IWILL: Working for action on conservation

This legislative session, Iowa’s natural resources are at the top of the priority list.

Photo by Kristy Hall

Photo by Kristy Hall

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. Continue reading

Environmental Lobby Day: Let Your Voice Be Heard

IMG_0660

Join INHF & representatives from environmental groups across the state at the Iowa State Capitol building on Tues., March 22 to advocate for Iowa’s land, water and wildlife. Iowans will have the chance to speak to legislators about why Iowa’s natural resources are vital to the state, its residents and its economy.

Event details:

WHAT IS ENVIRONMENTAL LOBBY DAY?
Each year, organizations and individuals from across the state come together at the Capitol to speak with legislators about the importance of protecting and preserving Iowa’s natural resources at Environmental Lobby Day and REAP Day at the Capitol. Speaking face-to-face with legislators and showing that there is a broad base of support for a healthy environment is one of the most important ways to help advance programs and policies that protect Iowa’s water, land and air. Continue reading

Full steam ahead: 2016 legislative session update

IMG_0660

The legislative session is off and running and, as is usually the case, the budget will be the defining issue of the session. The budget will drive the debate around the significant issues decided by the legislature; from education to Medicaid to the environment.

Governor Branstad kicked off the legislative session with a proposal to address Iowa’s water quality concerns. His plan involves using money from the state-wide one-cent sales tax for school infrastructure, called the Secured and Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE), to fund projects and initiatives outlined in Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The bill to accomplish this was recently released, HSB 601.

It is refreshing to hear the Governor acknowledge that we have a serious water quality problem that will require significant public and private investments to address. The good news is that the dialogue has begun and there is a lot of conversation about water quality at the Capitol. The challenging news is that his proposal could impact our friends in education and it only addresses nutrient reduction and no other natural resource concerns. Beyond that, under the Governor’s proposal, significant dollars are not allocated towards water quality until well into the future. The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be to accomplish our water quality goals. We need to address this issue now, with a funding source that is immediate, substantial and permanent.  Continue reading

3 conservation policy wins we’re celebrating

4514382365_5f237080ea_o

Bison roaming Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife Service Midwest

This winter solstice, INHF is celebrating three pieces of conservation policy signed by President Obama last week that provide huge support to Iowans hoping to do individual conservation and support conservation efforts in Iowa.

Conservation Easement tax incentives
Conservation easements are a great way for Iowans who want to protect the natural resource value of their land in the future. Iowans who donate a conservation easement are eligible for income tax credits to offset the value of their land donation. First enacted as temporary provisions in 2006 (needing to be renewed on a yearly basis), these tax incentives are directly responsible for conserving more than 2 million acres of America’s natural outdoor heritage. Last Friday, Congress and the president approved these tax incentives as permanent.

The incentive grants certain tax benefits to landowners who sign a conservation easement. Such private, voluntary agreements with local land trusts permanently limit uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Lands placed into conservation easements can continue to be farmed, hunted or used for other specified purposes. The lands also remain on county tax rolls, strengthening local economies. Continue reading

All I Want for Christmas is $180 million

i-db183aad3a4e5fd6b79ba9f09200c41f-grinch_lifting

As we head toward the start of the 2016 legislative session, (Monday, Jan. 11) our thoughts turn away from the whirlwind of shopping, wrapping, cooking and family gatherings consuming our attention toward what could be the most important gift we could give ourselves, the funding of the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.

This is a gift that would give year after year, protecting our water, preventing the loss of precious topsoil and providing habitat for our diverse wildlife. This gift would support quality of life initiatives like trails and parks, which contribute to making Iowa, its economy and its people, thrive.

This is a gift we owe ourselves, our children and our grandchildren, and we need to do it NOW. Continue reading

INHF projects receive REAP funding

Every year, REAP funding benefits Iowa’s great outdoors. This fall, a handful of REAP grants were awarded to INHF projects. Many of these projects are adjacent to rivers and waterways, and their protection will help to improve water quality in these areas. The INHF projects that received REAP grants are:

P1030769

An Oak tree on the Doyle addition in Guthrie County.

Springbrook Wildlife Management Area, Doyle addition
Guthrie County
$112,725

An added 48 acres of land adjacent to Springbrook State Park and Springbrook Wildlife Management Area, the Doyle addition brings the entire complex up to 1,413 acres of protected land. The area is known for its wildlife habitat and contiguous oak/hickory wood. Continue reading

2015 REAP Assembly schedule announced

reap_color-logo

Every two years, Iowans get the chance to learn about and influence the impact of Iowa’s Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program.The 2015 REAP Assembly schedule has been released, a series of public meetings held in 18 different regions throughout the state.

REAP assemblies provide residents of Iowa the opportunity to learn about the impact REAP has had in their region, as well as suggest future projects for REAP consideration and changes to REAP policy, programs and funding. Continue reading

Conservation Easement Incentive Act moves to the Senate

At the end of last year, the enhanced deduction for conservation easement donations expired. To restore—and make permanent—this enhanced incentive, bipartisan legislation introduced the Conservation Easement Incentive Act to the U.S. House (H.R. 641) and the U.S. Senate (S. 330) in February this year. Continue reading

Nature’s natural nitrate filters

The sun sets over the Spring Run Wetland. (Photo by Daniel Ruf)

The sun sets over the icy Spring Run Wetland Complex in Dickinson County, just off East Okoboji Lake. (Photo by Daniel Ruf)

Wetlands can be beautiful, like in the photo above, if you catch them at the right time. They can also be a buggy swamp in the middle of a hot summer day. But beyond their aesthetic appeal (or lack thereof), wetlands serve an important purpose. Not only do they play host to various plant and wildlife species, these natural sponges remove nitrates from our water, contributing to Iowa’s environmental and economic vitality.

Wetlands provide habitat for various wildlife, such as this redwing blackbird, seen here at the DeCook Wetlands.

Wetlands provide habitat for various wildlife, such as this red-winged blackbird, seen here at the DeCook Wetlands.

Funding the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund would provide money to voluntary programs that help construct and restore natural wetlands, such as the Conservation Reserve and Enhancement Program (CREP).

A partnership between the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and the USDA Farm Service Agency, CREP installs wetlands in strategic locations within the Des Moines Lobe area. These wetlands were once plentiful in Iowa before fields were tiled and drained for agriculture. CREP just restores them and makes them economically advantageous.

Factoring in construction and maintenance, IDALS estimates that every pound of nitrates removed from the water in CREP wetlands costs about 26 cents. In comparison, every pound of nitrates removed by the Des Moines Water Works’ facility from 2013-2014 cost about $17.75.

Many plant species thrive in wetland areas, such as the Blue Flag Iris.

Many plant species thrive in wetland areas, like the Blue Flag Iris.

Wetlands remove 40 percent to 90 percent of the nitrates from water that flows through them, according to IDALS. The wetland’s vegetation uses the nitrogen, converts it into gas and then releases it back into the air. Using the 96 wetlands restored and under development in the Des Moines Lobe, IDALS is estimating that this process will remove over 1.3 million pounds of nitrates annually from our water.

Yet, landowners wanting to enroll in the program have to wait an average of seven years for their land to be evaluated. Funding the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund would provide more money for landowners that want to enroll in CREP and similar conservation programs, shortening the waiting list.

“They’re shovel-ready projects,” said Patrick Snell, INHF Mark C. Ackelson Fellow. “These programs just need the funding.”

So what can Iowans do to Fund the Trust?

Taylor_Author_Banner_New

Lobbying to protect our natural resources

This year’s Environmental Lobby Day/REAP Day is Tuesday, Feb. 17, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Organized by the Iowa Reap Alliance and the Iowa Environmental Council (IEC), this is a great opportunity to speak with legislators about the importance of protecting Iowa’s natural resources and show support for funding REAP and the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.
Continue reading