Cores, Corridors, Crossings, and Storytelling

The Sustainable Living Coalition requests a Community Art Gathering Grant of $6,000 from the BeWildReWild Fund at Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for the following purposes:

What is now called Iowa was previously one of the most biodiverse places in North America. Today it is one of the most biologically altered. From a narrow human perspective, much has been gained in that process…but important things have also been lost.

Valuable Iowa topsoil and nutrients are flowing toward the Gulf of Mexico. Water quality is greatly diminished. The state has 21.3 million acres with slopes of 0 to 5%. Some of these acres are on frequently flooding river bottoms. It also has 8.88 million acres with slopes above 9%. Which areas are appropriate for agriculture and which are better suited for natural systems (woodland-wetland-prairie)? What about the acres between 5 and 9% slope? Can they be long-term productive for agriculture while in grazed or harvested perennials? The BIG RIVER CONNECTIVITY Vision calls for 25% of Iowa’s 36 million acres to be permanently wild. These restored areas will be primarily on frequently flooding river bottoms and steep slopes.

We must create a low input, sustainable agriculture. We will do this by simultaneously creating a low input, sustainable larger culture. What consumers purchase and the prices they are willing to pay determine what farmers produce and the methods used in that process. This is the story of a wilder, more beautiful, more biologically diverse, and a more enduring Mississippi River Watershed.

This revised grant proposal will accomplish the following: (1) any additional identification of Cores, Corridors, and Crossings in the southeast quadrant of Iowa, using I-80 and I-35 as boundaries, and limiting the mapped areas to a little over 2 million acres in this quadrant; (2) mapping of highway and railroad bridges in this quadrant to facilitate their evaluation by residents of the counties in the quadrant, (3) elaboration of the April 11 conference agenda in regard to speakers from other parts of the quadrant, and (4) the probable inclusion of Nitin Gadia in person for the afternoon presentation of the mapping work. For mapping, $4,000 of the grant will be split evenly between Nitin and Leland Searles, with Leland acting as an advisor for additional mapping needs and a resource for conference logistics.

The conference is a storytelling event, above all else. Stories engage people and create their interest. Action and science come out of that interest and the commitments that follow. Leland Searles will have a primary role to thread the Big River Connectivity story throughout the day, using segments of his PowerPoint presentation as stage settings for successive speakers. This continuity is crucial to keep the audience focused on the overarching message, even if they also consider specific actions, entities, locations, and roles. Big River Connectivity will be represented by Leland Searles and a table display at the Leopold Alliance’s Future Generations event, March 21, in Burlington. The Sustainable Living Coalition, as recipient of this grant, will work with the other conference organizers and, following the conference,  participants, to create a plan to continuously and persistently tell the rewilding story and build a coalition of support among statewide stakeholders.

The map presentation will focus on Nitin’s map because it is readily placed on a web site as an interactive map, allowing users to turn map elements on and off and zoom into their locale for scale-dependent details. Additional mapping of Cores and Corridors will focus on Jefferson County because of its central role in the kickoff of the BeWildReWild/Big River Connectivity project. Discussions during the last 90 minutes of the conference can draw upon the map as a resource in working through ideas and potential actions in the county and across the southeast quadrant.

We envision having a panel for the discussion, with audience participation, to include landowners, Dee Sandquist (Jefferson County Supervisor), and others. We plan to include among our conference presenters these individuals: Mark Edwards, former Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources employee; Lance Foster, Vice President and Tribal Historic Preservation Office for the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska; Ross Gipple, retired agribusinessman and spokesperson for BeWildReWild; Larry Gullett, Executive Director of the Johnson County Conservation Board; John Sandbothe, Regional Manager, Farm Bureau Federation.