State leaders, outdoor enthusiasts, and a U-S-D-A under-secretary this week pledged to restore the lands and waters of a region that includes parts of northwest Iowa prized by anglers.
Joe Wedum is chair of the council of Trout Unlimited which spearheaded the resolution. Wedum says four state governors signed “letters of agreement,” and county officials and others are partners in the effort to pool time and money to help clean up the waters.
The target of their restoration efforts will be hundreds of small streams and rivers in the four-state area that includes parts of Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota. He says many of the streams fell victim to the farming practices of a bygone era. “About 150 years of bad farm practices,” Wedum says, with lots of soil erosion that silted up the streams and sent their topsoil down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico. Geologically, it’s called the “driftless area,” because it escaped the glaciers that flattened much of the region eons ago, and Wedum says it offers bountiful fishing locations. The area’s “bluffy” with exposed limestone and deep valleys.
“It’s almost like you went back west and were in the foothills,” Wedum says, with trees and rolling valleys and there are already some streams that are improving as they’re being worked on. Wedum says cleaning up rivers in the region will have benefits for many others besides the trout fishermen.
When the land’s not eroding, the farmers get better use of their soil, and the water downstream’s cleaner so municipalities don’t have to treat drinking water so much with chemicals and filtering. Wedum says, “There’s a lot of things that get repaired when you stop all the bad things that are happening farther up the stream.”
Farm Bill conservation programs will help fund the work of restoring the streams, work that’ll include restoring eroded riverbanks with heavy equipment and re-seeding with native prairie-grass. Wedum says the restoration will improve habitat for wildlife and fish, and benefit local communities as a jobs program. He says it’ll help tourism and bring more sportsmen to hunt and fish in the areas, encourage canoeists, and also put the money spent on restoration into local economies.
Within the region’s 24-thousand square miles are some 600 spring creeks and six major watersheds according to the resolution signed by the governors. Once restored, organizers say those streams and rivers would make for ideal trout fisheries.