Since 1980, I have preached wildlife conservation in Grundy County. People for all of those years have heard habitat, habitat, habitat! I would acknowledge in the case of pheasants, for example, that predators played a role. That weather played a factor, too and in recent years changes in insecticide and herbicide use seemed to logically have contributed, as well. But people have never heard me waiver from the all importance of establishing or preserving the existing habitat.
Well, just recently all of that preaching came closer to home. It did involve home. My home farm in Jasper County, Iowa. It is only eighty acres. Fifty-three acres of crop ground, two building sites, and pasture. Only eighty acres, but it is where I grew up and where I learned to appreciate nature. It is where I first explored, hunted, trapped and fished.
This little farm sits on one of the highest points for miles around. From the top of the hill in the center of the farm, you can see the entire eighty acres and you can see another thousand acres beyond. The little farm is bordered on three sides by the same land owner. From that hill, you can plainly see his view of wildlife conservation. Fence rows have been removed. Waterways are narrowed, or no longer exist at all.
With changes in my mother's health, it has meant that my sister, brother and I are playing a larger role in the management of the little farm. There are two old farrowing houses that need to come down and there were some encroaching fence row tree limbs that needed to be trimmed back from the neighbor. As I stood with my brother-in-law and brother on the hill looking over the farm, I found myself in a conversation that I never imagined would happen.
Taking one field and seeding it to hay ground next year is being considered. "If we get rid of that fence beside the little pasture," my brother said, "We could seed part of that hay, too. And as dry as it is, this would be a good time to have a tile run down the middle of the marsh and turn the entire pasture into hay."
Now it was my turn, "I don't think we should drain the marsh. I think we could run a tile down the outsides at the north end and outlet them where it ponds at the south end. That way you can reclaim some of the pasture but save the marsh."
"Why do you want to save the marsh just because it has always been there," my brother asked. Now for those people who know me, you know that that in and of itself might be a good enough reason for me, but I knew it would not be good enough for my brother. I should add right here that this marsh is where all three of us have hunted pheasants. It is where my brother-in-law and I, in an incredible show of youthful poor judgement, attempted to cross the wet area with our four-wheel drive pickups. Instead, I said, "It is home for deer, ducks, geese, pheasants, raccoons, herons, and frogs."
"But are any of the frogs endangered," he responded.
I kept my cool. Actually, I bit my tongue really hard before I said a word. Finally, I spoke. "It appears the ones living in that marsh are. Wetlands are valuable pieces of habitat that have all but disappeared from around here. I don't want to see this one disappear."
I turned, I didn't run away, but it looks like I just might fight another day on this one. I guarantee it.