Iowa Learning Farms is partnering with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) to host three CREP (conservation reserve enhancement program) wetland tours: July 10 in Story County, July 12 in Dickinson County, and July 24 in Emmet County.
I visited my first CREP wetlands the summer of 2010. Matt Lechtenberg, IDALS, was the guide and it was a fascinating closeup look at these constructed wetlands. I bought waders so that I could get in the water, take photographs and get a closer look than one can get from the shore. Matt’s enthusiasm for these wetlands was contagious.
Even though they are installed for the purposes of nutrient reduction and filtering tile drainage in the Des Moines Lobe, they still have this amazing level of quiet beauty. While I can appreciate the argument that they are not a substitute for historic undisturbed wetlands, I also understand that we have very few of those left in Iowa. We certainly need to maintain and restore where we can. Another reality is that there would be no wetlands in the CREP areas without this ten year old program. I think Matt told me there are 70 wetlands in development with over 40 already established. If we want cleaner water and increased biodiversity, we are going to need a lot more restored, constructed and reconstructed wetlands throughout the state. Hopefully, we can all agree that wetlands have important jobs to do no matter the original intent in its establishment.
We certainly need more long-term data on all the different wetlands in Iowa. We need to record the change in biodiversity over increments of time. CREP wetlands are only 10 years old. Do we have baseline of plant and animal species documented so we can measure it again in 20 and 30 years?
The debate surrounding wetlands reminds me of a quote by Rachel Naomi Remen: “Sometimes knowing life requires us to suspend disbelief, to recognize that all our hard-won knowledge may only be provisional and the world may be quite different than we believe it to be.” I certainly hope so! My hope is that if we give wetlands enough space and enough time they will show us the amazing resilience of the earth. They might not be like the wetlands of pre-settled Iowa. They will be the wetlands of our time and we need as many as we can get and still grow crops on the land.
Please take advantage of these CREP tours. Come with your waders, your cameras, your questions and your stress. Go home with some great photographs, some answers, maybe new questions and perhaps a lot less stress.