Human activities have fundamentally altered our landscape, and the outcome has been degradation of the earth's natural processes and cycles. Conservation practices are used to restore the natural hydrology and ecosystems in a patchwork of promise across the landscape. Can these conservation practices also help to capture carbon in the atmosphere, reducing greenhouse gases and helping to combat climate change?
The answer is all too familiar - it depends. Practices like turning marginal cropland into restored wetlands does increase the permanent land cover and can encourage the growth of woody plants, but wetlands also emit methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This 2019 report by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources finds "... Drainage of wetlands and conversion to cropland can release significant amounts of long-stored carbon through organic matter decomposition. However, wetlands also emit methane, making it difficult to assess their role relative to GHG emissions. Methane emissions are highest in wetlands that are permanently or frequently inundated, while less frequently inundated wetland types such as wet meadows appear to sequester more GHGs (green house gases) than they emit. "
Similarly, the role of other conservation measures - for example cover crops - has to be carefully considered before values for carbon capture are assigned. This UMRR blog post from December, 2020, outlines a growing experiment in development of a carbon market in Minnesota. Now, the budget proposed by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz for the Board of Water and Soil Resources includes funding for expansion of carbon markets in Minnesota - see page 46 here.
Let's be clear here. Conservation practices are a good thing. LWV UMRR strongly agrees that cover crops and reduced tillage are vital climate adaptation and resilience measures, providing undeniable benefits to soil health and farm resilience. Improved soil health, keeping water on the land, and restoring habitat will have benefits broadly, including making our landscapes more resilient to the added stresses of our changing climate. Our concern is that cover crops and no-till may play a minimal role in sequestering carbon. LWV UMRR is joining with other environmental organizations in Minnesota in requesting that more consideration be given to scientific data on carbon capture before the state more strongly commits to including cover crops and no-till as eligible practices in a carbon market.
Watch the LWV UMRR Blog for continued reporting on this issue.
US Army Corps of Engineers seeking comments on the Water Resources Development Act - public meetings in March, comment period ends May 7
The Water Protection Network has shared upcoming opportunities for organizations to provide input to the Army Corps of Engineers on developing implementation guidance for the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020, the bill that authorizes projects and policy changes for the Corps. The Corps issued this notice, published today in the Federal Register, opening a 60-day public comment period (May 7, 2021 deadline) and announcing a series of virtual stakeholder sessions (listed below) for the public to provide input and recommendations to the Assistant Secretary of the Army-Civil Works on any provisions of WRDA 2020.
This Act includes provisions that recognize the role of climate change in water management. There are some provisions that could be seen to be positive, and some that are more troubling. You can read a summary of the bill at this link, and we've also included it at the end of this post.
Click here for a summary, from the National Wildlife Federation, of key provisions of WRDA 2020 that they have identified to benefit the environment, underserved communities, and Tribes; that are particularly harmful to the environment; and that advance restoration of important ecosystems.
LWV UMRR urges people interested in the river to take time to dig into the Corps' plans for implementing the WRDA and raise concerns where appropriate. Here's the information on public comment - note that these meetings start next week! Sitting in on one of these virtual meetings would be a good way to get an overview of the issues at stake; final date for submitting comments is May 7.
The Illinois Tollway stretches 294 miles (473 km) of tollways in 12 counties in Northern Illinois. This highway system includes these tollways:
Our speaker for the April 5 educational session will be Bryan Wagner, Environmental Policy Program Manager for the Illinois Department of Transportation, shown below on the right. He's going to tell us about the measures that IDOT has taken to effectively manage storm water, mitigate construction impacts and more. The session will start at 1pm on Zoom and will be recorded for later viewing.
In his March 1, 2021 post, Jones compiled data from the monitoring of Iowa watersheds since 2003. His post documents his data sources and explains his methodology. The graph above shows the amount of nitrogen being discharged from Iowa on the major rivers. The green line is the rivers discharging to the Missouri River, and the blue line is the rivers going directly to the Upper Mississippi. The red line is the total discharge. Jones' data shows that the total nitrogen discharge has doubled since 2003.
In 2019, Jones wrote a post that compared the impact of the population of livestock to the human population of major cities. Our speaker at the UMRR session, David Osterberg, quoted Chris Jones as he talked about the need for a stronger approach to nutrient management. You can watch the video of Osterberg's talk via the link in this UMRR Blog post. Chris Jones' blog post that Osterberg quoted is found at this link.
Our February 1 meeting featured Heidi Keuler from Fishers and Farmers as one of our speakers. You can see the video from this meeting at this link. She talked about the work of this organization in bringing together people who care about the land and water to reach solutions that work for both.
Every month, Fishers and Farmers posts a podcast and a video talking about work in Upper Mississippi watersheds to advance soil health and water quality improvements. Their February events focused on the Polk County, Iowa, Soil and Water Conservation District and the work of the Peno Creek Landowner Council near Hannibal, Missouri. You can watch the video and listen to the podcast on the Fishers and Farmers website. Also on this page, you will learn of F&F's upcoming programs, and have the opportunity to participate and learn.
In our December blog post, we told you about the Ag-Urban Partnership Forum hosted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. In a recent email, Katrina Kessler of MPCA said:
"I am reaching out to let you know that the MPCA recently published a detailed Water Quality Trading Guidance document and a companion website that provide a high-level introduction to the concept of water quality trading. Water quality trading provides a mechanism and legal framework for regulated wastewater and stormwater sources to engage in watershed-based water quality restoration and protection partnerships, and is closely related to the ecosystem services marketplace ideas presented at the Ag-Urban Partnership Forum.
The Water Quality Trading Guidance is available on the MPCA’s water quality trading webpage. I encourage you to visit the website and, if you are interested, review the guidance document.
I am also pleased to share that the MPCA, in coordination with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR), will be initiating a pilot project to increase awareness and participation in water quality trading opportunities. We are excited to work with local resource managers and agricultural producers to identify how state agencies and local partners can work on innovative water quality solutions."
We will continue to follow developments and share them on the blog. Trading is an important option for reducing nonpoint source pollution. Read more about MPCA's efforts in trading on their website's trading page.
Regulatory Capture and Minnesota's Government: Working for the Public Interest, or Special Interests?
Monday, March 15, 2021, 7:00 p.m. – Public Meeting via Zoom
presented by: Don Arnosti, Environmental Organizer
This program is a Zoom Webinar hosted by LWV Woodbury Cottage Grove (MN). Please register here:
Open to the public – invite a friend!
Regulatory capture occurs when government serves private interests instead of enforcing existing laws written in the public interest. Don Arnosti provides evidence that documents regulatory capture
Don Arnosti has 30 years of broad expertise in environmental policy and organizing. He currently consults for the Friends of the Minnesota Valley on agricultural drainage issues. Don Arnosti is a long-time, active member in Minnesota Environmental Partnership (in which LWVMN belongs). He served as Executive Director for Audubon Minnesota and the Izaak Walton League, and in various positions for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, and Clean Water Action. He has worked with people in all corners of the state to protect water, land and wildlife, while incorporating rural communities' interest in farming, forestry and tourism.
LWV Upper Mississippi River Region, or UMRR (pronounced “Ummer”), is an interleague organization focused on water quality. UMRR is made up of 60 local Leagues in the states of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Our geographic area is the Upper Mississippi River basin – that part of the Upper Mississippi basin upstream of the river’s confluence with the Ohio at the south edge of Illinois. Here’s a link to an UMRR blog post to learn more about what an ILO is and how it fits into the LWV national structure, and to learn more about how our structure strengthens our work, allowing the amplification of the voice of League throughout the watershed.
Established in 2015, UMRR’s Board has strong representation from each of our four member states. Our Board members are listed on our Contact Us page– you may know some of us! The Board meets six times a year on the first Monday of even numbered months. In the pre-Covid days, we traveled around the basin for these meetings, which was a great way to get to know our members and the water issues in their communities. Now, everything is on the same schedule, but virtual. For each Board meeting, we also hold an educational session that focuses on a specific topic of concern. These educational sessions are open to the public and recorded videos are shared and posted.
Upcoming educational sessions are planned on
How to connect with LWV UMRR:
LWV UMRR’s website has lots of information. Our Blog features 2-3 posts per month on topics that UMRR is working on. One recent post includes a link to video from our Feb 1 meeting, where we learned about watershed-scale work to reach people and promote soil health and water quality. Our “Upcoming Events” page includes posts for our upcoming meetings and maintains Board meeting information from past events. Here, those who are interested can see our Board agendas, meeting minutes, Treasurer reports, and Action Committee reports as well as see the topics that were included in the educational sessions.
Almost every month, LWV UMRR puts out a newsletter that includes links to our Blog posts and other items of interest. You can sign up to receive the newsletter by submitting the info through our Contact Us page, or by emailing us at email@example.com. Leagues that are not already members can join UMRR through our Membership page, and anyone interested in making a donation can do so on our Donate page.
Wisconsin Lakes is planning their annual get-together, virtual this year. And it's a multi-day event! Lots of great talks and interesting things to learn - read more below.
With Wisconsin Water Week, March 8-12, 2021 you can expect
Conference organizers promise that this is NOT going to be just a series of Zoom presentations. You might even call it, unconventional.
Citizens' voices are needed in environmental advocacy. Here's an opportunity for Iowans to reach out to their legislators and speak up for their environment.
Iowa Environmental Advocacy Day
February 25, 12-3pm
Iowa Environmental Council's post on the subject:
Each legislative session presents opportunities to advocate for Iowa’s water, land, and climate. In 2021, IEC staff, advocates, and volunteers will push to for improvements in clean energy policy, water quality, energy efficiency, and more. This year we're doing things a little differently! We invite you to join us virtually on February 25 for two engaging events. You'll hear from advocates and legislators, learn how you can get involved, add your voice to our growing coalition, and support this important work.
Individual activists and organizations are encouraged to participate in Environmental Advocacy Day.
During Advocacy Day, you'll hear from environmental advocates and legislators, have a chance to participate in a free advocacy training session, network with environmental organizations and other Iowans engaged in this work. Environmental Advocacy Day will take place on Whova, an online event platform. Detailed instructions will be provided in advance of the program. Registration at this link - you can also register for the evening social event/fundraiser here.
The Minnesota Environmental Partnership is planning a similar event for April, in conjunction with Earth Day - more on that as information becomes available.
|LWV Upper Mississippi River Region||