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A Conservation Vision For Palo Alto County

January 24, 2013
Emmetsburg News

Letter to the Editor:

I am a farmer/seed dealer who was born and resides in Palo Alto County. I started farming in 1975 after graduating from ISU. I have always hunted and fished in the area but could see that many of the wildlife areas I had enjoyed were being lost, so when I was asked to be on the Palo Alto Conservation Board, I enthusiastically accepted. Shortly after becoming a board member, I was asked to join in a long-term planning meeting of representatives from West Bend, Graettinger, Ruthven area, and Emmetsburg, including County Supervisors. We discussed how to make our county more attractive to people looking for a place to call their home. This was especially true for attracting doctors, dentists, teachers, and other professionals. We had a great meeting about all aspects of our county, but the message was loud and clear to me. I was directed to go back and ask the Conservation Board to aggressively create wildlife areas for hunting, river access, wetland creation, and picnic facilities. That was 30-35 years ago, and look where we are today! We have created one of the best areas in Iowa for public hunting, with access to nearly 2500 acres, combined with river access for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. We have many areas for picnicking or just enjoying nature. Nearly all these areas were purchased with money from grants and donations, not with your taxes. We also have a Nature Center second to none which provides education for young and old, among other things. Where else in Iowa can you go and see so much wildlife preserved in a natural setting? It is here that Art Hampe has an office to set up his busy schedule and Miriam Patton puts together her inspiring talks for the kids.

Our County Board of Supervisors is now considering a significant cut to the operating budget of the Conservation Board. Even though the Conservation Board and its employees have proven their superior ability to protect nature, educate young and old, and enhance the quality of life of all living in and visiting this county, the Supervisors want to cut their budget. Even though this county's Conservation Board has shown the ability to be extremely effective (16th in the state) while being very cost-effective (61st in the state), the Supervisors want to curtail their efforts.

We are well on our way to achieving the vision we set out to fulfill all those years ago. However, the job is not done, and it cannot be done with less money. If you are proud of what we have developed in Palo Alto County and see the value of creating a better quality of life, please let your Supervisor know that we need to support the continued efforts of our Conservation Board and their employees, not hamper them.

(signed) Ritch Berkland

Cylinder, IA



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