The Nature Conservancy—a national organization widely recognized for its conservation work all over the world—has been working in lower parts of the Cedar River watershed—Iowa’s most biodiverse habitat—for the past 20 years.
In the last few years, however, efforts have dramatically increased.
“After the flood of 2008, we realized we needed to be working on a larger scale,” says Jan Glendening, State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Iowa. The organization expanded its project to address the entire Cedar River Basin.
In the last year in particular, The Nature Conservancy’s biggest push has been helping others—communities, individuals, businesses and farmers alike—understand the importance of green infrastructure, such as wetlands and flood plains, in helping to alleviate the impact of flooding. “It’s not just gray infrastructure like dams and levees,” says Ms. Glendening. “Wetlands help keep water in the landscape. Nature is incredible and can protect us.”
With grant support in 2012 from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation’s Program Fund, as well as grants from four Community Foundation Donor-Advised Funds, The Nature Conservancy launched a program to create an inclusive flood management plan for the Cedar River watershed.
In the last year they’ve worked to restore 1,700 acres of wetland north of Cedar Rapids and they hope to restore additional acres in years to come. “We’re getting those on-the-ground results,” Ms. Glendening says. “Grants from the Community Foundation are allowing us to do that. We want to see a sustainable, healthy, resilient Eastern Iowa landscape and the Community Foundation is a true partner with us on this project.”
While the project is a new and evolving one for The Nature Conservancy, all those involved are extremely excited about the prospects. The program is building momentum thanks to partnerships being formed—including with the Army Corps for Engineers, the Department of Natural Resources, the City of Cedar Rapids, and many others—and a staff member is being hired to focus efforts on the entire Cedar River basin. The project, which has been designated a national risk reduction pilot project for The Nature Conservancy, provides a proactive, science-based and non-confrontational approach to address the actual causes of flooding and produce lasting solutions to the problem.
“This is exciting because they are building a coalition,” says Elizabeth Cwik, Program Officer at the Community Foundation. “This grant project looks at the broader picture after the flood, the whole system, and recognizes how we live within our watershed.”
Program Grant Fund and Competitive Donor-Advised Funds
Fund Purpose: Support programmatic innovation and sustainability
Grant Award: $40,900
Program Grant: $10,000
Competitive Donor-Advised Funds:
Diamond V Mills: $2,000
The Gazette: $1,500
CRST: $25,000 (granted in January 2013)