Executive Director's Report: IWLA Executive Director Scott Kovarovics provided an overview of League accomplishments since last year's convention and national priorities for the rest of the year. (See the slides.)
50 Years of Save Our Streams: IWLA Clean Water Program Director Samantha Briggs talked about the history of Save Our Streams and offered lessons learned on recruiting and retaining volunteer stream monitors. (See the slides.)
WE’VE GOT TO STOP KIDDING OURSELVES: HOW WE USE THE LAND HAS CONSEQUENCES
How we use the land – from agriculture to suburban development – is harming the streams and rivers that provide our drinking water, fish and wildlife habitat, and places for outdoor recreation across the nation. This panel discussed where we’re falling short and what that means for public health and our communities.
- Dr. Jerry Hatfield, Director, National Lab for Agriculture and the Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture, talked about the current state of agriculture and the need to increase crop diversity, reduce tillage, increase the use of cover crops, and – most of all – value our soil! (See Dr. Hatfield's slides.)
- Dr. David Cwiertny, Director, Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination, University of Iowa, talked about the impact of land use on public health. He said scientific research increasingly demonstrates that pollution is harming people at levels well below standards that define "what is safe” but policymakers are not responding quickly enough to consider more protective standards. (See Dr. Cwiertny's slides.)
- Professor Neil Hamilton, Director, Agricultural Law Center, Drake University, explained that we have the tools to help protect our water, improve our soil, and support more profitable sustainable farming – if we choose to use them. He posed the question: Have we come to tolerate soil loss and deteriorating water quality – and made them partisan issues? (See Professor Hamilton's slides.)
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Art Cullen explained that conventional row crop agriculture is at a turning point, driven by challenging economics and land-use practices that undermine healthy soil and clean water – which provide the very foundation of productive farms. He highlighted how more sustainable practices, less dependence on chemicals, and modest reductions in corn and soybean production will curb water pollution, fight climate change, and improve the economic outlook for America’s farmers.
CHANGE IS GOOD FOR OUR WATER, HEALTH, AND COMMUNITIES
Polluted runoff threatens public health and America’s streams, rivers, and lakes. This panel discussed how farmers, landowners, and volunteers are improving water quality.
- Bruce Carney, second generation Iowa farmer, explained how the traditional farming system works against conservation by prioritizing short-term gains over long-term improvements.
- Dr. Bonnie McGill, Research Fellow, University of Kansas, provided some initial results from her research into how much agricultural conservation practices, tile drainage, animal feed lots, and climate change affect nitrate pollution in Iowa rivers. She emphasized the need for science-based policy that would make it easier for more farmers to choose conservation. (See Dr. McGill's slides.)
- Dr. Mary Skopec, Executive Director, Iowa Lakeside Lab, talked about the important role volunteers play in gathering water quality data, emphasizing that this data is credible and actionable. To expand the number of stream monitors, she encouraged teaching volunteers partnership-building skills. (See Dr. Skopec's slides.)
ENGAGING A NEW GENERATION IN CONSERVATION
Phil Seng, Vice President, DJ Case and Associates, explored the results of a national survey on attitudes about the outdoors and nature to help League members understand why the outdoors matters to young adults and families. He also provided advice on engaging these audiences more effectively. (See the slides.)