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New Book: Iowa's Past Holds Key to Fighting Soil Erosion, Water Pollution

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March 31, 2008

Des Moines, IA – To save Iowa's soil and water for the future, we should look to the past, according to a new book by Iowa author Cornelia (Connie) Mutel. "The Emerald Horizon" rolls back the clock to show what Iowa's landscape was like before the prairie was turned under by the plow. Mutel, an ecologist who serves as historian and archivist for the University of Iowa College of Engineering, says we can help stop soil erosion and prevent water pollution, in part by using native plants that were part of Iowa's original landscape.

"Taking a certain percentage of the land and restoring native communities in Iowa -- that is being done now, along our roadsides. We are rebuilding prairies along our roads."

She believes Iowa could combine its agricultural heritage with sustainable soil and water practices, but only if we tap the same zeal the early settlers used to transform the state into a working agricultural landscape.

"We transformed one of the major biomes, biological systems, on earth into a working landscape within a single human generation. Now, with all of the dedication and hard work that Iowans brought to the former task, we can apply those to restoring the land. "

Mutel notes that, in Iowa's pre-settlement days, deep-rooted prairie plants helped the soil clean the water. She says the same process, called infiltration-hydrology, could be easily put to use today to accomplish the same goal.

Dick Layman/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - IA