Act locally on environmental challenges

CBJ Editorial

There are significant environmental challenges facing our state, nation and world. They include a changing climate, unclean water and a recent report on the disturbing decline of birds in North America, among others.

With these challenges so large in scope and broad in geography, where do we start to combat them? Fortunately, the slogan “think globally and act locally” is playing out in several local initiatives in Linn County that could serve as a model for the rest of the nation.

The two most noteworthy projects in the region are the Monarch Research Project, led by iconic entrepreneur Clark McLeod, and Wings2Water, led by Marty Lenss, director of the Eastern Iowa Airport.

Mr. McLeod, who founded and led McLeodUSA, has been spearheading a project to help monarch butterflies regain some of their lost habitat and natural feeding plants.

This effort isn’t just about monarchs. They are simply the rallying point for the effort, which is ultimately about nurturing land space where monarchs, insects and birds can thrive.

Mr. McLeod recommends landowners implement nine simple steps:

  • Cut your lawn in half
  • Avoid senseless mowing
  • Remove invasive plant species
  • Use keystone plants like oak trees, which serve as the backbone for ecosystems
  • Build a landscape layered with plants
  • Use motion sensor rather than all-night security lights
  • Oppose mosquito spraying
  • Minimize insecticide use
  • Get involved in your homeowners association and change from within.


“We need to make a movement,” Mr. McLeod said at a recent Green Leadership Summit he hosted at his estate. “We can make Linn County the model for the country.”

Mr. McLeod also urged support for the work of nonprofits like Trees Forever, the Indian Creek Nature Center and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.

Another important  initiative coming to the Corridor is Eastern Iowa Airport’s Wings2Water. The project will incorporate important no-till, crop rotation and buffer zone practices on the airport’s 2,000 acres of farmland.

Additionally, Wings2Water will raise money through point-of-sale interactions with the 1.2 million passengers who travel through the airport each year, channeling donations to help fund worthy restoration projects in Linn and Johnson counties. The mission of Wings2Water is to reduce Iowa’s nutrient runoff and flood impacts, restore local water quality and eliminate the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.

A public Wings2Water launch will be held at the airport on Oct. 15, at 10 a.m.

We appreciate the personal leadership Mr. McLeod and Mr. Lenss are demonstrating on these vital issues. Most people wait for government to lead. Instead, follow leaders like Mr. McLeod and Mr. Lenss, who are getting things done locally. Linn County could very well be the model for the rest of the nation. •