This legislative session, Iowa’s natural resources are at the top of the priority list.
At the start of the 2016 legislative session, Gov. Terry Branstad announced a proposal to address water quality that he called his biggest and boldest proposal ever, but it did not find support from both chambers. After several other proposals, the session adjourned without reaching a compromise on how to best address these concerns.
Between now and the November election, Iowans have an opportunity to make our natural resources an issue on which candidates must take a position.
At Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, we are focused on all of Iowa’s natural resources: from keeping our agricultural soils in place to improving habitat for fish and wildlife; from building and maintaining recreational trails to protecting and improving Iowa’s water quality. Water quality is about protecting the source waters from contamination so that they are clean for drinking as well as for habitat and recreation. It is about Iowa’s quality of life.
We believe that Iowa already has a solution that was vetted by the voters in 2010. Now we need legislative action to increase the state sales tax by 3/8th of one cent to start funding the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.
Once funded, the Trust Fund will generate approximately $180 million annually that is constitutionally protected. These funds will be distributed according to a formula that ensures the money supports Iowa’s natural resource base from the municipal level to the state level.
These funds will support Iowa’s quality of life, improve our wildlife habitat to generate the economic activity that is associated with hunting, fishing and biking, and help to ensure that Iowa’s young people remain in Iowa and we can meet our future workforce needs.
Iowans: The solution is the trust fund
“How much longer do we have to wait to get dedicated, long term funding to implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy? We have determined that IWILL (the Trust Fund) is the solution that will provide the significant resources necessary to expand the efforts already underway to protect and restore our natural resources and continue to provide those resources year in and year out. I have four children, and I believe it is important for Iowa to invest additional resources to improve our quality of life and recreational opportunities so that our kids want to stay in Iowa to raise their families.” – Kirk Leeds, CEO, Iowa Soybean Association
“If we don’t create the parks and build the necessary amenities people need when they visit them, where will those people go to make the kinds of memories that can only be made in the great outdoors? It is incumbent upon us to care for our natural resources. Does it require investment? Certainly. But it’s an investment in ourselves. In our families. In our futures. The best time to act was when the trust was first established. We’d be nearly a billion dollars better off today if we had. But the second best time to act is now. Leave a legacy. Fund the Trust. Now.” – Chris Lee, Executive Director, Des Moines County Conservation
“Passing a sales tax increase to fund natural resource protection is perhaps the most important action we can take to secure a healthy and productive future for Iowa. This critical step will build on the legacy of stewardship begun last century by Iowa leaders like Ding Darling, Henry Wallace and Aldo Leopold. New state funds are essential to help us reverse the shameful levels of soil loss, water quality degradation and habitat destruction now being experienced in some parts of our state.“ – Neil Hamilton, Emeritus Director of the Agricultural Law Center, Drake University Law School; INHF board member
“When we talk about real progress for healthy streams and rivers in Iowa, we know we have to look at the big picture. Funding the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund would make complex natural resource management with an emphasis in water quality improvement a reality for our state. Iowa is the most altered state in the U.S. and roughly half of our rivers, lakes and streams fail to meet water quality standards. Steady revenue means more projects affecting more communities and more opportunities for all of us to work together to protect, restore and enjoy Iowa’s rivers.” – Molly Hanson, Executive Director, Iowa Rivers Revival
“As a millennial who recently returned to Iowa to plant roots and pursue a career in telecommunications, I hold both a personal and a professional stake in the funding of the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. From a professional perspective, funding the trust would provide the recreation and quality of life to bring other millennials — and their skilled, economically stimulating jobs — back to Iowa. From a personal perspective, I want my future children and grandchildren to be able to hunt, fish, hike, bike, and kayak and to experience the joy of stewarding that which God has entrusted to us. This can’t wait any longer.” – Chris Lovell, Business Development Manager, CL Tel
“While I appreciate the efforts to strategize on funding efforts, a clear sustainable solution has already been developed. Fund the Trust! As a taxpayer and Soil and Water Commissioner, I value the extensive effort invested to develop this long-term solution. Iowa voters have spoken and we have the solution. We now ask the legislature to do their part in raising the sales tax to fund the Trust. Tax me, please!” – Kevin Griggs, Chairperson, Boone Soil and Water Conservation District; Senior Environmental Scientist
“The Greater Des Moines Partnership is a strong supporter of the Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy Coalition. The Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund would provide a permanent funding source to implement the recommendations of the Iowa Soil and Water Future Task Force and the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy to significantly improve water quality across our state. It also would help fund trails and other outdoor recreational amenities that are critical to attracting and retaining a high quality workforce.” – Jay Byers, CEO, Greater Des Moines Partnership
“We are well on the way to having a number of effective Iowa water solutions. What is missing is revenue in amounts essential to achieving the “critical mass” necessary to make public-private partnerships feasible. A good start would be funding The Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. That funding alone would make us a serious player in moving these solutions forward up and down Iowa watersheds.” – Jim Erb, Mayor, Charles City