optimism movement, and Connie Mutel, who is a senior science writer at the University of Iowa. 

bird flew / Flickr

Thomas Olander of Louisiana has been a shrimper and fisherman for about 40 years. He says his livelihood and way of life is dying out because of the growing dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The guys that drag across that area, they absolutely cannot catch anything alive,” he says. “Nothing lives in it.”

 

Pages