2021 Iowa Legislative Session Recap

By Anna Gray on May 26, 2021 in Blog

The Iowa legislative session began in January in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, with much uncertainty and many unique challenges. Nonetheless, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation continued to work with legislators and our supporters to advocate for natural resource protection.

We want to thank each of you that spoke up for Iowa’s natural resources and outdoor recreation over the past several months. Your voice helps guide policy that will have a lasting impact on our land, water, wildlife, and generations of Iowans to come. We would also like to thank the legislators and the capitol staff who worked to make remote, safe participation in the legislative process possible.

In the late night hours of Wednesday, May 19, the Iowa legislature concluded business and adjourned for the year. Governor Reynolds will now have 30 days to sign bills into law. Thanks to your advocacy, we were able to influence conservation policy proposals and advocate for crucial program funding. 


Preservation of the Charitable Conservation Contribution Tax Credit:

Introduced in late March as a comprehensive tax bill, Senate File 587 included a provision that threatened the future of one of Iowa’s most valuable programs for private land protection. The Charitable Conservation Contribution Tax Credit is a valuable public-private partnership that allows landowners to voluntarily preserve land for agricultural use and natural habitat. The public benefits of protecting these lands include preservation of agricultural land under development pressure, enhanced wildlife habitat, improved water quality, and watershed protection. Thanks to your advocacy, the legislature halted efforts to repeal the tax credit and preserved this important tool for land protection. Learn more about the Charitable Conservation Contribution Tax Credit and landowner options for land protection here

REAP Program Extension through 2026:

Supporting more than 15,000 projects over 30 years, the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program is praised as one of Iowa’s most successful and effective natural and cultural resource programs. Originally set to expire in 2021, the legislature extended REAP during the last session through 2023. Hearing your voice and overwhelming support for REAP this year, the legislature took action to provide an additional 3-year extension of the program through 2026 and continued appropriations at $12 million.

Increased Funding for Trails to $1.5 Million:

The State Recreational Trails program provides much-needed funding to leverage federal, local and private funds to create trail systems that connect communities, promote public health and enhance our quality of life. This year, the legislature increased the State Recreational Trails program funding to $1.5 million, an increase of $500,000 from last year.

Continuing Advocacy

While the legislative session has come to an end, we still need your help to advocating for the Iowa’s natural resources. As you enjoy the outdoors in the coming months, be sure to share your experiences and support for conservation with your legislators. Key policy opportunities include:

  • Funding the Natural Resources & Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund: Created in 2010 by Iowa voters, the Natural Resources & Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund would provide a permanent, protected source of funding for water quality, outdoor recreation, sustainable agriculture and trails. Unfortunately, the Trust has remained unfunded for more than a decade, requiring legislative action of raising the sales tax at least 3/8 cent for funding. Tell your legislators that you support the investment that the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund would provide your community.
  • Fully Funding REAP at $20 million: Despite its success, the Resource Enhancement and Protection program has never been fully funded at the authorized $20 million level, creating missed opportunities for Iowa’s natural resources and outdoor amenities.
  • Increasing Trail Appropriations: This year’s increased funding for trails is certainly a victory worth celebrating. Yet, the demand for recreational trails consistently outpaces funding. Investing in trails creates significant opportunities for revitalizing rural communities, boosting tourism and enhancing the quality of life for our citizens.

Learn more about key natural resource polices and how you can get involved in advocating for Iowa’s land, water and wildlife using our Nature’s Advocate guide.

Questions? Contact INHF Public Policy Director Anna Gray at agray@inhf.org.

NOW HIRING: Mark C. Ackelson Fellowship

Do you have a heart for community organizing, networking, advocacy and Iowa’s natural resources? Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation is looking for a dedicated professional to work with us on a temporary assignment to promote increased, reliable, consistent state funding for Iowa conservation. Help us create a stronger trails community throughout Iowa to support effective advocacy for trails, trail funding and policies.

Learn more or apply here