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Newscast 6.21.2024: Senate passes bill to transfer land back to Winnebago Tribe; More bird flu cases in Northwest Iowa; Cause of death of missing Iowa trucker cited

Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska

*A bill that would return Northwest Iowa land to the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska is on the desk of President Joe Biden to officially carry out the transfer.

The Winnebago Tribe officials are pleased that the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill on Thursday, on the heels of the House previously passing it in February.

In 1970, the U.S. Government took 1,600 acres away from the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska through eminent domain. The plan was to use the ground along the Missouri River in Woodbury and Monona Counties for a recreation area, but that did not pan out.

The Winnebago Land Transfer Act got strong support from federal lawmakers from Iowa and Nebraska. U.S. Sen Deb Fischer, of Nebraska, spoke about the bill on the Senate floor right before it passed Thursday.

“The land seizure launched over a half century of legal battles,” Fischer said. 

Winnebago Tribe people have long asserted that switching the ownership was way overdue.

*The death of a Northwest Iowa trucker who disappeared last year was not a homicide, and David Schultz died of hypothermia related to acute methamphetamine intoxication.

The Sioux City first obtained and reported Thursday on the cause of the death of Schultz, as summarized in the death certificate signed by a state medical examiner. His wife has said she believed foul play had been involved.

The Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation previously said there were no signs of trauma or serious injury.

The body of 53-year-old Schultz, of Wall Lake, was found by a farmer in April one mile from where his semi was found abandoned five months earlier. Volunteers conducted extensive searches along rural roads and fields in Sac County to try and find him.

Today, the Sac County Attorney provided more details: Schultz had been trucking for about 30 hours straight with little or no rest, motivated to support his business and young family. The combination of severe sleep deprivation and methamphetamine use is believed to have caused a medical emergency, where Schultz abandoned his truck and succumbed to the elements in the field where he was later found.

*Outbreaks of bird flu that impact both poultry and dairy farms continue to take place in Siouxland in recent weeks..

The U.S. Department of Agriculture detected highly pathogenic avian influenza at a commercial turkey flock with more than 46,000 birds in Sac County on Thursday. That makes for the third poultry flock in Iowa to be hit with the virus this year.

Governor Kim Reynolds has authorized a disaster proclamation for Sac County. That action allows state resources from Iowa Homeland Security, the Iowa Department of Agriculture, and other agencies to assist with tracking and monitoring the virus, containment and disinfection.

Yuko Sato is Extension’s poultry veterinarian.

“I think the best message I can relay back to our backyard poultry and commercial poultry producers, if there is any mortality event, whether that's unusual, or a high number of birds unexpectedly happening, I think the best thing to do is to not wait; Get an answer,” Sato said.

State ag officials said producers who see signs of HPAI in their flock – like a sudden increase in bird deaths or birds that are lethargic -- should contact their veterinarian immediately.

Avian flu has been detected in eight Iowa dairy farms, and agricultural officials believe that number is likely higher. Many of the cases are concentrated in Sioux County and in Northwest Iowa.