Readers Respond

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Too Little, Too Late

From JIM BRAUHN / Linn Grove

For years, I've said the Little Sioux River corridor needed protection of some kind! The Nature Conservancy has finally recognized this, too, and listed it as some of the "most endangered" Iowa land!

But I wonder if this much-deserved recognition has come too late? At 100 miles long, most of the land in-and-along the river is privately owned. There's precious few access points. And, "no-tresspassing" signs abound!

The corridor has become the private deer-hunting preserves of those that can afford such frivolities! Land prices that were at one time as low as $150 per acre have now shot-up to over $3,000 per acre! Landowners cannot produce enough cattle to pay that kind of price for timbered pastureland!

One must conclude, then, that want, not need, drives the corridor land prices upward! And the "want" revolves-around trophy deer hunting!

Sure, the corridor is ecologically unique! Bald eagles nest there. Wild turkeys use the timber. Pheasants and partridge find refuge among the trees during bitter blizzards. And the hillsides represent native prairie. Heavily grazed native prairie, but prairie nevertheless! And, yes, there's places along the river that come as close to wilderness that Iowa still has left.

But if the Nature Conservancy has to pay the $3,000 per acre for land, it is woefully short! That's an investment of $60 million! If the landowners along the river would even sell!

I will agree, though, the mere recognition of the corridor as a unique ecosystem is a start. To the credit of the DNR, the Waterman Area preserved historic archaeological sites along with oak-prairie savannahs. It also acted as a public hunting area, attracting many since it's inception. And the county conservation center west of Peterson is an important educational bastion in the corridor.

But it is just that: a bastion, surrounded by "no hunting" signs! In the past, I've mentioned the possibility of water conservation on-and-along the Little Sioux River. The answer from the U.S. Corps of Engineers was, basically, "probably not in my lifetime"! But they had plans... All they needed was the political will (and money) for them to become a reality!

My thinking at proposing such a project was recreation behind and below a dam, power generation and water conservation - possibly for irrigation of downstream cropland. Given that the Nature Conservancy has recognised the river corridor as land worth preserving, as-is, that proposal might be "dead in the water!"

Maybe not, though! If the entire corridor proposal could be federally-finded, both might become a reality! Something for our representatives to think about, back East?

Meanwhile, residents in the counties along the Little Sioux River should be applauded for doing what they've started to do! The various County Access Areas, while precious few, are the only means of allowing people to see some of Iowa's last wilderness! Canoeists and snowmobilers are probably the most likely visitors.

At one time, I even proposed a major hiking- biking trail along the river. But, that's another story...