acorn illustration
what we do

BeWildReWild a special fund for the purpose of exploring three questions:

  1. What do you/we mean by wild?
  2. What changes are needed for us to live within the bounds of sustainability?
  3. How can we create a wilder, more beautiful, more biologically diverse, and a more enduring Mississippi River Watershed?

“It is a universal maxim, that the more liberty is given to everything which is in a state of growth, the more perfect it will become.”

Joseph Priestly

The following are recipients of Community Art Gathering grants from the BeWildReWild Fund.

Boots on the Ground

We're pleased to announce two new hires

This BeWildReWild grant provides $170K during year one for two full-time employees living in the Des Moines area and working to advance our BIG RIVER CONNECTIVITY Vision of Cores, Corridors, Crossings, and Coexistence throughout the Mississippi River Watershed. 
–Roger Ross Gipple

Filmography & Radio

KHOI will develop a regular program covering issues to nature and the environment, a series of in-person film programs that invite public participation, topical discussion sessions, and a program featuring Poetry and Writing inspired by a BeWildRewild prompt.

Fourth Wall Films, via Truth First Film Alliance, Inc. will host five FREE public screening/discussion events featuring the new 28-minute documentary “Moved by Waters”. The key purpose of the film is to demonstrate to viewers that what unites us is more important than what divides us. The people and organizations in these stories cross boundaries that impede the inherent spontaneity and self-regulating qualities of wild nature.
Fourth Wall Films, via Truth First Film Alliance, Inc. will create a broadcast-quality visually-creative 28-minute film that will profile examples of diverse individuals and/or groups of individuals who look beyond that which may be socially or politically divisive to collaborate on an effort to create a wilder, more beautiful, more biologically diverse, and a more enduring Mississippi River Watershed.

Ursula Ruedenberg and Stephanie Schubert, both of Pacifica Affiliate Network, will produce a 1-hour radio program/podcast advancing the Wildness/Rewilding conversation resulting from interviews gathered during the 2-day Iowa Nature Summit.

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.

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.

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.

Listening experiences about wildness, produced in partnership with Pacifica Radio Network.

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.

Fourth Wall Films will create a broadcast-quality 10-12 minute short film that will profile a successful partnership between a land-owner and the permanent Wetlands Reserve Program. The film will also illustrate how this program addresses the concept of Cores and Corridors, and show how rewilding benefits people and the environment. Ready for viewing June 2021.

Books & Illustrations

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

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 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.


This grant of $25,000 resulted from several conversations with Doug Harr of Iowa Audubon regarding a definition for desirable bird habitat. Its purpose is to expand that dialog throughout Iowa's birding community.

Exhibitions & Workshops

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

In this three-month grant, Kelly Madigan will continue on her trajectory of being an active contributor and collaborator with the community of conservation organizations and concerned citizens who live in and love the Loess Hills. The next phase of her grant will enable further exploration and development. Specific undertakings will include but are not limited to offering an advanced workshop for the writers who attended the Loess Hills Place-Based Writing Workshop; designing appropriate lesson plans for integrated education along the trail during organized hikes; supporting local residents with education about environmentally-sensitive economic opportunities; and assisting other grantees by offering a depth of knowledge of the area and local contacts. July 2021.


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

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

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.

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.

In this three-month grant, Kelly Madigan will use the LoHi Trail and its hundred + identifiable stakeholders to work toward common goals, including preservation of the Loess Hills, conservation and access easements, increase public awareness and a growing public will toward protection, and increased economic opportunity for the poverty-stricken towns along the spine of the LoHi. Initial framework ready March 2021.

Adding North America’s Grasslands, Savannas, and Central Waterways – Our Continent’s Greatest Watershed – to the Continental Rewilding Map – The Rewilding Institute (TRI) is partnering with conservation leaders in the prairie states and provinces and BeWildReWild to sketch and advance a vision of wildlife and wilderness recovery across the Great Plains and throughout the Mississippi River basin. TRI will promote a Great Plains Wildway and connecting riverine wildways and avian flyways through Rewilding Earth, an expanded second edition of Dave Foreman’s landmark book Rewilding North America, and social media and field podcasts. Maps, stories, and presentations ready for viewing December 2021.


Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) will continue to help lead the adoption and integration of conservation on working lands; integrating food, nature, and contributing to vibrant farms and communities through farmer-led education field days and conference sessions.

IEC will pursue a number of strategies to engage Iowans in imagining a different future for our state – a future that is a more diverse landscape that can support all life. Strategies include sponsorship of the Iowa Water Watch newsletter, hosting Water Watch and Cost of CAFO events, and showcasing 5 films to share the vision of BeWildReWild.

David Hoferer, Professor of Biology and Environmental Science at Briar Cliff University, proposes working with the Northwest Iowa Sierra Group of the Sierra Club in Sioux City, IA, to organize, promote, and host a one-day event in spring 2024. The event will focus on the question “What is Wild in Northwest Iowa?” It will be marketed to specific target audiences and will be publicized in the tri-state area of Siouxland.

BeWildReWild is one of 5 Nature's Heros Sponsors who granted $5,000 to Drake University for a two-day conference on November 16-17, 2023 at Drake University Olmsted Center bringing together a broad spectrum of nature enthusiasts and organizations who share a common goal - to preserve and protect nature's diversity.

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.

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 Midwest Environment Education Conference (MEEC) is being held at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa July 26-29, 2021, with a backup plan to move to a virtual format if needed. The theme is “Exploring Community: Land, Water, People” and will feature keynote speaker Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass. The keynote and sessions will focus on the ideas of re-defining community to include all land, water, and people, and building healthy, resilient, vibrant communities for all.

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.

Our goal is to develop tools, materials, and networks to foster biophilia in Iowans. What we accomplish in Iowa can by extension be applied to other states in the extensive Mississippi River Watershed, and beyond to the many states and provinces of the world where intensive agricultural modification calls for a rewilding, reclaiming, rejuvenating Half-Earth approach. Phase 1 (6-months), we propose to develop educational materials focused on supporting Iowa teachers to engage students in biodiversity, conservation, and design-thinking. We plan to conduct teacher professional learning online, and in-person if possible, and to plant a Half-Earth Project Iowa Ambassador Program.

Project Coyote, a national organization with growing connections in the Midwest, is well-poised to promote human-wildlife coexistence (coyotes and other wildlife) in contexts from urban to suburban and exurban to rural. Project Coyote aims to strategically grow capacity in the region, raise public awareness and fill critical knowledge gaps in best practices for communicating and promoting coexistence through public education, proactive conflict prevention and close collaboration with The Rewilding Institute over the course of 6 months (March-August 2021).

Branding & Website

Website and logo development for BeWildReWild and BIG RIVER CONNECTIVITY.

“There are enough mild dull eyes of domestic brutes that we have bred from bird and beast to make them part alive and partly dead. A thousand generations in a cage makes a helpless thing.”

Michael McClure