2023 Iowa Legislative Session
By Anna Gray on May 4, 2023 in Blog
On May 4th, the Iowa legislature concluded the 2023 session, and your voice made a difference for conservation! In addition to building support for natural resource funding, you halted legislation that would have restricted expansion of Iowa’s parks, trails and wildlife areas, and you helped preserve important private land protection tools like the conservation tax credit. Below is a summary of the top conservation issues from this session.
Your consistent advocacy throughout the legislative session helped shape conservation policy and encourage funding for natural resources in the state budget. The following funding levels remained the same as the previous year's budget:
- Department of Natural Resource Administration: $12 million
- Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP): $12 million
- State Recreational Trails: $2.5 million
The Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget included a provision to repeal a state goal of protecting 10% of Iowa’s open spaces. It is unfortunate that this laudable goal has been repealed, but INHF will continue to work with partners and landowners to protect Iowa’s land, water and wildlife.
Natural Resources & Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund
A bill to fund the Natural Resources & Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund was introduced in the Senate early in the legislative session. Senate File 550 passed out of the Ways & Means Committee but was never considered by the full Senate. Although the bill did not advance, Iowans’ support of the Trust Fund remains strong, and your continued advocacy is key to bolstering legislative efforts to fund the Trust and secure reliable funding for Iowa’s outdoors and recreation opportunities.
Parks, Trails and Wildlife Areas (SF 516)
Thanks to your advocacy, a bill that would have threatened the growth and enhancement of Iowa’s parks, trails and wildlife areas failed to advance. Senate File 516 would have imposed a statutory requirement that maintenance supersede any new public open space or recreation area. INHF agrees that caring for existing facilities is important and is proud of the people working hard to care for our parks, trails, and wildlife areas. However, SF 516 was overbroad and discouraged the growth of open spaces, making it more difficult for landowners to contribute their property to the public and boxing out important quality of life initiatives and projects that are desperately needed and wanted in our rural communities. INHF is grateful to everyone that advocated for Iowa's public parks, trails and wildlife areas and will continue to work with legislators and stakeholders to address some of the concerns raised during debate on this bill.
Conservation Contribution Tax Credit & Forest Reserve Program
Private land programs such as the Charitable Conservation Contribution Tax Credit and Forest Reserve Program remain intact. The Charitable Conservation Contribution Tax is available to landowners who make a donation of land or land value for the purpose of conservation. The program has helped permanently protect more than 14,000 acres of natural and agricultural land across Iowa. This includes private land that is protected by conservation easements for agricultural uses, wildlife habitat and scenic beauty. The Forest Reserve Program also remains unchanged and provides a property tax exemption for landowners of forest and woodland of two acres or more.
Thank you for your support and advocacy throughout the legislative session! We hope you will join us in our continued advocacy. You can engage decision makers and strengthen the base of conservation champions by sharing your passion for the outdoors with legislators, local leaders, friends, or family. Invite them for a tour of your favorite park or trail, tell them why conservation matters to you, and ask them to use their voice for nature!