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Honoring Nature's Place in Iowa

Anyone paying attention knows nature in Iowa is under great pressure and many of our most cherished resources are degrading and in danger.  From soil erosion to water pollution, from habitat loss to urban sprawl, economic forces and wasteful actions threaten nature. Many public policies contribute to the stress: we underfund efforts to improve water quality and enhance nature, farm policies promote cropping floodplains and on fragile lands, and annexation leads to converting thousands of acres of prime land to housing and development.  Our failure to set reasonable stewardship standards exposes nature to unlimited threats, jeopardizing future productivity.  State and local governments are restrained in maintaining and acquiring natural lands and planning for the future.

This constellation of challenges makes it imperative Iowans who care about nature and who believe it has a place in all aspects of Iowa’s social and economic life come together.  We face a future framed by a changing climate and a growing need to use justice as a lens to measure our conduct.  The Summit offers the opportunity to discuss what can be done, to learn from inspiring nature advocates, to hear examples about what is working, and to develop a hopeful, optimistic plan for the future based on shared values and commitments.  Plus we will have fun!

                                                               Tentative Agenda

Wednesday Nov 15: Pre-Summit Events

  • 2:30-4:30pm : Afternoon Tours - 2 tour possibilities - Des Moines Water Works or Des Moines Botanical Garden.

  • 5:00pm-6:30pm: Registration Opens - Olmstead Center

  • 6:30pm: Welcome Reception - Reinhardt Room (1420 Locust St, DSM) sponsored by Django, Orchestrate Hospitality and the Agricultural Law Center​​

Thursday Nov 16th - Summit Opening Day - Olmstead Center

  • 8:00am-8:45am: Registration and Coffee - breakfast, hosted by the Nature Conservancy Iowa and Seed Savers Exchange

  • 8:45am-9:00am: Welcome - "Why a Nature Summit?"- with Prof. Neil Hamilton

  • 9:00am-10:00am: "Nature and Economic Development: How Nature Helps Drive the Iowa Economy" - with Lora Friest, Iowa Tourism Office Liaison, Iowa Economic Development; Jenn Riggs, co-founder of Wander Women; and Chris McGowan, CEO of Siouxland Chamber of Commerce. 

  • 10:00am-10:30am: "Integrating Nature in Education" - with Jay Gorsch, School of the Wild; University of Iowa, Mary Skopec, Lakeside Lab; and Mike Todd, The Community Academy (Ames)

  • 10:30am-11:00am: Networking Break - Sponsored by Peoples Company and Polk County Conservation Board

  • 11:00am-11:50pm: "Nature's Place in Public Health" - with Dr. Mary Charlton, University of Iowa, President, Iowa Cancer Consortium; Dr. Claire Hruby, Drake University; and Dr. Helen Eddy, director, Polk County Public Health

  • 11:50-1:00: LUNCH - Sponsored by IIHR Hydroscience and Engineering, University of Iowa, Speaker - Dr. Richard Deming, "How Nature Promotes Mental Health and Well Being"

  • 1:00pm-2:00pm: "Nature's Place in Agriculture and Rural Life" - Seth Watkins, Pinhook Farm; Ruth McCabe, conservation agronomist Heartland Coop; Elle Gadient, Cascade;  Paul Willis, Niaman Ranch Pork Company 

  • 2:00pm-2:50pm: Roundtable Exercise for attendees to identify priorities for future actions: "Sparking Out Shared Future" led by Pat Boddy

  • 2:50pm-3:10pm: Networking Break - sponsored by the Conservation Districts of Iowa and Iowa Living Roadway Trust

  • 3:10pm-3:40pm: "Nature and History: Sportsmen Funding Wildlife and Land Protection" with Mike Shannon, Ducks Unlimited; and Pete Hildreth, Iowa DNR; and Josh Divan, Iowa Pheasants Forever

  • 3:40pm-4:35pm: "Nature and Community" - Mollie Aronowitz, Peoples Company; Mike Delaney, the SPARKS project; Brenda Mainwaring, President and CEO Iowa West Foundation; Luke Hoffman, Iowa Rivers Revival, River Town of the Year Award Program.

  • 4:35pm-5:15pm: "Nature's Role in Addressing Climate Change" - Irene DeMaris, Ex. Director of Iowa Interfaith Power and Light; Channing Dutton, Citizens Climate Action; and Emily Martin, Conservation Programs Coordinator, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

  • 5:15pm: Wrap-Up, First Day: - Prof. Jennifer Zwagerman, Director, Agricultural Law Center; and Prof. Keith Summerville, director, J.N. Darling Institute, Drake University

  • 5:15pm-6:45pm: Evening Reception - sponsored by BeWildReWild, in Olmstead Lower level 

  • 7:00pm-9:15pm: Awards Banquet - Celebrating Iowa's Nature Champions: Mark Ackelson, Marlene Ehresman, Connie Mutel, Jim Pease, Tom Rosburg, and Larry Stone. Master of Ceremonies: Pat Boddy and Neil Hamilton. sponsored by Niman Ranch Pork Company

Sussman Theatre on Lower Level in Olmsted will be used as a screening room on the afternoon of Nov. 16th and morning of the 17th for viewing of nature films – sponsored by BeWildReWild and Roger Ross Gipple –
Including a national premiere of “Moved by Waters” from Fourth Wall Films on Thursday evening!

Friday November 17th - Day Two

  • 8:00am-9:00am: Legislative Breakfast - with Senator Carrie Koelker (R-Dyersville); Senator Nate Boulton (D- Des Moines); Representative John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) and Representative Austin Baeth (D - Des Moines) - sponsored by Iowa County Conservation System and Cultivating Compassion, the Richard Deming Foundation

  • 9:00am-10:50am: "Nature and Quality of Life: Recreation, Art & Enjoyment" - with Rich Leopold, Ex. Dir., Polk County Conservation Board; Hannah Inman, Ex Chief Officer, Great Outdoors Foundation, Iowa Confluence Water Trails ICON; Graham McGaffin, State Director TNC, Loess Hills Update; and Christine Curry, Pure Iowa Sparkling Stream Water art project.

  • 10:50am-10:30am: "Nature's Place in Science"- Dr. Laura Jackson with Tallgrass Prairie Center, UNI; Derek Franklin, ISU Rural Life - "Landowner Motivations for Prairie Strip Adoption"; Larry Weber, Dir, Iowa Flood Center at IIHR Hydro science and Engineering, University of Iowa

  • 10:30am-10:50am: Networking Break - sponsored by Iowa Wildlife Federation

  • 10:50am-11:45am: "Nature's Place in Iowa's Future: Roundtable Discussion with Iowa's Young Nature Leaders", moderated by Ryan Smith, Ex Dir., Iowa Wildlife Federation; Anna Gray, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation; Luke Hoffman, Iowa Bicycle Coalition; Emily Martin, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation; Jess Mazour, Sierra Club of Iowa; Alicia Vasto, Iowa Environmental Council; and Kate Zimmerman, Whiterock Conservancy

  • 11:45am-12:00pm: Presentation of the Hagie Award, Honoree - Dr. Ron Eckoff, given by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

  • 12:00pm-1:15pm: Lunch - sponsored by Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation - "Who Speaks for Nature: Can Justice and Citizenship Guide Us?" Speaker - Prof. Neil Hamilton

  • 1:15pm-3:00pm: Advocating for Iowa Nature: Identifying Next Steps - Working session with summit attendees to consider: 

    • Report on Table Top Exercise - What Are Our Priorities? 

    • Collaborating and cooperating on future projects, such as a summer training camp for nature's advocated

    • A shared statement about nature's place in Iowa

    • Future of REAP and IWILL

    • Planning for 2024 Summer Iowa Nature Festival and 2024 Iowa Nature Summit

  • 3:00pm-3:15pm: Summit Concludes - Closing Words by Joe McGovern, President, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation; 


Pick up goodies for trip home! Niman Ranch snack packs, Confluence brewing "Iowa Nature Summit" Downstream Daydream White Belgian Ale, SSE seeds and more! 

Pre-Summit Iowa Nature Events​​

  • Iowa Environmental Council – Wild and Scenic Film Festival

    • Nov 5th at The Varsity Cinema, Des Moines, IA ​

    • Purchase tickets here

  • Discussion of "Tending Iowa's Land" with editor, Connie Mutel, and several authors. Monday Nov 6th, 6pm Des Moines Public Library - Franklin Ave Branch. 

*Other Notes of Interest: Donations from Fred and Charlotte Hubbell and Bob and Kay Riley have been used to create the “Hubbell-Riley Iowa Nature Summit Scholarship Fund – for students, under-represented groups, or individuals for whom the registration fee may be an issue.  Application information is available on the web site.

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