Arbor Day reminds Iowans to appreciate & advocate for trees

Today is Arbor Day, a day to appreciate trees and to give back by planting saplings and seeds. For many Iowans, Arbor Day serves as a sharp reminder of the importance of confronting and advocating for initiatives to address an insidious issue: Emerald Ash Borer.

The Emerald Ash Borer, or EAB, is a small green invasive insect that has been killing increasingly large numbers of Ash trees across the Midwest. First found in Michigan in 2002, EAB has spread to numerous Midwest states including Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Colorado and Iowa. To date, EAB infestations have killed tens of millions of Ash trees, and while prevention is possible, once a tree is infected, there is no cure.

Once EAB larvae enter a young Ash tree, they tunnel and eat the wood directly underneath the bark, preventing the proper distribution of water and nutrients. After a few years of continual decline, the tree will eventually die. This is not only sad, but also dangerous as falling dead tree limbs can damage infrastructure and pose a hazard to cars and pedestrians.

There is no cure, but the spread of EAB can be stymied. Currently, there are national and state quarantines in effect that prevent ash wood in infected areas from leaving, and help healthy trees stay healthy.

Iowans with ash trees are encouraged to stay updated on the spread of EAB throughout Iowa. If there are confirmed infestations within 15 miles of your home, treatments are available to prevent or deter EAB spread. Another way to discourage EAB spread is to plant a diverse set of trees and plants in your yard. Bio-diversity is an important aspect of a healthy ecosystem, and decreases the impact of invasive species like EAB.

Council member Trees Forever has more information about the spread of Emerald Ash Borers, and tips for homeowners, on their website.

Conserving America’s Natural Places

LCWF helps establish and protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests and wildlife refuges, and provides matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects.

Iowa has received approximately $70 million in LWCF funding over the years. Funding has gone to protecting some of our state’s most treasured natural places including the Neal Smith and Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuges, the Effigy Mounds Monument, and the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site among others.

Earth day is here, and as we celebrate the 45th anniversary of this international event, we are reminded that we share planet and must do our part to keep it healthy. One way environmental and conservation organizations may help this Earth Day is by showing your support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Created by Congress more than 50 years ago, the LWCF has one simple task: utilize a portion of offshore drilling fees to protect America’s precious and fragile natural resources for generations to come.

LCWF helps establish and protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests and wildlife refuges, and provides matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects.

The LWCF is authorized to receive up to $900 million a year, but that commitment has rarely been met. Each year, Congress diverts most of the funds that could go to LWCF elsewhere. Only once in the LWCF’s history has the full $900 million been authorized. As a nation, we need to stand up and insist that LWCF funds be used for their intended purpose.

The LWCF authorizing legislation is set to expire in less than six months on September 30, and broad support is needed to ensure this important source of conservation funds will continue.

The LWCF Coalition has created an update of the LWCF Coalition Statement of Support, which lays out to Congress the need to fully fund the LWCF. This statement has been signed by local and national organizations – including the Council and many of its member organizations – that support reauthorizing and fully funding the LWCF. By signing this statement and inviting our member organizations and allies to do the same, we demonstrate how broad the support for this fund is, and how important it is to protecting and preserving America’s natural resources.

To sign your organization on to the LWCF Coalition Statement of Support, please fill out and submit the online form.

This form includes the full text of the statement. Signatories are putting their organization’s name behind the message contained in the statement. Besides the specific text of the statement, nobody will claim to speak for your organization.

Questions? Contact LWCF staffer Brandon Helm at brandon_helm [at] tws [dot] org

Expanding clean energy in Iowa

The Iowa Legislature is currently considering two bills – SSB1192 and SSB1193 – both which would protect our environment, strengthen our economy, and improve our health and quality of life by expanding access to wind and solar energy.

As the end of session draws near and policy makers begin to prioritize bills for passage, it’s critical that they hear from you, their constituents. Ask your senator to prioritize advancing clean energy in Iowa today.

SSB1192 and SSB1193 would expand access to wind and solar energy by increasing the available funds for wind and solar tax incentives.

SSB1192 and SSB1193 would expand access to wind and solar energy by increasing the available funds for wind and solar tax incentives.

Last year, we successfully advocated for tripling Iowa’s solar tax incentive, which resulted in significant economic opportunities and improved access to solar for businesses, farmers and homeowners. The program has been so effective that demand for the tax incentives still exceeds the annual cap. SSB1192 would increase the annual cap of solar tax incentive from $4.5 million to $6.5 million.

SSB1193 would make improvements to 476C production tax incentives, which provide tax credits annually according to the amount of renewable energy produced. Improvements include the addition of more megawatts in the 476C credit for solar energy, and cleaning up the 476C wind list so that active projects may move forward.

SSB1192 has been approved by subcommittee and is currently in Ways and Means, and SSB1193 is currently assigned to subcommittee in Ways and Means. We must help ensure both bills make it to the floor for debate: take action now.

Together, we can transition Iowa to clean energy, and do so in a way that benefits the state’s environment and health and strengthens our economy.

Meet our member organizations: Iowa Association of Water Agencies

As a coalition-based organization, the Iowa Environmental Council would be unable to fulfill our mission without the continued support of our organizational, cooperator and individual members. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with so many incredible partners, and we’d like to help you get to know them better. This is the first entry in our new series: Meet our member organizations. Each entry, we’ll introduce you to one of our member organizations and share some information about how they’re helping create a safe, healthy environment and sustainable future for Iowa.

We’re kicking off this series with The Iowa Association of Water Agencies (IAWA), a diverse group of large and small water utilities that have banded together to promote clean and safe water. IAWA has been one of the longest standing partners of the Council.

“The Council and IAWA have very similar approaches and goals when it comes to Iowa’s waterways,” said Linda Kinman, who represents the IAWA on the Council’s board of directors. “Both take a holistic approach to water quality, and recognize that any solution needs to be long-term and all encompassing.”

One of IAWA’s main goals is to educate the public about the importance of water quality. To that end, they sponsor the Iowa Children’s Water Festival, a yearly event that has fifth graders from all across the state come to Des Moines and learn about water conservation.

Apart from their yearly event, IAWA also spreads awareness to the larger community by encouraging member utilities to be vocal about water quality issues.

“It used to be that water utility companies were not outspoken about the issues they faced,” Kinman said. “IAWA hast tried to reach out to ask them to engage their communities and promote clean water practices.”

IAWA is an active part of numerous communities, and strives to build strong coalitions with organizations with similar goals.

“Our biggest success comes from working with and coordinating other groups,” Kinman said. “By partnering with others, we can push legislation further and protect the environment more effectively.”

As for the continued partnership with the Council, IAWA remains enthusiastic.

“We will continue to work with the Council to put pressure on areas that will do the most good,” Kinman said. “We will continue to help focus efforts on improving and protection Iowa’s water resources.”

The 2015 Water Festival will be held on Thursday, May 14 at DMACC’s Ankeny campus. If you are interested in attending or volunteering, please visit their website for more information. If you have any questions about the event or about IAWA, contact Linda Kinman at iawa.icwf@gmail.com

Iowa initiative will help expand threatened habitats

Plant_Grow_Fly

As winter fades into memory and Iowa prepares for the spring, many people take to their backyards and gardens to enjoy the weather and flowering plants. Unfortunately, an important part of this beautiful system is in jeopardy: pollinators.

Butterflies and other pollinators are an important part of the ecosystem. Without pollinators, many plants cannot mature or spread. If pollinators were to disappear completely, we would lose one third of our fruit, vegetables and cotton crops.

Currently, butterflies and other pollinators are disappearing in part due to loss of habitat and feeding resources, changes in the climate and human development. It is estimated that butterflies alone lose 2.2 million acres of habitat each year, but it is not too late to act.

This year, Iowans can help expand the range and improve the quality of habitats for butterflies and other pollinators by planting butterfly-friendly gardens in their home gardens.

Plant.Grow.Fly., an initiative the Council is a proud partner on, aims to help pollinators by promoting gardens that help pollinators throughout Iowa. Through education and advocacy, this initiative hopes to see an improvement in the habitat for pollinators. Those with even a little bit of outside space can plant gardens that support pollinator habitat.

Visit the Plant.Grow.Fly. website, hosted on the Blank Park Zoo site, to access information ranging from instructions on how to start a garden to guides on what plants to grow. Plant. Grow. Fly. makes it easy to get started. Once you’ve created your garden, register it with Plant. Grow. Fly. to show support and help spread the word about the plight of pollinators.

Through education and action, we can help reverse this disturbing trend and save our winged friends.