Tag Archives: annual conference

20 Years of Elevating Iowa’s Environment

One week ago, 200+ environmental advocates, professionals, community, business and industry leaders, students, researchers, lawmakers and more gathered in Des Moines for our 2015 Annual Conference, Elevate: Creating an Environment of Action.

chad pregracke

Chad Pregracke

This year’s conference, featured keynote speaker Chad Pregracke, the 2013 CNN Hero of the Year, author, president & founder of Living Lands & Waters; a nonprofit river clean-up organization headquartered in the Quad Cities, who wowed the crowd with his inspiring story, charisma, energy and  contagious passion for cleaning up America’s rivers.

Chad was a tough act to follow, but other speakers were up to the task. Nationally renowned natural resource, energy, agricultural, social science, communications, legal and advocacy experts including Jacqui Patterson (NAACP), Jerry Hatfield (USDA-ARS), Cara Pike (Climate Access) and many more shared their knowledge, experience and tools to empower Iowans to identify opportunities, define moments and move interest to action to elevate Iowa’s environment.

This year also marked the Council’s 20th anniversary. Dennis Keeney, the Council’s second board president, the first director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and author of The Keeney Place:  A Life in the Heartland, reflected on this milestone during his lunch hour remarks, and we are pleased to be able to share those remarks with you here.


Welcome fellow environmentalists, what a beautiful fall day.

Thanks to the organizers for putting this conference on and for giving me a chance to reflect and forecast.

Twenty years, wow.

In 1995, I had been director of the Leopold Center for seven years, having started the Leopold Center in 1988. I had just turned 58 and was a grandfather. The future was real. I felt the Leopold Center was stable and I could risk being active in an environmental organization.

The Iowa Groundwater Protection Act, passed in 1987, was a brilliant piece of legislation. Thank you Ralph (Rosenberg), Dave (Osterberg) and Paul (Johnson). The Leopold Center had opened up new research and collaborative pathways with Iowa State, Practical Farmers of Iowa and many other in-state institutions. The legislation had also formed CHEEC (Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination) as well as monitoring programs for DNR, and money to address the sinkhole problem. But bridges with the nonprofit environmental organizations were needed. Enter the Iowa Environmental Council.

Two environmental leaders, Buz Brenton and Charlotte Hubbell had a dream, and the skills and vision to implement the dream. They envisioned an organization that would be a central meeting of minds for those groups desiring to improve Iowa’s environment. Charlotte and Buz worked tirelessly to get the Council off the ground and in the end, they created a unique organization that has not been duplicated elsewhere.

I recall the first organizational months as if they were just yesterday. Groups of us were assigned to come up with needed policy and research needs in a number of areas. We met in places around downtown, sometimes Charlotte would provide box lunches.

We hammered out the priorities of the Council and came up with a charter document. We decided to encourage individual membership, as well as organizational membership, a key to staying in touch with people and real world issues.

Susan Heathcote, the first full-time program staffer, was hired in early Jan of 1996 and has been the go-to leader of the Council’s water policy work ever since. Susan provides the science and policy we need to work with the diverse interests of the Council and interact with the public. Over the years she has been the valuable staff member that knows the score.

Charlotte was elected chair of the board and Linda Appelgate was the Council’s first executive director. Two years later, Charlotte along with her husband, moved to Europe for a business position, and I took over chair of the board. We were still forming, feeling our oats, and beginning to make a difference. It was a thrilling time to be involved. I was chair for two years and stayed on the Board for several more years.

Early on, IEC developed a collaborative model, getting people and groups together, finding areas of common agreement, and working toward solutions. With few exceptions, we have not resorted to the courts for action. As you will see in the display in the next room, IEC has made a lot of progress, but it takes dedicated effort.

IEC, thanks to great public relations programs, hard work on the hill, and to excellent coordination with the member organizations and the press, gained a strong reputation as a spokesperson for environmental issues.

20 years have flown by. I have been retired for 15 years, directed the Leopold Center for just 12 years. Now a grandfather six times over, I have my first great grandchild. My perspectives on the future and the need for sustainability continuously broaden.

IEC has new digs, a larger staff, and a vibrant executive director. The board is smaller and easier to work with, so I am told. IEC has a record number of member organizations and a large individual membership base. It is a strong sustainable model. I can name several somewhat similar groups who have dropped by the wayside in this time.

Looking ahead, I see turbulent times. Society has taken on conflict as the way to solve our problems. It will not work. But given that over 40% of our legislature is now lawyers, bad things are bound to happen. Examples abound, chaotic lawmaking, no solutions being proposed, obstructionists gain power. Lawmakers are in chaos and gridlock.

In Iowa, we must not lose control to extremists who are dedicated to destroying EPA, health care, and other government programs that help people. The power is there to commit havoc. Too much already has been done in the name of business over environment and education. Why do we subsidize building a polluting fertilizer nitrogen plant while vetoing funds for the Nutrient Reduction Strategy?

Just look to the east at Wisconsin. (Ugh!)

Take a lesson from Boehner, he called for realistic leadership, rather than drumbeats for the impossible. Take on winnable issues. It also will be important to use existing laws for environmental protection and to advocate for better comprehensive laws. Be aware of what might sneak in during midnight lawmaking.

IEC has a tremendous future ahead. It is building staff in critical areas, and gaining regional recognition. Thanks to the membership, the continued leadership of dedicated board members, that is all of us. We can be proud.

I know you are up to the task. I am proud to have been part of IEC for the past two decades. Thanks Charlotte, Buz and Linda for getting us started on a sustainable path. Thanks to all of you for supporting the greatest environmental coalition ever.

On to the next 20!”

Get ready to elevate Iowa’s environment!


Nationally renowned speakers. Leading natural resource, health, climate, agricultural and clean energy organizations. Passionate advocates, professionals, legislators, community leaders and students. They’re all coming together under one roof next Friday, October 2 at Drake University in Des Moines for our 2015 Annual Conference, Elevate: Creating an Environment of Action. Join us: REGISTER TODAY

2013 CNN Hero of the Year Chad Pregracke, author, president & founder of Living Lands & Waters; a non-profit river clean-up organization, will headline the event. He will be joined by a dynamic slate of speakers hailing from across the Midwest, Washington D.C. and Vancouver, who will take to the stage to share their knowledge and expertise during eight thought-provoking sessions. This event has been approved for 3.75 hours of Continuing Legal Education credit. View this year’s agenda.

The day will also feature networking opportunities, top-notch exhibitors and a seasonally-focused lunch.

Discounted registration is available to Council members and students. Scholarships are available for students facing financial barriers.

Questions? Prefer to register via phone? Contact Communications & Outreach Director Katy Heggen at Heggen@iaenvironment.org or 515-244-1194 x210.

Join us for our Annual Members Meeting, open to all Council members, immediately following the conference. Staff will provide a brief overview of the Council’s policy priorities for 2016, after which members are invited to ask questions and offer input as well as other issues for consideration.

Please RSVP to Executive Director Ralph Rosenberg at Rosenberg@iaenvironment.org by Friday, Sept. 25th.

Agenda announced for 2015 Annual Conference

Today, we are excited to announced seven sessions featuring a dynamic slate of speakers hailing from across Iowa, the Midwest and as far as Washington D.C., that will take the stage to share their knowledge and expertise at our 2015 Annual Conference, Elevate: Creating an Environment of Action, on Friday, October 2, 2015 at Drake University in Des Moines.

Join us to learn about work being done in Iowa to elevate agricultural action on climate issues, be inspired by one man’s quest to clean up our rivers one piece of garbage at a time, dive into the sociology of sustainability, engage in conversations about bridging the clean energy divide, and more!

View this year’s agenda and reserve your spot alongside Iowa’s environmental leaders today.

The theme of this year’s conference, which also marks the Council’s 20th anniversary, is elevate. Sessions will focus on providing participants with knowledge, information and resources to identify opportunities, define moments and move interest to action.

As always, the conference will also feature networking opportunities, top-notch exhibitors and a delicious lunch featuring seasonal produce.

Take advantage of early bird registration rates, ending Sept. 4, and register today.

Our  conference is also a great opportunity to connect your organization with a unique cross-section of Iowa’s environmental community. Register as an exhibitor. Don’t delay – space is limited.

Questions? Prefer to register via phone? Contact Communications & Outreach Director Katy Heggen at Heggen@iaenvironment.org or 515-244-1194 x210.

Interested in sponsoring our conference? Contact Development Director Jamie Burch at burch@iaenvironment.org or 515-244-1194 x202

2015 Annual Conference aims to elevate environment

IEC_ElevateLogo_WebRegistration for our 2015 Annual Conference, Elevate: Creating an environment of action, Friday, October 2 at Drake University in Des Moines, is now open.

This year’s conference, which also marks the Council’s 20th anniversary, will empower and equip attendees to elevate their work, and will feature keynote speaker Chad Pregracke, 2013 CNN Hero of the Year, founder and president of Living Lands and Waters.

pregracke_chad_webBest known for starting out as a young man in East Moline, Illinois wanting a cleaner waterway, Chad has become a champion for the Mississippi River. Chad and his Living Lands & Waters crew have organized and led over 800 cleanups on 23 rivers in 20 states and removed an estimated eight million pounds of garbage. Chad had an idea that evolved into a movement that has helped to restore one of America’s greatest icons, the Mississippi River. He is proof that one person can make a difference.

Other sessions, featuring national, regional and local speakers will focus on providing attendees with knowledge and resources to effectively identify opportunities, define moments and move interest to action. Additional speakers and sessions will be announced soon.

Take advantage of early bird registration rates and reserve your spot today.

The Council’s Annual Conference is known for bringing together a unique cross section of Iowa’s environmental community to share their knowledge and experience to address today’s environmental challenges. Together, we learn from one another and work together to make Iowa a better place to live, work, explore and enjoy.

Exhibitor and sponsorship opportunities are also available.

Questions? Contact Communications and Outreach Director Katy Heggen at 515-244-1194 x210 or Heggen@iaenvironment.org

Early-bird discount for annual conference ends Tuesday!

Early registration for the Iowa Environmental Council’s annual conference, “At the Tipping Point:  Creating Momentum for a Healthier Iowa Environment” ends Tuesday, September 3, meaning the early-bird discount will end also.

tippingpointThis year, national freshwater restoration expert Joe Whitworth leads a day of speakers and networking focused on making measurable progress for clean water in Iowa as well as building on the state’s national leadership in wind energy by expanding use of solar energy.  You can register to attend now and save:

Any way you choose to register, we encourage you to do so by September 3 to claim the special rate.

Thank you to Growing Green Communities and our other sponsors for major support of this event!