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Find your path to the great outdoors

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Dave Blankenship, guest columnist

Our recent flooding gave me pause, and I had to ask myself: What more can we do to prevent this from happening in the future? Are we simply going to get comfortable with increased storms and flooding?

Earlier this year I retired from a long career with Transamerica, and I’m now pursuing a lifelong goal of getting more kids outdoors. Our long-held suspicion that time in the outdoors creates powerful positive influences in our kids is increasingly being confirmed by credible research.

Surely we all agree that we need a stronger ethic caring for the land, whether public or private, and more of a commitment to leave a healthy world for future generations. We’ve all seen neighborhoods remove mature trees in order to accommodate development. We bring out the bulldozers and chain saws and often clear far more than is necessary for new buildings. When we replant, are we planting a diverse mix of species for pollinators or are we focused more on the ease of mowing turf grass?

According to the U.S. Forest Service, since 2012 Iowa landowners have removed over 200,000 acres of forests. We know this has a major effect on runoff and flooding. Why don’t we have a basic requirement to preserve vegetation along our streams and rivers? Let’s not kid ourselves into believing that these collective actions aren’t having a major effect on flooding and the loss of habitat for many species.

I’m developing a property in Cedar Rapids which I’ve dedicated entirely to the mission of getting kids invested in the outdoors. At the Pathfinder Outdoor Education Center, young people will improve their powers of observation and learn creative problem-solving skills as they plant trees and remove invasive species — and have fun outdoors! Did you know that:

• As one mature tree intercepts rain, it can offset 35,500 gallons of water

• A wetland stores 350,000 gallons of water per acre

• Mowed lawn grass and bare crop fields do not slow water

• Kids and adults need time outdoors all year-round

I believe we can take responsibility to restore and protect more land. We can plant more trees and native prairie, install more wetlands and wildlife habitat. I believe we can reverse societal trends and get young people (and adults) outside more often. Please do your part to take care of the natural world, in your neighborhood, on your farm and on behalf of public lands. Our future depends on it.

• Dave Blankenship is recently retired from Transamerica, serves on the Trees Forever board of directors and is founder of the Pathfinder Outdoor Education Center. Comments: v2k.blankenship@gmail.com

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