Environment & Weather
50 Years After Silent Spring: Conservation of the Midwest Driftless Area PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service   
Monday, 01 October 2012 07:41
September 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which warned of the dangers of DDT and helped launch the environmental movement.
Fifty years after Rachel Carson raised a red flag about the extensive use of pesticides and their impacts, contaminants are so pervasive in our natural environment that any evaluation of threats to a species or ecosystem almost always includes some analysis of contaminants.   A look at the work being done on the Midwest’s Driftless Area paints a picture of the role that contaminants can play in efforts to assess and protect vulnerable ecosystems and species and the measures that researchers take to tease out contaminants as a factor affecting plants and animals.

The Driftless Area, located at the corners of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, is a regional limestone plateau of bluffs and steep stream valleys.  Continental glaciers during the most recent Ice Ages mostly flowed around and not over this plateau.  Vegetation in the Driftless Area was tundra-like during Ice Ages, but as the glaciers retreated, boreal forests invaded the former tundra.  Then, as the climate warmed, boreal forests gave way to the temperate forests and grasslands that we now see.

Within the Driftless Area is a network of rocky bluff habitats.  Due to some unique geologic features of these bluffs, the soil surface temperature is in the 40° F to 50° F range, even during the heat of the summer.  These cold producing areas are called “algific” slopes.  The slopes replicate a boreal forest-like condition, and some plants and animals that lived around the Driftless Area during the Ice Age or in boreal forests continue to survive here on these cold air slopes.  Disjunct populations of white pine, Canada yew and golden saxifrage are some of the plants found on algific slopes.  There are also federally listed endangered and state-listed endangered landsnail species (i.e., Iowa Pleistocene snail, Iowa Pleistocene vertigo, Minnesota Pleistocene succineid, and Briarton Pleistocene snail) that were thought to have gone extinct after the Ice Age glaciers retreated, but were discovered living in the Driftless Area.

A work group of technical staff from government agencies, universities, and non-government organizations was formed to study algific slope ecosystems in the Driftless Area of Iowa.  Researchers expect that lessons learned will not only help conserve these unique biological assemblages of climate relict species, but will provide information to help us conserve other systems with similar threats.  One of the research activities will be evaluation of the level of environmental contaminants in these habitats and how that affects ecosystem functions and the rare species.

A concern of the work group is that algific slope assemblages are vulnerable to global climate change.  The cause of modern global climate change is related to emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.  In addition to carbon dioxide, these emissions can also contain the contaminants mercury and selenium, along with nutrients such as nitrogen compounds.  The deposition of contaminants and nutrients from fossil fuel emissions can harm sensitive plants and animals that call the algific slopes their home.  While many of these species survived during past interglacial warming periods, our modern landscape is so fragmented by farms, cities and roads that species may not be able to disperse and survive like they did during the past.

Algific slopes have very thin layers of soil formed by decomposition of plants and leaf litter over hundreds of years.  Decomposition is aided by landsnails, and therefore they provide an important ecological service for this ecosystem.  Input of contaminants and nutrients from atmospheric deposition can detrimentally change the natural chemical cycling that helped shape these ecosystems and expose landsnails to toxic contaminants.  For example, nutrient enrichment caused by deposition of nitrogen compounds can allow invasive plants to outcompete native species, species that adapted to the thin soils and low availability of nutrients.  Acidification of the slopes from carbon dioxide deposition can increase the toxicity of some contaminants.  In addition, pesticides sprayed from aircraft on neighboring crop fields have the potential to drift onto the algific slopes, exposing plants and animals to more toxic chemicals.

After identifying potential sources of contaminants, avenues of exposure and impacts, contaminants biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are establishing methods to understand the effects of excess carbon and nutrients in these rare habitats and to determine the sensitivity of the climate relict species to modern-day contaminants.  Technical teams are also developing protocols to monitor temperatures, biological diversity, and contaminant accumulation.

Rachel Carson was a Fish and Wildlife Service employee and the Service’s Environmental Contaminants program continues in her footsteps.  It’s unfortunate, but environmental contaminants are found in almost all natural environments, even those habitats in remote areas many miles from pollution sources.  The Service’s Environmental Contaminants specialists work to identify those of most serious concern to fish, wildlife and plants; the extent of their effects, and how those effects can be mitigated.  Contaminants investigations of the algific slopes of the Driftless Area will help conserve those ecosystems and provide lessons learned for conserving other systems with changes related to global climate change.

Rachel Carson worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 1936 to 1952 and is recognized as one of the world’s foremost leaders in conservation. Her work as an educator, scientist and writer revolutionized America’s interest in environmental issues. In addition to sounding the warning about DDT in “Silent Spring,” she is remembered for her passion for the oceans and coasts, her inspiration as one of the first female scientists and government leaders, and her overall footprint on the history of conservation.  To learn more, visit http://www.fws.gov/Midwest/es/ec/SilentSpring/

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfws, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwshq, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq
By Michael Coffey
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Rock Island, Illinois

News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by IL Dept of Agriculture   
Wednesday, 26 September 2012 14:14

Detections bring the number of infested Illinois counties to 26.

SPRINGFIELD, ILL. - A destructive pest that feasts on ash trees has been discovered for the first time in two northern Illinois counties.  The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDoA) today confirmed infestations of the emerald ash borer in Lee and Henry counties.

"In Lee County the beetle was discovered at an industrial site on the est side of Dixon," program manager Scott Schirmer said.  "The detection in Henry County occurred at Baker Park Golf Course in Kewanee."

The emerald ash borer is a small, metallic-green beetle native to Asia.  Its larvae burrow into the bark of ash trees, causing the trees to starve and eventually die.  While the beetle does not post any direct risk to public health, it does threaten the ash tree canopy.

Currently, 39 Illinois counties are under quarantine to prevent the "man-made" spread of the beetle.  The quarantine prohibits the intrastate movement of potentially-contaminated wood products, including ash trees, limbs and branches of all types of firewood.  Although the beetle had not been confirmed in Lee County until now, it is located adjacent to infested counties and already is within the quarantine boundaries.  Henry County, however, is not.

"The quarantine boundaries will need to be adjusted," Schirmer said. "Meantime, I'd encourage residents of Henry County to put the quarantine guidelines into practice by making sure not to transport any firewood or untreated wood products outside of their county of origin.  I'd also encourage tree companies, villages and cities to familiarize themselves with the rules and regulations pertaining to the processing and transporting of ash materials."

The emerald ash borer is difficult to detect, especially in newly-infested trees.  Signs of infestation include the presence of metallic-green beetles about haft the diameter of a penny on or around ash trees, thinning and yellowing leaves, D-shaped holes in the bark of the trunk or branches and basal shoots.

Since the beetle was first confirmed int eh Midwest in the Summer of 2002, it has killed more than 25 million ash trees.  Anyone who suspects a tree may be infested is urged to contact either their county extension office, village forester, or the IDoA.  For more information, visit www.IllinoisEAB.com.


U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to Attend Pheasants Forever Rally for Iowa’s Outdoor Legacy PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Pheasants Forever   
Wednesday, 26 September 2012 13:36

Event to raise awareness and support for conservation throughout the state

Des Moines, Iowa – Sept. 26 – Pheasants Forever is pleased to announce Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Governor, plans to speak at the organization’s Rally for Iowa’s Outdoor Legacy event this weekend.  The two-day conservation rally and summit for all residents of the Hawkeye state is slated for September 28 & 29 at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in Des Moines.  The first-time event will bring together Iowans for a common cause: the protection of the state’s outdoor resources.

As part of Saturday’s conservation summit, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will address the Rally’s attendees. The Secretary is slated to speak at Saturday's luncheon.

In addition to Secretary Vilsack’s address, the weekend rally includes several speakers and panelists who are to highlight challenges and opportunities for conservation in Iowa as well as lessons from around the U.S. and other countries. Sessions and panel discussions include, but are not limited to, Private Land Management for Wildlife Diversity & Outdoor Recreation, Natural Resources Management and Economic Development, and Agriculture & Environmentalism – Perspectives from the Field.

“This rally is to remind Iowans that we live in an incredible state, but if we don’t take charge of our natural resources and work to protect them, we stand to lose them,” says Matt O’Connor, Pheasants Forever Iowa Conservation Director, “If our natural resources disappear, so will our healthy ecosystems and our outdoor heritage. I believe those attending will further appreciate and understand all that Iowa has to offer and what we can do to protect our state.”

Renowned outdoor advocates and conservationists Shane Mahoney and Dave Murphy will act as the summit’s keynote speakers. Mahoney is the Founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Biodiversity, Ecosystem Science and Sustainability at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.  He is recognized as an international authority on conservation. Murphy is the Executive Director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM). CFM is the largest private citizen conservation organization in Missouri. CFM has over 100,000 members and 80 affiliated organizations acting as leaders in conservation of natural resources and protection.

Iowa’s Conservation Summit Details

  • Weekend tickets include Friday reception, Saturday luncheon, and Iowa’s Outdoor Legacy dinner and auction Saturday evening. Tickets are now available and can be purchased here.
  • All Pheasants Forever members are invited. Find out more information HERE
  • Event sponsors include Iowa Pheasants Forever, Iowa Association of County Conservation Boards, Iowa’s Water & Land Legacy, Iowa’s Natural Heritage Foundation and others.

Iowa is home to 105 Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever chapters and nearly 20,000 combined PF and QF members. For more information about the rally or to reserve tickets, call Mark Langgin, representative of Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy, at (515) 244-3468 or Matt O’Connor at (563) 926-2357 / This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . For all other inquiries, please contact Rehan Nana, Pheasants Forever Public Relations Specialist, at (651) 209-4973 / This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Pheasants Forever, including its quail conservation division, Quail Forever, is the nation's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 130,000 members and 700 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent, the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure.


Gov. Branstad extends Disaster Emergency Proclamation PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Office of the Governor of the State of Iowa   
Monday, 24 September 2012 14:22

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry E. Branstad today authorized a proclamation of disaster emergency to extend the original proclamation signed on July 26, 2012. The extension is effective immediately and will last for 30 days from today.

The extended proclamation allows overwidth and overweight loads of hay, straw and stover. As a result of the drought experience by the state of Iowa, the effects of the drought continue and circumstances and reasons for issuance of the proclamation remain and continue.

Specifically, this proclamation, as did the original, allows for:

  • Overweight loads: Hay, straw and stover may be transported in loads weighing up to 90,000 pounds gross weight without obtaining an overweight permit normally required by the Iowa Department of Transportation. Overweight loads cannot travel on the interstate without a permit.  This proclamation applies to noninterstate roadways.  Specific axle weight limits do apply. Visit the Iowa DOT’s website www.iowa.dot.gov to see the maximum gross weight table and determine the legal limits for your vehicle/trailer combination.  A vehicle that is overweight, but not overwidth, can travel at all hours.
  • Overwidth loads: A vehicle transporting these goods can be overwidth, without an Iowa DOT permit, if they do not exceed 12 feet 5 inches wide.  An overwidth load can travel on any road, including the interstate, as long as its gross weight does not exceed 80,000 pounds.  Movement must occur between the hours of 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset.  All flags, signs and lights normally required are still needed.
  • Overweight and overwidth loads: A vehicle transporting these goods can be both overwidth, up to 12 feet 5 inches, and overweight, up to 90,000 pounds.  However, these vehicles cannot travel on the interstate.
  • Driver hours of service: The driver hours-of-service regulations pertaining to persons transporting these specific agricultural goods are suspended. Certain rest periods must be provided to drivers to prevent fatigued or ill drivers from operating on the roadways.

For additional details, call 1-800-925-6469 or visit the Iowa DOT’s website at www.iowadot.gov where a question and answer sheet can be found.


Brucemore’s Autumn Landscape Hike PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Tara Richards   
Tuesday, 18 September 2012 12:41

Brucemore's bucolic landscape—with its rolling yards, soaring trees, timber-lined pond, and stunning gardens—is more than a beautiful setting, it also exhibits over 120 years of history. Embrace the harvest season by joining Brucemore’s gardeners on Saturday, October 20 at 10:30 a.m. for the Autumn Landscape Hike. Witness the subtle and spectacular dressings of the 26-acre autumnal landscape highlighted by the dusky plum and rusty barn red colors of the season.   Discover current landscape issues, the role of public use, and the seasonal chores required to preserve the historic grounds. See how planting choices with sensitivity to native species and seasonal display affect the overarching impact of a landscape design. Seek advice from Brucemore gardeners and ask questions on topics ranging from particular plantings to landscape design.

Admission is $10.00 per person and $7.00 per Brucemore member. Space is limited. Purchase tickets online at www.brucemore.org, by calling (319) 362-7375, or by visiting the Brucemore Store and Visitor Center.

Experience Brucemore, an unparalleled blend of tradition and culture, located at 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. At the heart of the historic 26-acre estate stands a nineteenth-century mansion filled with the stories of three Cedar Rapids families.  Concerts, theater, programs, and tours enliven the site and celebrate the heritage of a community.  For more information, call (319) 362-7375 or visit www.brucemore.org.


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