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Editorial Roundup: Iowa

Des Moines Register. May 23, 2023.

Editorial: Move past ‘No Mow May’ to better help pollinators

Suddenly going back to diligent mowing in late spring, even after flora has gotten a better hold for the season, can cause trouble, scientists say.

Let’s talk about grass.

For the first time, the city of Des Moines this spring endorsed the “No Mow May” movement, whose goal is to help pollinators flourish. Plants, including the taller grass and weeds of unmowed lawns, provide bees, butterflies and other insects shelter and food, which can be scarce early in spring. Huge portions of our food supply — fruits, vegetables, grains — depend on pollinators.

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We welcome more attention, of any kind, on how typical American practices can disrupt the environment. Des Moines’ initiative got some sporadic buy-in. But in 2024, the city — and other Iowans — should leave behind the catchy “no mow” slogan in favor of encouraging what experts say are more effective and more sustainable efforts.

Plenty of websites, including those of the National Wildlife Federation and the US Department of Agriculture, have published lists of tips for helping pollinators. Taking a month off from mowing is conspicuously absent from the lists. A New York turf specialist told the Associated Press it was “counterproductive” and a “feel-good, stop-gap measure.”

Going “no mow” and then suddenly going back to diligent mowing in late spring, even after flora has gotten a better hold for the season, can cause trouble, scientists say. Grass suffers when it loses most of its length all at once, and insects and other pollinators that became accustomed to the haven of an unmowed lawn might not adjust well to having to move elsewhere, if they escape danger from predators.

In the bigger picture, declines in pollinator populations, first noticed about two decades ago, remain a major concern. Habitat loss is one of many contributors to colony collapse disorder, which has particularly afflicted Western honeybees. If the goal is to make a real dent, the habitats we create in our yards should be longer-lasting.

To that end, experts advise these steps:

— Eliminate, or at least drastically reduce, pesticide use in yards, as the University of Northern Iowa’s Kamyar Enshayan wrote in these pages last week. Pesticides harm pollinators.

— Mow regularly, but only about every other week.

— Set up sources of water, such as birdbaths.

— Let leaves that drop in autumn sit in the yard until the weather gets and stays warm again.

Plant more gardens, including native plants.

Des Moines, for its part, took a welcome step forward on that last point in 2019, amending city rules to relax height limitations on non-grass vegetation between the sidewalk and the street. The issue came up after a west-side homeowner contested officials’ insistence that her flowers in that space were not permissible.

It can’t just be up to individuals, of course. Government regulators and companies must do their part when it comes to pollution, land use, climate change and other factors that have played big roles in creating a pollution crisis.

But property owners can do something. “No Mow May” does a service in chipping away at the presumption that only a green, manicured lawn reflects well on a resident or neighborhood. (By the way, if you haven’t already, please stop watering established grass.) Gardens with flowers and other plants are beautiful, too.

Dubuque Telegraph-Herald. May 28, 2023.

Editorial: Engage with grads to help keep them in the tri-states

Over the course of this weekend, the past few weeks and the weeks ahead, hundreds of students will graduate from high schools and institutions of higher education in the tri-state area.

We have to wonder, how many of them will choose to live and work and make their homes in this area in the months and years ahead?

Here’s the answer: Not as many as we need.

It’s critically important for local residents to make our area’s college students and high school graduates feel welcomed, appreciated and inspired to make the greater Dubuque area their home for a lifetime. We need their hands, their hearts and their minds to contribute to our workforce and our communities. Creating that welcoming environment is a job for all of us.

Our institutions of higher education — Loras College, Clarke University, University of Dubuque, Northeast Iowa Community College, Emmaus Bible College, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Southwest Wisconsin Technical College — all work hard to bring new students to campus and to make them feel welcome and included.

By and large, they are successful. We know from local survey data that college students in this area say they like their school, their friends, their campus. But some of those students also say that they don’t feel as welcomed in the broader community. They don’t always see themselves reflected in the community. Their “outsider” status seems to separate them. In the worst cases, some students even feel threatened.

For those students, while they may have enjoyed their stint in the Dubuque area as a college student, the community has not become their new home. That’s something we need to work on. College administrators can’t fix it. Neither can city government or economic development officials. Changing the culture of exclusivity to one of inclusivity takes all of us.

It also benefits all of us. Have you been to a place lately with subpar customer service? Waited too long to be helped? Had a phone call to a business go unanswered? That’s because local businesses are still dealing with hiring challenges and could use more workers. Business owners small and large are looking for new employees. Meanwhile, many of the students who recently walked across the stage to get a diploma just kept walking. They won’t be sticking around to call Dubuque home.

Everyone can have a role in helping to change this. Engage with the young people you see out and about. Be friendly and welcoming. Make connections where you can. Employers have begun to figure out that they can’t wait around for graduates to come knocking on the door for a job. They need to connect with younger students and build a rapport while they’re in school, not just at the end of students’ time here.

The 2020 Census showed Iowa’s population is growing at a rate of 4.8%, well below the national rate of 7.4%. Wisconsin’s growth rate is even smaller than Iowa’s, and Illinois actually lost people.

We cannot afford to keep educating students and losing them to places they feel more comfortable. We need to become that more-comfortable place. If we want to build our workforce and our economy, we need to retain the students who go to school here. And if we want to keep them, we must engage them—all of us.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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