By the 1980s Iowa lost more than 95 percent of the wetlands which naturally dominated much of the Iowa landscape, serving as nature’s sponge to recycle nutrients, recharge groundwater and reduce flooding. Nearly 20 years ago, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) began helping Iowa landowners bring back wetlands through a variety of USDA easement programs.
Since then, lowa landowners have enrolled 165,000 acres into permanent easements, protecting and restoring wetlands across the state, according to State Conservationist Jay Mar with the USDA-NRCS. “Since 1994, USDA has invested more than $300 million in Iowa through a variety of programs including the Wetlands Reserve Program, Emergency Wetlands Reserve Program (EWP) and Emergency Watershed Protection Program-Flood Plain Easements (EWPP-FPE),” he said.
Iowa NRCS celebrated this achievement on Tuesday during a special event at the Jung and Savage farm near Charles City. Landowner Carol Savage, who lives in the Kansas City suburb of Stilwell, Kan., has owned the 200-acre farm for about 30 years.
To preserve the family farm, Savage enrolled 140 acres into a permanent easement through WRP in 2009. Savage is the oldest of seven Hughes siblings who grew up there. “It was very important to me and all my siblings that the farm stayed in our family in good condition,” said Savage. “WRP is a wonderful program.”
Iowa currently ranks tenth national for the number of acres enrolled in WRP. Restored wetland acres pro- vide many benefits including:
- Supporting our state’s efforts to reduce nutrient loading of Iowa’s rivers and streams.
- Reducing the potential for flooding.
- Providing valuable habitat for Iowa’s wildlife.
- Adding scenic beauty to our state’s landscape.