Time is Now for Conservation Action
On Feb. 12, hundreds of people gathered in the rotunda of the State Capitol Building to demand permanent, reliable funding for clean water, healthy soils, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation.
As their chants to “Fund the Trust!” rang up through the dome and into the legislative chambers, it was an energizing scene.
The work of policy advocacy may seem far removed from the prairies, wetlands and woodlands that INHF works to protect, but it has a profound impact. INHF works hard to “give a voice to the voiceless,” said President Joe McGovern.
INHF provides leadership, educational support and communication to advocate to policy makers the importance of protecting Iowa’s land, water and wildlife. We work to ensure that the state agencies protecting natural resources have the necessary funding to carry out their missions.
The work is important to INHF because it is important to partners like the Iowa DNR, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, county conservation boards and private landowners. But mostly, the work is important to INHF because it is important to Iowa.
Here are some of the priorities INHF is working on this legislative session:
Fund the Trust
INHF continues to advocate for funding the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, which was created by a statewide vote in 2010 but has yet to be funded by the legislature. When funded by a 3/8 of a cent sales tax increase, the Trust Fund would generate more than $187 million per year through a permanent and constitutionally protected funding source.
Recent polling done by Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy Coalition shows that 69 percent of likely voters in Iowa support funding the Trust Fund with an increase in the state sales tax. The public show of support at the Capitol on Fund the Trust Day reinforces the fact that this is an investment Iowans want to make for our quality of life.
Past INHF presidents Gerry Schnepf and Mark Ackelson were involved in the initial planning of the REAP program, which began in 1989. INHF annually advocates for fully funding the program at the $20 million level. Most years, funding falls short of this need.
REAP funding is dedicated to a broad range of areas, encompassing historic preservation, conservation education, wildlife habitat and soil and water enhancement. It has invested more than $360 million in communities in all 99 counties in Iowa. However, the program has been around longer than most legislators, and it is important to remind them of the positive impact it has had on our state and advocate for its funding.
INHF staff is engaged in local, state and federal policy that impacts multi-use trails. We provide educational information to elected leaders — enabling them to make informed decisions on funding, access and much more.
At a state level, INHF provides information to Iowa legislators to support increased funding for the Department of Transportation’s State Recreational Trails grant program, which provides funding for the acquisition and development of many of Iowa’s trails. Funding for this program has dropped from $6 million in 2014 to just $1 million in 2017.