(Photo credit: Iowa Soybean Association)

Oxbow Restoration Toolkit goes live

September 22, 2021 | Joseph Hopper

Oxbows — the winding, meandering, disconnected pools — are a common sight across the Iowa landscape. Over time, the calmer waterways become filled with sediment carried in from the mainstream. Restoring oxbows can offer a wide range of benefits, from the ecological such as providing an ecosystem for endangered wildlife; to the preventative, as oxbows can help remove nitrates before heading for a waterway.

“When oxbows lose capacity and don’t have water in them anymore; they’re basically just areas that get seasonally wet,” said Brandon Iddings, Iowa Soybean Association field services program manager for conservation resources. “But we can dig into that stream bed and restore that habitat they were offering before.”

But how do you restore an oxbow? The Iowa Soybean Association has teamed up with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Resource Enhancement and Protection, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and The Nature Conservancy to create a resource for the conservation professionals or landowners who are on a mission to restore an oxbow: The Oxbow Restoration Toolkit.

The group of organizations has put together events to provide a tutorial for the 29-page guide, including a virtual oxbow restoration training webinar scheduled set for 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Oct. 5 via Zoom. Attendees to the virtual training should be familiar with the toolkit and are encouraged to watch Iowa Learning Farms’ virtual oxbow field day prior to jumping into the in-depth discussion. Iddings says while the initial oxbow events are aimed at conservation professionals, they will later benefit Iowa farmers.

“We’re broadening the conservation folks' toolbox on how to implement oxbows so they can go out and work for the landowners,” Iddings said.

The conservation professionals, then, can manage the project, gathering the necessary permits and contractors to implement the oxbows.

“At that point it’s similar to an edge of field practice,” Iddings said. “Oxbows are another great tool for conservation professionals to restore conservation on the landscape, providing improved water quality and wildlife habitat.”

ISA is no stranger to oxbow restorations — there are seven remaining ISA-related oxbow restoration projects to complete in 2021. Iddings said there will be more farmer-oriented events on the topic coming soon.

“We will have field days in the future,” Iddings said. “When we do have a field day, we’d love to have farmers there.”

For more information, email Brandon Iddings at biddings@iasoybeans.com.