League Lines: Celebrating Conservation Across Iowa for 40 Years

Iowa Division_County Conservation Award

In 2014, the League’s Iowa Division will celebrate 40 years of recognizing the outstanding work of county conservation boards across the state.

Since 1974, the Iowa Division has partnered with the Iowa Association of County Conservation Boards (IACCB) to recognize the efforts of county conservation boards. Awards are based on achievements in four areas: habitat improvement, food production, aquatic/wetland improvement, and other conservation projects.

Iowa has a unique conservation system implemented through a 1955 law that allows citizens to vote to create county-run conservation boards. These boards are authorized to acquire, develop, and maintain areas devoted to conservation and public outdoor recreation. Since 1955, county conservation boards have been created in all of Iowa’s 99 counties. The Iowa Association of County Conservation Boards was formed shortly thereafter in 1959. (Trivia note: IACCB was formed at a meeting of county conservation board leaders held at a League chapter!)

In September 1974, a letter from the Izaak Walton League’s Iowa Division was read into the IACCB annual meeting minutes to establish an annual County Conservation Wildlife Habitat Planning Award. “It will be awarded at the Annual Conference of the IACCB to the county conservation board in Iowa which is judged to have carried out the most outstanding program of wildlife habitat improvement through promotion, planning, planting, and maintenance, on both public and private properties,” read the League statement. Today, the awards are known as the Wildlife Habitat Improvement Awards, and they provide first, second, and third place recognition in two population-based categories.

“These awards not only recognize the work done by our state’s county conservation boards, they remind our members of the connection they share to these boards and the common conservation goals we are all working to achieve,” says Iowa Division president Brenda Smith.

Following are highlights of the 2013 winners’ accomplishments.

County Population < 20,000

First Place: Mitchell County Conservation Board (located in northern Iowa)
  • Planted 116 acres prairie/ground cover and 53 acres of corn/sorghum/small grains
  • Developed/restored 46 wetland acres
  • Coordinated nest-box programs
  • Developed riparian buffer strips/ stabilized stream banks for improved water quality and fish habitat

County Population > 20,000

First Place: Pottawattamie County Conservation Board (located in southwest Iowa)

  • Planted 42 public acres of prairie/ground cover
  • Burned/mowed 283 private acres and 1,504 public acres
  • Improved timber stands
  • Offered programs about habitat improvement techniques for land-owners and made equipment available for establishing wildlife habitat
  • Administered roadside vegetation management program