Axios Des Moines

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🎸 Hi, hi, Thursday. On this day in 1976, The Killers' lead guitarist Dave Keuning was born in Pella, according to Notes on Iowa.

β˜€οΈ Weather: Sunny with a high of 58Β°.

πŸŽ‚ Happy birthday to our Axios Des Moines member Marie Harms!

Today's Smart Brevityβ„’ count is 840 words β€” a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Lost in flight

A greater prairie-chicken in the Nebraska Sandhills. Photo: David Tipling/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Tens of thousands of greater prairie-chickens once roamed Iowa's abundant grasslands, but these days only 60 remain and the state is watching that number drop.

Why it matters: Habitat loss has resulted in a roller coaster journey for the unique chickens, whose survival can indicate healthy grasslands ecosystems.

Threat level: If they're unable to recoup, they may not have a future in the state where they once thrived, says Stephanie Shepherd, an Iowa Department of Natural Resources biologist.

Driving the news: To draw attention to them, the DNR will host its annual "Prairie Chicken Festival" at the Kellerton Grasslands Bird Conservation Area on April 6 β€” a little over an hour south of Des Moines.

  • Starting at dawn, curious spectators are invited to watch the birds' courtship "dance," where males stamp, puff out their chests and call out to females.

Zoom in: Greater prairie-chickens are similar in size to today's common chicken, but what makes them unique are the males' bright orange air sacs and their "famously acrobatic" courtship dances.

Catch up fast: In the 1800s, prairie-chickens were prominent across Iowa, but they died out in the 1950s due to loss of grasslands and unregulated hunting.

  • They were reintroduced in the '80s near the Loess Hills, but struggled to thrive because of too many trees and a lack of genetic diversity.
  • The species was reintroduced again around Kellerton from 2012-2017 with some initial success as 25 to 50 birds became 100 to 150, Shepherd says.

Yes, but: In the last few years, their population has shrunk back down to just 65 to 70 birds. A self-sustaining flock is 800 birds.

  • "We don't have the right and enough habitat for them," Shepherd says.

What's next: The DNR will continue to monitor the prairie-chickens for the next 10 years and assess whether Iowa can support a population.

Keep reading

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2. Des Moines may redefine "weed"

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A nuisance grass and weed ordinance proposed by Des Moines city staff may have unintended consequences, says Councilperson Josh Mandelbaum.

Why it matters: Desirable plants that are not intentionally cultivated β€” like the bluebells his family allows to grow in their yard β€” could be targeted, Mandelbaum argued during a council meeting last week.

State of play: Currently, Des Moines' code prohibits any weeds or plants over 12 inches. Weeds are defined as "all vegetation, other than trees, shrubs, flowers and gardens."

  • City staff's proposed change broadens "weed" to any plant that's not intentionally grown, is "unsightly and economically useless" or any undesirable or hazardous plant.
  • It would now apply to grass 10 inches or taller with exceptions for gardens, farmland and purposely planted vegetation.
  • Violators would have at least 10 days to come into regulation before the city would mow and bill them for the cost.

Catch up fast: Tall grass issues have been handled by the Polk County Weed Commissioner at no cost to the city for decades, even though almost all of the 1,700 annual complaints originated in DSM.

  • The county is transitioning away from that free service, and city staffers are gearing up to take over the duty this year.

What's next: The council agreed to further review the definition.

  • Further discussion is expected during an April 1 meeting.

Related: DSM cuts "No Mow May"

3. The Ear: News of the day

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🚨 An East Village property owner wants to evict Pura Social Club from an apartment building following a shooting last weekend. (Des Moines Register)

πŸ“š Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent Ian Roberts is optimistic no additional staff cuts will be needed to balance the district's budget. (WHO-13)

πŸŽ₯ A local artist wants to add a video projection to downtown's Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge. (WHO-13)

🧊 Ice Cube reportedly offered Caitlin Clark $5 million to join his Big3 league β€” a WNBA alternative. (TMZ)

🍺 Kinship Brewing is up for sale or lease. It was developed for $6.5 million, but no sale price is available yet. (Business Record)

4. Will the real Caitlin please stand up?

a facebook profile of a caitlin clark doppleganger
Photo: WBB Clips courtesy Xfinity

A casting director discovered a Scottsdale, Arizona, woman on LinkedIn and quickly put her in a commercial that debuted over the weekend, writes Axios Phoenix's Jessica Boehm.

Why it matters: The woman had no professional acting experience, but met the only qualification for the role: She shares a name with college basketball sensation Caitlin Clark.

The big picture: Xfinity's new "real deal" TV ad campaign features Scottsdale's Clark struggling to complete a series of basketball drills, followed by shots of the University of Iowa's Clark easily sinking a half-court shot.

  • "Not all Caitlin Clarks are the same. Just like not all internet providers are the same. Don't settle," the narrator says.

How it happened: The Scottsdale Clark is a local city planner for her state. Xfinity reached out to her on LinkedIn earlier this month and asked her to record a short audition video, she told Axios Phoenix.

  • She thought it was a scam at first, but about a week and a half later, Clark was filming in Los Angeles.

Full story: Meet Caitlin Clark's Arizona doppelganger

Editor's note: The top item in yesterday's roundup has been corrected to reflect that 90% of special education funding would go to AEAs under the bill, not 10%.

This newsletter was edited by Emma Hurt and copy edited by Lucia Maher.