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Wild Is Local & Local Is Wild


...to "ground zero for rewilding".

We are a loosely-knit group of volunteers with a passion for wildness. Our conversation is rooted in the early 1990s with inspiration from Rachel Carson, Arne Naes, Ray Dasmann, Linda Hogan, Thomas Merton, Dave Foreman, Terry Tempest Williams, Gary Snyder, Henry Beston, David Quammen, Robert Bly, Stephanie Mills, Paul Shepard, Scott Nearing, Aldo Leopold, Henry David Thoreau, and others. Wild Earth Journal brought it all together. Reconnect-Restore-Rewild became our mantra. The dream was always for those with expertise and experience in this process to come here and save us from the ravages of overdomestication. But no one came. So in that vacuum emerged the BeWildReWild movement and a startling realization that we must save ourselves.


The Good, the True, the Beautiful

by Greg Costello

When I think of wildness, wild places, and wild things, the first images that come to mind are craggy peaks, vast forests, dark jungles, and large, charismatic creatures often imagined but seldom seen. I don’t think of Iowa.

Humans are the
Great Domesticators

Our species has long engaged in a struggle to subdue and domesticate the world, and much has been gained in that process; but important things have also been lost. We want to sort through those gains and losses and find a more appropriate balance between caring and not caring, holding on and letting go. The purpose is to experience an increasing level of trust for wildness and to discover a feeling of personal liberation as we allow more freedom for that which is beyond human.

What is wildness? How is it different from wilderness? Is wildness a manifestation of trust and non-expectation of outcome? To what extent is domestication based in a fear of the unpredictable and the unfamiliar? Can we learn to be more trusting and more trustworthy? Could a better understanding of wildness increase our appreciation for wilderness? And would that lead to a greater awareness of ourselves and ALL that lives around us?


BeWildReWild is a loosely-knit group of volunteers with a passion for wild things. It is also a special fund within Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for the purpose of exploring three questions: What do you/we mean by wild? What lifestyle changes are needed for us to live within the bounds of sustainability? How can we create a wilder, more beautiful, more biologically diverse, and a more enduring Mississippi River Watershed? And here on this website, BeWildReWild is a place for visioning, debating, storytelling, teaching, and learning.


BIG RIVER CONNECTIVITY is our vision for a wilder, more beautiful, more biologically diverse, and a more enduring Mississippi River Watershed.

It is a plan for shrinking the Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone while allowing the recolonization of apex predators and keystone species essential to a balanced ecosystem. And it is about liberating humans and nonhuman otherness from the ravages of over domestication. The Corn Belt is ground zero. Permanently rewilding floodplains and steep slopes is a priority. It is also critical that a meaningful acreage of annual crops be replaced with perennials.  Humans are consuming more than can be replenished. Adjustments must be made in both the city and the country. Significant change is needed for us to live within the bounds of sustainability. We must redefine what it means to be happy and successful. We must focus on needs rather than wants. Consumers, governments, and academia must unite to create a lower input culture. Once that process is underway, farmers will create a lower input agriculture. Other industries will follow suit. Great potential exists for connecting large core habitat areas like the four state Driftless Region, the four state Ozark Plateau, and the four state Loess Hills Area. Many smaller cores are needed as well. The Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, and Red Rivers are primary corridors across our vast watershed. Smaller rivers like the Platte and Niobrara are equally important for expanding the Reconnect-Restore-Rewild effort previously existing mainly outside the heartland. Groups like Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and The Nature Conservancy do an incredible job of restoring landscapes. Our emphasize is on reconnecting and rewilding…and we take a total watershed approach. The BIG RIVER CONNECTIVITY goal is to get everyone involved and to keep the game going. We are visionaries and story tellers. We are here to learn and teach. The mission is both inspirational and overwhelming.

Watch / Learn

These artists have received Community Art Gathering Grants from the BeWildReWild Fund at Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF). 


Website and logo development for BeWildReWild and BIG RIVER CONNECTIVITY.

Produced by Sydney Pursel. Focus on the benefits of TRUSTING WILDNESS. Two large paintings illustrating BIG RIVER CONNECTIVITY. Ready for display in December 2019.

A thought-provoking 7-minute film about a small but important creek in Jefferson County, Iowa and what happened when it was altered. Written and directed by award-winning documentarian Dick DeAngelis.

Produced by Autumn Rozario Hall. Resulting in the production of paintings and art showing Connectivity to Iowa Lands, a seed starting and planting workshop, and an artist talk. Will be completed by Summer 2020.

Artwork produced by Lance Foster, Reuben Ironhorse-Kent, Kayla 'WhiteKnife' Kent, Sydney Pursel and Philip Pursel. To be displayed at Effigy Mounds National Monument visitor’s center August 31-October 31, 2019.

Produced by Nitin Gadia. Resulting in a large vision map of the entire Mississippi River Watershed, a Midwest map connecting the Driftless, the Ozarks, and the Loess Hills, plus a third map connecting the Ozarks with South Central Iowa via the Chariton and Missouri Rivers. Will be completed by November 2019.

Developed by Mary Young Bear. Workshops on basket making, twined bags, cattail mats, bone dice and wooden bowl/spoon carving. Held at the powwow grounds September 21-22, 2019.

Coordinated by Leland Searles. Theme of Cores – Corridors – Communities. Resulting in computerized mapping of the Iowa River Corridor. Ready to display in September 2019.

A KHOI Radio Series developed by Mark Edwards and Ursula Ruedenberg. Three, hour-long programs covering the themes of BeWildReWild. To be aired in December 2020.

Produced by Courtney Chandrea. Resulting in an illustrated ebook guide about exploring, understanding, and TRUSTING WILDNESS. Illustrated by Erica Wilson. Ready in February 2020.

Coordinated by Leland Searles. What began as an effort to create maps of a few watersheds in Iowa has become a full-blown mapping that links the entire Mississippi-Missouri basin from north to south and east to west. A vital part of this is the online digital map of Iowa, developed over months of effort by Nitin Gadia. Ready to display in December 2019.

Poet and artist, Joseph S. Plum, will create a series of seven paintings with quotes from his Bardic poetry. The series will explore how the concepts of wildness, sustainability, and biological diversity work together to create a communal artistic space. Ready in 2020.

Award-winning artist and writer, Emily Lupita, will create a series of watercolor paintings that depict her childhood living off the grid in the natural world. The paintings will be the basis for a children’s book that will teach today’s youth about the lifestyle of sustainable natural living. Ready to display in 2020.

Living History Farms, located on a 1700 Ioway site, will hold an annual loway Culture Day on July 11, 2020. This day will explore loway history and culture. In conjunction, an loway Artist Exhibition will include at least six pieces of artwork and continue through Oct 16. Artist Sydney Pursel will speak at the exhibition opening.

The grant-funded work under this proposal has resulted in a PowerPoint presentation and several spinoff efforts to make its content public. As we establish new forms of activity and communication (in part because of public health concerns over COVID-19), our methods of presentation also adapt. In the same way, natural systems must adapt to change, and that flexibility is a natural requirement. The first presentation was in February at the Sustainable Living Coalition's Ecobarn in Fairfield, Jefferson County, and a second talk occurred on Sept. 15 at the Des Moines Izaak Walton League.

See our Events page for details about upcoming presentations, wildlife crossing events, and more.

A three-month grant to Nitin Gadia and Leland Searles extends their mapping efforts to major river systems throughout the central river basins of the U.S. The Mississippi and Missouri Rivers are the “backbones” of this 32-state plan.

Fourth Wall Films will create “Over & Under: Wildlife Crossings”, a broadcast-quality 7-10 minute short film, depicting the need for wildlife crossings in Iowa and the Mississippi River Watershed. The film will showcase a small number of successful crossings projects in Iowa and the immediate region. Ready for display in October 2020.

Effigy Mounds National Monument announces a series of special events celebrating the American Indian tradition of storytelling in winter. Winter Stories will occur on Saturday and Sunday afternoons beginning February 22, 2020 through the end of March.

The Sustainable Living Coalition received a grant to plan the first BeWildReWild conference of 2020 to be held at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center Sondheim Theater on Saturday, April 11; however, due to COVID-19, it became evident that this project had to change focus. They requested a change to the grant as to have Dick DeAngelis create two videos to support the Wildlife Crossings Project and also produce a short film to support the discussion surrounding the concept of BeWildReWild.

This second grant to The Sustainable Living Coalition sponsors the formation of a Southeast Iowa group to review and improve our Cores-Corridors-Crossings mapping with boots on the ground input. And they will become additional Storytellers for the BeWildReWild/BIG RIVER CONNECTIVITY movement.

A 20-minute film about how Iowa can create a wilder, more beautiful, more biologically diverse state. Written and directed by award-winning documentarian Dick DeAngelis. Ready to view March 2021.

Autumn Rozario Hall will create a series of constellation based paintings intended to accompany the KHOI grant project audio clips for the BeWild ReWild website. Part 1: Ready to view Fall 2020. Part 2: ready Fall 2021.

The BeWildReWild Forum

BeWildReWild is a loosely-knit group of volunteers with a passion for wild things. It is also a special fund within Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for the purpose of exploring three questions: What do you/we mean by wild? What lifestyle changes are needed for us to live within the bounds of sustainability? How can we create a wilder, more beautiful, more biologically diverse, and a more enduring Mississippi River Watershed? And here on this website it is a place for visioning, debating, storytelling, teaching, and learning.

"A town is saved, not more by the righteous men in it than by the woods and swamps that surround it. A township where one primitive forest waves above while another rots below--such a town is fitted to raise not only corn and potatoes, but poets and philosophers for the coming ages." HDT