SWCS actively engages in policy conversations, on-the-ground projects, educational publications and professional development opportunities, and effective partnerships that support and inform conservation professionals and their work.
SWCS collaborates with scientists and policymakers to produce results-oriented guidance for conservation stakeholders. We engage government and nongovernment partners in conversation through conferences, hold blue-ribbon panels, and provide recommendations to legislative committees. Issues of interest include farm bill conservation programs, climate change policy, conservation compliance, and research funding.
Our Special Projects and Policy Director tracks legislative issues to inform our membership of current political action and serves as a link to lawmakers and other national conservation organizations.
The SWCS Science and Policy Committee meets monthly to present and discuss topics of current and ongoing interest within the scientific community. The committee’s work includes the creation of topic-specific task forces, publication of journal articles and white papers, and guidance for the annual conference planning committee. Past committee meeting minutes and presentations are available to the public, and all members are invited to join this active committee.
Through grant-funded conservation education and implementation efforts, SWCS promotes innovative practices that foster the science of soil, water, and related natural resources management to achieve sustainability.
Wetlands Nutrient Reduction
SWCS, in partnership with Agribusiness Association of Iowa and Iowa State University, was awarded a three-year grant (2015-2018) to provide greater understanding of benefits and barriers of edge-of-field conservation wetland practices and promote in-field nutrient management practices under the Iowa Water Quality Initiative (WQI).
Passive designed wetland systems serve as the primary project practice for nutrient management. Wetlands effectively remove 40% to 90% of nitrate before it reaches surface waters, and the systems are small footprint (2% to 5% area of the drainage area), remain private property during the easement period, serve as wildlife habitat, and can provide recreation opportunities for landowners.
A wetland site has been selected, and the implementation process is underway. Upon completion, monitoring of practice performance will be important to further support broader practice implementation. A project goal is to provide a foundation to address water quality and soil health concerns across the state and the upper Mississippi River basin.
Watershed Training Academy
Many watershed projects, in Iowa and other regions, are managed by people who have extensive technical skills but who often need support in organizing complex partnership efforts with measureable objectives. The involvement of individuals with these organizational and communication skills is critical to program success, yet there has been little attention to ensuring that organizational capacity is equivalent to the scale of water quality problems or investments made to address them.
In partnership with Iowa State University and Resolve Inc., SWCS developed the Watershed Training Academy program to provide training and support to watershed project leaders and managers. Through Academy meetings, managers are provided skills and materials to improve communication and outreach, and are exposed to the latest water quality conservation practices and educational resources. The Watershed Academy project is funded through an Iowa Natural Resource Conservation Service grant.
Resources from the 2016 and 2017 Watershed Academy meetings are available through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
Conservation Media Library
In recent years, new, nontraditional conservation practices to address soil health and water quality protection goals have been added to conservation programs. Farmers are less familiar with these practices, and tools are needed for agency and conservation district staff to better explain their purpose, function, and implementation.
SWCS is partnering with Conservation Districts of Iowa to develop a complete set of multimedia tools that can be used in conservation district programs to introduce farmers to four soil health and water quality protection practices and systems:
- Cover crops
- Drainage water management
- Saturated buffers
- Prairie strips
Upon completion, the library will be hosted online for public use.
SWCS holds an annual conference each July and hosts regional events as well as local meetings, workshops, and tours throughout the year. Learn more about upcoming national events and check our events calendar for the full schedule.
SWCS collaborates with a range of like-minded organizations, including industry, government, university, and nonprofit partners, to bring the best conservation programming and resources to our membership and the public. If you are interested in partnering with SWCS on a project or event, please contact us with ideas or consider joining as a corporate partner.