Brush of Excellence awarded to Dinsmores

By Rachel on October 16, 2015 in Blog

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Last Thursday, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation awarded Jim and Patricia Dinsmore the Brush of Excellence for their lifetime achievements in conservation and contributions to conserving Iowa's land and water. The ceremony was held at Big Wall Lake Wildlife Management Area in Wright County, where a gift from the Dinsmores made possible a 130-acre addition to the Big Wall Lake complex.

The award is a framed paintbrush that was once owned and used by famed cartoonist and conservation leader Jay N. “Ding” Darling (1876-1962), whose art and actions helped shape America's conservation ethic. The brush was given by Kip Koss, Darling's grandson, to Samuel Koltinsky, the producer of “America's Darling: The Story of Jay N. Ding Darling”. Koltinsky presented the framed brush to INHF on May 19, 2015.

“Gifting of these brushes — 'The Brush of Excellence' — signifies extraordinary stewardship of the land and the wise use of our natural resources. It is with great honor to be able to present this brush in remembrance of both the Darling and Koss legacies,” Koltinsky said during the May ceremony.

INHF will award the Brush of Excellence to deserving Iowa conservationists whose talents, persistence and excellence echo Ding Darling's legacy of inspiring conservation action. The award will travel, presented on loan to the current honoree. The Dinsmores are the first to receive the award.

“Jim is a noted author on Iowa birds and wildlife, known especially for guiding research about the wildlife benefits of wetland restoration,” said INHF President Joe McGovern. “But what really stands out is the care and encouragement that Jim and Pat gave to his wildlife biology students at Iowa State University for nearly 30 years. Ding Darling gave lots of 'wake-up calls' about wildlife to Americans a century ago. Jim 'woke up' countless students and launched so many young people toward conservation careers.”

Jim Dinsmore is well known for his 1994 book “A Country So Full of Game,” an account of the wildlife present in Iowa at the time of early European settlement. He was an animal ecology professor at Iowa State University from 1975-2002, and taught many people that work in conservation in Iowa today, including McGovern. Thursday's ceremony also celebrated the Dinsmore's gift that allowed the protection of at least 130 acres surrounding Big Wall Lake.

The 978-acre shallow water lake is along a major flyway for migrating waterfowl and had been on the state's list of impaired waters. It underwent a major restoration starting in 2006, and the lake was removed from the impaired list in 2012.

After the Dinsmore Tract is completed, the next addition to the complex will be a 341-acre property on the northwest corner of Big Wall Lake. The Dinsmores also made a contribution to that tract, and INHF is currently raising funds to transfer the property to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.