Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 19, 2017

Keeping Watch -  The Eye of the Wolf.

By Steve Wilson | Apr 23, 2012

Hanging in the Balance — 5/11/2012

It is worth considering why nature prefers to have wolves die of disease, competition and starvation when they become over populated and run out of prey instead of having the herbivores upon which they prey starve for lack of food.  Leopold saw the systemic environmental destruction caused by overly abundant and/or staving herbivores to be a significant part of the reason.  An over population of predators does not cause soil erosion.  The predators can die off from being over populated without creating a desert.

This was part of the ahh haaa moment for Leopold because in it he could see the writing on the wall for humanity. We are omnivores par excellent, we consume everything from coal and oil to doves and drugs. It is not enough to cut a tree we must destroy a forest and we either self-check or perish since our capacity to utterly destroy the environment upon which we depend to survive, to include our bodies, is unchecked.  

Nature has had a great deal of experience disciplining the wayward as 99.99+% of the species that have ever lived are now extinct. Those that have survived, like the giant Sequoias, have learned, as Leopold put it, “how to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.”

 Since the deer fail to control their own population/consumption the wolf/hunter does it for them.  Necessity/nature demands that something or someone must.  

If we are too proud to learn from the trees, raised up as pillars in the cathedral of God to awe and inspire us, building soil as they grow, then we will be taught by the dire consequences of our own hubris.

I was taught in Sunday School that God has once considered destroying Mankind but repented when Noah was willing to consider not only saving himself but the “seed” of every living thing. Well the rainbow is still with us but the spirit of Noah is not. And there will still be rainbows when Man is no more.

It is still up to each of us to participate in writing the epitaph of Man.  Will it be “Man was called to be the Husbandman but choose in youthful abandon to be the destroyer and thus was destroyed.”?  Or will it be, “For ages uncounted Man practiced the loving husbandry of the Earth and only surrendered when the Son called her once again into his loving embrace? “





Going forward the challenge is to create and manifest a conservation ethic. The survival of human beings depends on it. Years ago while working for Motorola and reporting to Tom Beasley as the site Environmental Coordinator I said something to Tom about “saving the earth” to which Tom replied, The earth will survive. It does not need saving. We are the ones at risk, not the earth.

After being introduced to the Green Fire film at the Oakland Mills Nature Center I borrowed a copy from DP and I have watched it a dozen times since. It goes with getting older I think, it takes a lot of repetition to transfer information into my long term memory. I borrowed this film on the life of Aldo Leopold from Wesleyan professor, biological advisor and step Mom DP Wilson. DP also gave me a film titled The 11th Hour. I have watched it several times now too and I am beginning to get the picture.

We have waged a war on nature and consider ourselves the victors. However we construct that victory in our minds, we have, as warriors are inclined to do, severely damaged the infrastructure. In Iowa we have lost 50% of our top soil and over 90% of our wetlands. And I am still looking for an acre of old growth forest in Henry County. What this means it that the quality of our water and the security of our food supply are at risk. We have squandered the wealth of our biological diversity and created a landscape subject to flooding and soil erosion.  We don’t much care as we are sure our grandchildren will be smart enough to solve whatever problems we leave them when those problems become serious enough to demand their attention. One thing is for sure, we are not looking out for them.

Consider a wild cherry tree. It has no brain. There is cellular communication to be sure, but no nervous system. It is just a stupid tree.  It does not know what it is doing - but consider what it does.

Its roots hold the soil within which it is anchored holding it upright and protecting the source of its nutrients and water from erosion. It sheds its leaves to decompose in that soil thus increasing the soils capacity to absorb and hold water and to supply nutrients as year over year it adds depth to the top soil by adding organic matter. It takes in carbon dioxide and gives off, as a waste, oxygen, the gas upon which its pollinators and seed dispensers and CO2 generators all depend. It supplies fruit for the seed shedding birds and mammals who make their homes in its cavities and or in its branches. These creatures too are every gathering and dispensing nutrients far and wide within the forest. It creates shade to protect the soil from baking and it takes energy out of the summer sun to enbody all that it does even as it air conditions the forest.

 Just look at what it gives even as it lives!

 How is it that trees live so long, both as individuals and as species? They survive because in the process they make the very spot on which they grow better for life.  The top soil gets deeper.  The climate is moderated. The bounty of life becomes more diverse. They do, in their silent stupidity, what it takes to survive - while humanity in its vociferous arrogance self-destructs. Look to the root print of trees and compare it to the foot print of man.

I have a hat that says “Tree Hugger” on it. I used to be embarrassed to wear that hat.  After all a tree hugger was someone who gets all excited about tall weeds with woody stems. No more. I am not too proud to learn from trees, to love trees, to plant trees, to hug trees and neither am I too idealistic to use them for firewood, fruit, nuts and building material.

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.

To learn from a tree is to be taught by God and to hug a tree is to love God. For millions of years the silent knowledge of God has been growing in trees and then along comes an upstart arrogant enough to destroy the forest and too proud to learn how to live from a tree.

Our tools are better than we are, and grow better faster than we do. They suffice to crack the atom, to command the tides, but they do not suffice for the oldest task in human history, to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.”

Aldo Leopold



Just in case folks think I am making this stuff up.


Copied in part below.

Please compare this to what I requested per the article in the News.


Only emergencies trump notice and agenda requirements.

Governmental bodies generally must give notice at least 24 hours prior to a meeting, and must include the tentative agenda. (Iowa Open Meetings Law, IA. Code sec. 21.4.) The public relies on the tentative agenda to know what matters will be discussed at the meeting. (See March 2002 Sunshine Advisory, Advance Agendas for Public Meetings.)

But, what if a new idea comes up in the course of discussion while the meeting is underway? How much room does the law allow for expanded discussion when a tentative agenda has been issued?

Unless an emergency requires immediate action, only matters included on the tentative agenda may be discussed at a meeting. (See March 2004 Advisory, Emergency Meetings: Can Good Cause Justify Less Notice?)
Governmental bodies should apply these two rules of thumb to determine what discussion or action is permitted under the scope of items on a tentative agenda:

  • Ordinary Meaning: Words in the tentative agenda should be measured by the meaning to a “typical citizen” or member of the news media. Do the words convey what topics will be discussed at the meeting?
  • Sufficient Dietal:The sufficiency of the detail on the tentative agenda should be viewed in the context of surrounding events. Did the agenda give the public a full opportunity to participate? Factors in assessing the opportunity for participation may include whether the topic had been on a previous agenda and whether the meeting was widely publicized.

Remember: Spirited discussion may trigger exciting new ideas. But public bodies must be sure that the tentative agenda provides reasonable notice to the public in ordinary terms and in sufficient detail. Rarely, and only if a real emergency exists, should a body discuss and vote on a matter not included on the tentative agenda.


Under the heading of Self Defense below I mentioned that there was one time when I reported a particularly belligerent violator to the law and requested that he be prosecuted. Why that one? Because though obviously guilty neither he nor his parents owned up to the violations and they refused to consider any restitution or to even offer up an apology. Still, I did not push for prosecution on the most serious violations but I did call for a couple of lesser charges to be filed. I gave the boy a break, and I hope it was the best thing for all concerned. Flagrant violations of law are not to be ignored.

So what does this have to do with county government? I have documented several violations of Iowa open meetings and open records laws associated with the actions of two county boards over the last several years. I have never received an apology from either of the boards or their employees for these violations but Ron Osborne and I have both been accosted on numerous occasions by county employees, board members and members of the public for our efforts to bring the boards into compliance with the Sunshine Laws. Our willingness to foster change through open monitoring rather than taking court action saves the county money but wins us no thanks.

That's OK. Doing the right thing is often lonely business. But now should this suddenly become expensive for the residents of Henry County, I will not be apologizing to the tax payers. All of You have had the opportunity to convey your expectations to your elected officials. And still it is easier to gather supporters for those violating the law than for those seeking to encourage compliance. In my eyes this is a form of collective corruption.

I am not running for County Supervisor.  I am what Supervisor White calls, a self appointed watch dog. There are beautiful things to watch in Henry County and some not so beautiful. Be that as it may,

this is Steve Wilson - Keeping Watch.



Henry County Conservation Board:  The Fierce Green Fire was doused on the Conservation Board when Kent White succeeded in having Marty Frazer removed from service. Dick Young, an avid conservationist on his own land was also denied an opportunity to serve there after.

While I have never met a person in whom the Green Fire burned more brightly in their private life than in current Henry Conservation Board member George Jaques, I have never understood why that fire smoulders in his participation on the Conservation Board.

George and Cathy Jaques own a farm upon which Aldo Leopold would never tire of showering praise. I have enjoyed special moments sitting with George and Cathy in the cabin years ago and looking out upon the land, nest boxes and bird feeders and then taking "the tour"and seeing it all in the light of the Fierce Green Fire that burns in George when he is there. 

His cabin was so much like the cabin of the Leopolds in Sand County Wisconsin and his love for wetlands, forest, prairie, pond, wild life and wild flowers -all - radiates from him when he is there and spills across the land that has been transformed by the touch of his loving hand. The contrast between him sitting there in that cabin with his binoculars and sitting on the board is something I have never understood.

There are those, and I have been among them, who think of the wilderness as a place to drink beer and kill things. This attitude spills over now into the small forested parks that rest still in the "to be sold" folder. These properties show both the benefits and the hazards of neglect. Where the mowing has stopped the 4-Wheeler ruts have taken over. Seems Aldo was right, man always kills what he loves; to which I would add  - and only understands how much he loved it after he destroys it.

Funny how so many of the greatest conservationist I have known are folks who have had something akin to a conversion experience. Something like what happened in Leopold as he watched the fierce green fire fading in the eyes of the dying wolf. There comes a point in the lives of such men where soberly and reverently they begin to participate in the life of the wilderness and spend more time planting trees and getting to know the wildflowers than drinking beer and shooting guns.   


Keeping Watch - By the Light of a Green Fire"

Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest.”

What more delightful avocation than to take a piece of land and by cautious experimentation to prove how it works. What more substantial service to conservation than to practice it on one's own land?”

I have purposely presented the land ethic as a product of social evolution because nothing so important as an ethic is ever 'written'… It evolves in the minds of a thinking community.”

Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

Aldo Leopold

Take one a day as required for apathy.

The quotes above, taken from the movie Green Fire presented at the Oakland Mills Nature Center, lay the foundation for effective conservation however, effective long term programs are inadequate on both public and private land.

There was a time when I thought our county parks were to be the vessels, the Arks if You will, within which the diversity of functional biological systems would be restored and safety floated across the troubled waters and fickle currents of successive generations. As it turns out, within the span of a single human generation efforts were made to sell off the parks that are not protected with restrictions on sale and/or use.  

Conservation Board member Marty Fraser who complained that a smoke screen was being created by those Conservation Board members who were seeking to sell the parks was denied his second term on the board. Unfortunately Marty did not realize that the smoke screen went beyond deception to actual violations of  Iowa's Open Meetings Laws. Additionally, the reasons the Board of Supervisors gave for not renewing Marty's appointment were fabrications. Therefore, I think Marty should be re-appointed to the Conservation Board and the  members of both boards who were responsible for those violations should be removed.

However, since such strong corrective measures in response to unethical and/or illegal activity by board members in Henry County does not enjoy historical precedent I would offer in its place a resolution.

Let it hereby be resolved that all public land purchased with public funds or given to the People of Henry County by entities public or private primarily for the purpose of conservation shall not be sold or have its monetary or conservation value diminished by the sale of timber or minerals or crops or rights or use or otherwise, without the approval of a super majority of the residents of Henry County on a ballot initiative specific to each contiguous track and each action in question.

What more substantial service to conservation than to practice it on one's own land?”

Aldo Leopold

The Green Fire that lives and grows in our parks must burn in our hearts in our dedication to the conservation of the natural bounty and beauty of Henry County. These parks comprise the backbone, the constitution, the living growing reality of Henry County Conservation.


Steve Wilson


The Iowa Legislature has voted to create a new state agency called the Iowa Public Information Board. This board will assist citizens by actively participating in the enforcement of Open Meetings and Open Records Laws. The board will eliminate the financial risks that citizens may encounter in recouping legal expenses for court actions taken against violators. It might also reduce attempts to focus ill will on members of the public who have been attempting to bring county boards into compliance.

Following the up coming elections I understand that the new county board members will have several months to assure the boards are in compliance before the Public Information Board becomes active. Not a grace period really, but an opportunity for training and careful study. 

What, if anything, will be done with the records of alledged violations of the Sunshine Laws by the Conservation Board and the Henry County Board of Supervisiors accumlated over the last several years remains an open question for now.

Citizens and board members have accused Ron Osborne and I of harassing and threatening the board members in our efforts to encourage them to come into compliance with the law. 

The Republicans have stuck together through it all attacking Ron and I openly, even as their elected officials thumb their noses at the law. Meanwhile the Democrats have kept a low profile.

I am getting well settled in my independence.

Of course Ron Osborne is one exception to the rule of the distracted Henry County Democrat. I met Ron at a public hearing on selling the parks several years ago and his committment to transparency in government and conservation of our resources impressed me then and has continued to impress me ever since.    

.What an education this has all been!

I hope the Iowa Public Information Board will succeed, (where so far I have failed), to foster a friendly climate of service for all the citizens of Henry County under the full illumination provided by careful compliance with the Iowa Sunshine Laws.

4/24 Self Defense.

 A 17 year old girl was shot in the head by one of two fishermen shooting at 4 kids, some of whom were apparently stealing stuff out of fishing cabins in Alabama.

You know I had somebody steal my welder from our barn down at Locust Street. I had someone steal pigeons from that barn. I had kids break windows out of that barn and out of a mobil home on that property. They also painted graffiti on the horse stalls. I have had armed trespassers enter onto my properties on numerous occassions. I had someone steal my honey extractor from my cabin and I had kids break windows out of my cabin down on the river.

I own a gun and I do not want anyone to attempt to take it away from me, but I would wrap it around a fence post before I shot at kids stealing stuff. Investigating the above incidents I never carried a gun. When I caught offenders, with one exception involving a particularly billigerent youth, I did not call the law.

As I was growing up I did some stupid stuff. Folks in my neighborhood cut me some slack.  They were not in a hurry to make me into a criminal and they certainly did not want to physically injure me. They consistently sent the message that I was important to them. I thank each and everyone of them for that and I am doing my best to pass on the favor.

Nationally the NRA, with the help of the likes of Ted Nugent is creating a trigger happy environmentally irresponsible culture. Folks are too quick to make kids into criminals and too quick to pull the trigger.

I have not lost anything over the years that would even come close to justifing carrying a gun or firing a warning shot in an attempt to protect it. I guess that is because I have found something wonderful in people and in being together in a caring community. That something is far more wonderful than any amount of stuff and protecting the quality of that community  is the highest form of self defense.

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