Bill threatening parks, trails and wildlife areas unlikely to advance in Legislature

By Anna Gray on March 13, 2024 in Blog

We are pleased to share that the House State Government Committee declined to consider Senate File 2324 this morning, meaning the bill is not likely to advance any further this session.  

The bill was passed out of a three-person subcommittee on Tuesday but needed to pass out of the full committee this week to beat a legislative funnel deadline and remain alive this session.  

INHF is grateful to the Iowans who made it clear that they support the growth of public parks, trails and wildlife areas in our state. We are relieved that this bill didn't advance any further in the House and thank the legislators who listened and understand concerns of how bills like this would impede Iowa’s ability to invest in places for outdoor recreation, wildlife habitat and water quality. 

We will remain vigilant in case similar proposals show up in another form later in this session. And we will continue to advocate for positive change for conservation, such as: 

Learn more about the bill and previous bills below. Thank you for your continued advocacy for Iowa’s land, water and wildlife! 

In late February, the Iowa Senate voted to approve SF 2324. The bill was then assigned to the House State Government Committee for consideration. A similar bill failed to advance through the House Natural Resources committee earlier this session.

Senate File 2324 seeks to prohibit the Iowa Department of Natural Resources — or its partners like Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation — from securing land at auction that will become public natural and outdoor recreation areas. This bill is the latest attempt (see more below) to restrict opportunities to enhance Iowa's outdoors — eroding our state's ability to offer outdoor recreation, improve water quality, and preserve threatened natural areas.

What Iowans want vs the Bills they are getting 

Iowans are asking for more parks, trails and wildlife areas. Multiple surveys and studies support what many of us know from our own experiences in the outdoors.  

  • Over 90% of Iowans report that they personally benefit from Iowa’s parks and recreation areas, recognizing each of following benefits:   
    • A sense of peace, relaxation, or stress relief (95%) 
    • Positive family activities (92%) 
    • Mental or emotional health (92%) 
    • Health and fitness (93%) 
    • Healthy childhood development (86%) 
    • Healing powers of the outdoors (85%) 
    • Adventure or challenging activities (75%) 
  • Natural landscapes and outdoor recreation are top attractions for drawing in workforce and the next generation of Iowans. 
  • Public parks and open spaces are the most used public service, according to a survey published by the Iowa Chamber Alliance 
  • Besides weather, the #1 factor that hinders Iowans’ outdoor experience is limited opportunity.  
  • 70% of Iowans support raising the sales tax to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. 
  • 68% of Iowans identify outdoor spaces & recreation as factors that keep them living in Iowa. However, there is a declining trend of the proportion of Iowans who consider Iowa’s outdoor recreation opportunities as “superior” to other states.  

Despite the strong demand for outdoor spaces, a series of bills have been proposed to limit opportunities to expand parks trails and wildlife areas. SF 2324 is yet another example of the dangerous, distracting legislation that limits opportunities for our communities.  

In just the past five years, more than half a dozen bills that would limit parks, trails and wildlife areas have been proposed. Fortunately, most have not passed thanks to dedicated advocacy from Iowans who have urged the legislature to support Iowa’s outdoors.  

Recent Legislative Threats to Conservation 
  • 2019 - Completely prohibits new or expanded parks, trails, or wildlife areas (HF542
  • 2019 - Clean Water Act State Revolving Loan Fund program restricted in providing low-interest loans for water quality projects that involve land protection (SF548) (enacted) 
  • 2020 - Defund the State Recreational Trails program (SSB3126
  • 2021 - Repeal of the Charitable Conservation Contribution Tax Credit available to landowners for donating land or land value for the purpose of permanent conservation (HF36) (SF587)  
  • 2022 - Landowners only receive partial value for their property if selling to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources or a local County Conservation Board (SF2312
  • 2023 - No new parks, trails or wildlife areas permitted unless the Iowa Department of Natural Resources can prove it has met a vague, determined standard of “maintenance” of existing areas. (SF516
  • 2024 - Requires the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to sell parks, trails or wildlife areas in order to add or expand areas. (SF2316) (Died in first legislative funnel)  
  • 2024 - Prohibits the Iowa Department of Natural Resources — or its partners like Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation — from securing land at auction that will become public natural and outdoor recreation areas. (SF2324) (Still alive; passed the Senate and set to be reviewed by the House State Government Committee. Learn why INHF is concerned about this bill here)

We need your voice to ensure that INHF and our partners can continue to grow and develop the outdoor amenities that you enjoy. 

You can ask your legislators to invest—rather than limit—opportunities that bring vitality to our communities, in quality of life initiatives by: