Famous Iowa Conservationists

To understand Iowa’s early conservationists we need to examine the world in which they grew up. Iowa’s landscape is one of the most altered in our nation. When Iowa’s early conservationists were growing up Iowa’s landscape was at the pinnacle of change. Iowa’s natural areas were being altered and destroyed and wildlife was being hunted with little regulation. As a whole, they were Iowans who spent time outside in the natural world as children and young adults.. They developed a connection with, and a love of nature, and became crusaders for the natural world when they saw its wanton destruction.

Studying Iowa’s famous conservationist should serve as a lesson to us as we educate and raise future generations. Children and young people who spend time outdoors in our natural world will develop a lifelong love and appreciation for nature. If we want children to grow up to be stewards of the land we need to get them outside now.

To learn more about the Iowa conservationists listed below, and to learn about other pioneering Iowa conservationists, visit the Iowa State University Extension webpage below and download your free copy of Important Iowa Conservationists – Iowa Natural Resource Heritage Series.

Ada Hayden ~ 1884-1950

Hayden grew up on an Iowa farm where her family kept a tract of virgin prairie simply to enjoy its beauty. Her love of natural prairie later became the focus of her career and her lasting legacy. Hayden was the first woman to earn her Ph.D. from Iowa State College. She became a professor of botany and the curator of the university herbarium. Hayden was one of the first scientists to study prairies. She surveyed the entire state to locate and document native prairie tracts. Hayden viewed prairies as complete ecosystems and as valuable living scientific laboratories. Her legacy started a prairie preservation effort in Iowa and her work has been an inspiration to countless prairie conservationists.

Ames Historical Society – Ada Hayden

John F. Lacey ~ 1841-1913

Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1888, Lacey was a conservation pioneer whose efforts were critically important to the protection of wildlife nationwide. The Lacey Bird Act of 1900 was just one of the issues that Lacey fought for diligently. The Lacey Bird Act of 1900 prohibited the transportation of illegally taken game across state lines, making the first significant dent in the economics of unrestricted market hunting and poaching.

Learn more about John F. Lacey in A Year for the Birds

Bohumil Shimek ~ 1861-1937

A Professor of Botany at University of Iowa, and the first director of the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory, Shimek was a pioneer of a comprehensive conservation and environmental education program for Iowa. He believed the first place to teach students about the natural world was in the field. Shimek helped his students not only learn about the natural world, but also encouraged and taught them to protect it.

The University of Iowa – Bohumil Shimek

Louis H. Pammel ~ 1862-1931

Pammel, a Wisconsin native, earned degrees from the University of Wisconsin and Washington University and later became a professor of bacteriology, mycology, and plant pathology at Iowa State College. Pammel believed that humans could not exist without direct contact with the natural world. He developed the first working definition of conservation for Iowa and recommended that nature be taught in schools. Pammel help establish the Iowa State Board of Conservation and served as its president from 1919-1927. During that time he established the first Iowa State Park, Backbone State Park, in addition to 38 other State Parks. He is recognized as the “Founder of Iowa’s State Park System.”

Iowa State University – Louis H. Pammel

Check out these great activities that can extend your study on Conservationists!

Project WILD

  • History of Wildlife Management – students will define wildlife management and describe major trends in wildlife management philosophies and practices
  • Wildwork – careers: examine careers related to wildlife management

Aquatic WILD

  • Working for Wildlife – careers: simulated job fair and interviews

Cross-reference to these WILD units for additional information: