DUCKS UNLIMITED (DU) puts money into the coffer for wetland conservation efforts. Last Saturday's event was fun and provided a great opportunity to meet and greet friends who also believe in long term natural lands management for the good of waterfowl and a host of non-game critters that thrive in the cattail marshes of Iowa and the Midwest.
DU's Greenwing Legacy program will be featured at Otter Creek Marsh in the near future. A permanent bronze marker will list the names of youth enrolled at the $200 per youth entry level membership. They will have a Greenwing membership in DU until age 18, plus for the following three years after turning 18 they will have a regular DU membership status. Young people that enjoy the outdoors and waterfowling in particular can use this golden opportunity to bring on a new generation of wetland conservation supporters.
Otter Creek Marsh is one of the largest managed wetlands in central Iowa. Constructed in the early 1960s, the marsh consists of eight adjacent individually managed segments along a channelized portion of Otter Creek. This floodplain complex is located just west of Chelsea, Iowa on the Iowa River. Those eight wetland segments allow for semi-permanent open water and emergent zones via seasonally flooded moist soils. The entire Otter Creek Wildlife Management Area has 3,358 acres of which 2,565 are wetlands either with open water or seasonally managed wetland sites.
Ducks Unlimited (DU) last weekend honored the youth in the crowd by awarding each a duck call in addition to other gifts and raffle prizes. DU’s youth program goes by the title Greenwings, a reduced membership cost category for kids under the age 18. For the older statesman at this years DU, Bob Dunham was honored. He has contributed and assisted with DU banquets as part of the local committee for many decades. However, in all that time, he has never had his ticket drawn for a long gun. Sons Jeff and Steve Dunham made sure that their dad did have a gun this year. Congrats to DU for another excellent event to help raise dollars for wetland conservation.
The NORTH AMERICAN MODEL OF WILDLIFE CONSERVATION has a long history. It came about in large part based on what not to do from traditions in Europe that left the common man out of the equation. Kings and other high noblemen in England as far back as the year 1066 had absolute control over wild game animals in terms of who was allowed to take the animals. The King claimed large tracts of forests, grasslands and marshes. Common folk had to pay 'rent' to graze cattle or sheep on preserve lands. Hunting by lower class farmers and serfs was absolutely prohibited. Penalties for poaching were severe up to and including the loss of one's life.
When North America was being settled, those generations who had previously experienced the tyranny of the old world system concerning wild game, looked at the new world in a new way. Gone would be the King's absolute rule. Wild game in the new world was abundant. Hunting was just one activity that could be practiced openly and without fear by the common man. It was treasured as an open expression of freedom. In addition, the idea of one man, one vote was high on the list of how all things would get done in America.
The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation holds these points as basic to its cause:
1. All people should be allowed to hunt.
2. Wildlife is the property of all the people, not a privileged minority.
3. Game should be allocated by laws that do not favor one person over another.
4. Wildlife should be killed only for legitimate purposes.
5. Wildlife should not be bought or sold.
6. Wild animals cross state and national boundaries at will and should be managed with this in
7. Wildlife conservation works best on a foundation of science.
Perhaps there could be an eighth point: All wildlife has value, even those species not pursued by hunters or anglers. Aldo Leopold in his book, "A Sand County Almanac" stated that intelligent tinkering first requires one to save all the pieces. Scientists have learned a lot about how nature works and the intricacies of complex ecosystems. We are smarter today than we were 400 years ago. As soon as mankind thinks they have a handle on what is going on, we learn that there is more to learn. We strive for more knowledge based on valid scientific principles.
I'll provide more details periodically in my future columns about the North American Model for Wildlife Conservation. Stay tuned.
Wednesday of this past week, eagles were briefly concentrated at Timmons Grove near the north side pond. Warm south winds and sunshine were combining to free the last remnants of ice. Several adult and immature bald eagles were on the ice or perched in nearby trees. This scribe was there to observe them all at just the right time. I tallied 16 eagles. It was a great thing to see. These eagles are migrating northward at this time of year.
Many species of waterfowl and other passerines are now making their appearance. Keep those binoculars handy because anything can happen as spring weather starts to envelope us. It is good to see the return of new birds.
For anyone desiring to watch our feathered critters, here is just one bird book to buy. It is Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Donald and Lillian Stokes. Eastern and western species are contained in this book comprised of fabulous photos of the male, female and immature birds we might see. Maps are included along with appropriate American Ornithological Union official names. The book also has a CD featuring bird songs of over 600 species. This is a big heavy book so maybe it is best left in your vehicle for reference. The cost is about $25.
Prepare now for trees. Operation ReLeaf is coming again to Marshall County on May 21. I know that is a long way out, but planning now for shade trees that if planted in the right place can help shade your home and keep it cooler naturally. The trees will be available at reduced cost and are available only to Alliant Energy customers. Check out the Alliant Energy website for an order form.
DEER tallies from the past season showed 127,094 deer reported to the DNR's electronic reporting system. This is a mandatory reporting requirement. Even so, as in past years and the season just ended, the compliance rate was 84.5 percent. Correcting for this fact, DNR deer biologists peg the actual statewide deer kill at 150,500 animals. I'll have more statistics on Iowa deer in future stories. Know this: The trend line for the overall deer population is headed downward. As in all things biological based, it takes time, lots of it, for proof that management plans are working. They are working.
The Marshall County Conservation Board (MCCB) invites the public to "Reptiles of Iowa" to be held March 24 at 7 p.m. at the GrimesFarm and Conservation Center. Rebecca Christoffel, ISU Extension Wildlife Specialist, will introduce participants to some of our local snakes and turtle species, discuss conservation threats to these animals, and recommend actions we can take to assure that we have healthy populations of snakes and turtle in Iowa. All ages are welcome to attend.
The GrimesFarm and Conservation Center is located at 2359 233rd Street off Highland Acres Road between Iowa Avenue and West Lincoln Way outside of Marshalltown. The conservation center is open Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to noon. For more information contact the Marshall County Conservation Board at 641-752-5490.
Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.