I got a call last week from a friend excited to tell me about a large flock of swans that had congregated on the lake that his home overlooks. That’s a sight he wouldn’t have seen in Iowa just a couple decades ago. 

It’s also visible evidence of the conservation efforts being made by Iowa farmers. 

Nesting trumpeter swans had disappeared from the Iowa landscape before the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) developed a plan in 1993 to restore them in the state. Part of that plan involved promoting the value of wetlands for wildlife habitat.

Restored wetlands also have water quality benefits, removing 30% to 70% of nitrogen loads from drainage waters. 

Iowa ranks among the nation’s leaders in wetland restoration through programs such as CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) and CRP (Conservation Reserve Program). 

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has participated in the construction of more than 100 wetlands over the past 20 years and is striving to install the next 100 in a fraction of that time. The pace of wetland construction has ac­celerated thanks in part to a bill passed by the Iowa Legislature in 2018 that provided $270 million in long-term funding for implementation of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

As of 2020, more than 100 pairs of trumpeter swans now nest across Iowa, according to the DNR. With farmers helping to create more habitat every year, my friend is likely to have a lot more viewing opportunities as he gazes out his backyard in the years ahead.