United States

The Nature Conservancy in Iowa

Close-up of a bison standing in the rain.
Bison in the rain Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve, Iowa. © Chris Helzer/TNC

Make a Difference in Iowa

Since 1963, The Nature Conservancy in Iowa has worked to preserve our state’s natural landscapes through the advancement of land and water conservation. Project managers across the state work within their own communities to protect and conserve private lands and work with agricultural producers and companies on best practices. The Nature Conservancy has worked to protect more than 20,000 acres of land in Iowa.

Graham McAffin with rolling hills in the background.
Graham McGaffin Graham McGaffin is the new Iowa State Director. © Kendall Crawford

A Letter From Our New State Director

It is an exciting and humbling honor to have the opportunity to lead The Nature Conservancy in Iowa as the next State Director. For me, as a native Iowan, with a childhood spent camping in the Loess Hills, playing with family on the Skunk River in central Iowa, and exploring the woodlands surrounding tributaries to the Mississippi in southeast Iowa, this is a dream come true. I couldn’t be more excited to be stepping into this role now, when I believe the conservation community in Iowa is poised to make huge strides toward goals we all share—efforts that will have tremendous impacts on the biodiversity and climate challenges facing our state.

I heard a comment a few years ago that stuck with me: I was discussing land protection approaches with colleagues and partners from Minnesota, and a comment was shared describing how Minnesota’s conservation “industry” had taken off since passage of the state’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008. Previously, I had heard about the conservation successes in Minnesota (prairie restoration, improved water quality in streams and lakes, “good fire” implemented, etc.) sparked by the amendment—and knew, generally, that investments in conservation and outdoor recreation were important aspects of economic development. But, up until that point, I had not considered this sort of achievement in terms of its impact on the conservation industry. In fact, despite an undergraduate degree in business, I had not thought of my chosen profession as an industry at all.

But in Iowa—where the health of our lands and waters is so deeply tied to our livelihoods—the closely-related activities that preserve our natural heritage and restore nature’s ability to provide for the things on which all life depends certainly comprise an industry and are in dire need of greater investment. Nature will give back to us what we put into it, and then some.

Now here we are in 2023 and two extraordinary opportunities have been presented to us that can take our industry to the next level: (1) an unprecedented increase in federal funding for conservationand (2) Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy (IWILL) ready-and-waiting to be funded by our state legislature. The conservation industry in Iowa is primed for the investment required to unleash the power of nature to address the crises of biodiversity loss and climate change. I believe we have the right mix of science, strategy, and partnerships to galvanize the real, transformative change needed to ensure an Iowa where healthy lands and waters allow both people and nature to thrive.

In Iowa, The Nature Conservancy has identified core goals and strategies to do just that:

For Biodiversity:

  • Protect, restore, and connect critical wildlife habitat.
  • Reestablish healthy and productive soils.
  • Ensure clean and sustainable waters.

For Climate:

  • Improve natural resilience to disasters like flood and drought.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Harness the power of nature to store carbon.

We are optimistic about the work we have ahead of us, but we must increase the pace and scale of this work to achieve our goals. Only together can we solve the biodiversity and climate crises that are impacting our planet, country, and state every day.  It’s an exciting time to be involved in conservation and I welcome you all to join The Nature Conservancy in Iowa in these efforts.

Sincerely,

Graham McGaffin

Graham McGaffin has been a member of the TNC Iowa team for the past eight years, serving as Loess Hills Project Director, Associate Director of Conservation, and, most recently, as Director of Lands.  Prior to that, Graham worked on state and federal policy for TNC in Wyoming and for the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust on conservation easements and stewardship. Graham holds a dual B.S. in Finance and Economics, and a double M.S. in Agricultural and Applied Economics and Environment and Natural Resources, all from the University of Wyoming.  

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