Cooperatove Conservation Project

Iowa Buffer Team

Location: Midwest/Northern High Plains Region: Iowa

Project Summary: A unique group of public and private partners joined forces to promote the establishment of buffers on agricultural lands.
Photo Not Available
Buffer projects protect Iowa farms and streams.
Resource Challenge
Iowa has one of the most significantly altered landscapes in the United States. During its long history of production agriculture, many wetlands and natural buffers along streams and rivers were altered or removed. Without buffers, animal waste and agricultural chemicals can leach into surface and underground waters, while grazing along rivers and streams causes excessive erosion and destroys aquatic habitat. Today, almost all of Iowa’s rivers and streams are considered impaired. With growing concerns about pollution and sediment in the state’s waterways and in the Gulf of Mexico, the pressure is on Iowa’s farmers to be better stewards of the land.
Examples of Key Partners
Iowa Department of Agriculture, Pheasants Forever, Trees Forever, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Agroecology Issue Team of Iowa State University, Conservation Districts of Iowa, Syngenta Crop Protection, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, landowners, producers, and others.
Results and Accomplishments
Riparian buffers, which are strips of undisturbed vegetation along waterways, help to intercept pollution, guard against excessive soil erosion, improve water quality, reduce flooding, enhance fish and wildlife habitat, and restore biodiversity. By the mid 1990s, national and state agricultural agencies were offering technical and financial assistance to landowners to install or enhance buffers, one of the most beneficial, cost effective conservation practices available.

Trees Forever, Pheasants Forever, and other organizations developed partnerships for funding and outreach to individual landowners and producers to showcase the many benefi ts of using trees, shrubs, and grasses as a natural buffer. An on-farm demonstration and research site was developed by researchers at Iowa State University with the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

Today, Iowa leads the Nation in the number of conservation buffers protecting streams and rivers. Iowa landowners signed more than 41,000 contracts, creating 330,715 acres of buffers under the USDA Continuous Conservation Reserve Program. Additional buffers were installed through the USDA Wetlands Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. Other accomplishments include education and outreach through demonstration sites and field days, enhanced financial incentives, statewide media relations, and publications and promotions. The buffers and related activities will improve water quality, wildlife habitat, and quality of life for all Iowans.





The Bear Creek National Research and Demonstration site showed policy makers, agencies, and nonprofit organizations that buffers were a cost-effective and beneficial best management practice.

Project Contact
Shannon Ramsay

Trees Forever



To request additions or corrections to this case study email the Administrator