Guest Columnist

On Earth Day, celebrate Iowa's people

Mike Naig
Mike Naig

Earth Day is an opportunity to reflect on the condition of our natural resources and what we’re doing to protect them for the next generation. That work wouldn’t be possible without great people and great partners.

So, on Earth Day, let’s celebrate our people.

We don’t have to look any further than the Middle Cedar Partnership Project to see the positive impact of Iowans coming together to conserve our natural resources. People in Cedar Rapids and nearby rural communities are embracing new ideas and innovative ways to help protect our soil and improve our water quality. The watersheds involved in the MCPP cover a total of 135,000 acres.

In recent years, a diverse group of 16 conservation partners has emerged in this area of the state. Farm groups, cities, counties, conservation districts, government agencies, colleges, community organizations, environmental groups and private companies are joining forces on water quality improvement projects.

The city of Cedar Rapids and Coe College have implemented urban water quality improvement projects. Rural landowners and farmers are planting more acres of cover crops and are building edge-of-field conservation structures such as saturated buffers and bioreactors. These projects are not only making a difference locally, they are positively impacting people and resources downstream.

I’m proud of the work our team at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship does to help facilitate water quality improvement projects here and in other watersheds across the state. There are significant resources being allocated to outreach and education in this effort so we can continue to scale up proven nutrient management practices. When landowners and community members embrace conservation practices and are committed to making a difference, results happen.

When I travel the state speaking with Iowans, either on the farm or in town, a consensus is building. Producers tell me they take being good stewards of their land very seriously. They want to leave their land better off for their kids and grandchildren. Iowans care deeply about protecting our state’s natural resources.

Earth Day is a great time to look at the progress we’re making and identify ways to do even more to conserve and protect our natural resources. We have much more work to do, but we are headed in the right direction.

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And, on Earth Day, we can raise our water glasses to celebrate the people, the progress made and the momentum we’re building for the future.

• Mike Naig is Iowa secretary of agriculture.

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