Iowa state Capitol building in Des Moines

Iowa's Water and Land Legacy

Iowa's Water and Land Legacy logoINHF has been a leader in efforts to develop a permanent funding source to support Iowa’s natural resources. The Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, when funded, would support quality of life initiatives that are important to Iowans:

  • Clean recreational and drinking water in our lakes, rivers and streams
  • Access to outdoor opportunities through trails and local, county and state parks
  • Abundant fish and wildlife to hunt
  • Healthy lifestyles that contribute to lower healthcare costs

We continue to work with the governor and the legislature to fund the trust fund.


In 2006, a bipartisan group of legislators and stakeholders formed to find the best solution for protecting Iowa’s natural resources. After three years of research and discussion, they unanimously recommended the creation of a constitutionally protected trust fund to provide permanent funding for Iowa’s natural resources. The amendment states that three-eighths of one-cent revenue from the next sales tax increase will forever be allocated to the Trust Fund.

Over 90 percent of legislators in the General Assembly, both Democrats and Republicans, voted to refer the Iowa's Water and Land Legacy (IWILL) amendment to the ballot in 2010, and 63 percent of Iowa voters supported the creation of the Trust Fund.

The amendment passed as a result of work by supporters of conservation in Iowa, including a bipartisan coalition of over 120 organizations representing all of Iowa’s 99 counties.

To date, the legislature has not raised the state sales tax, leaving the Trust Fund empty.

Benefits for water quality, habitat and the land

It is estimated that when the Trust Fund is funded, it will provide up to $180 million each year for conservation in Iowa. Funding the Trust Fund would provide a permanent and accountable funding mechanism for water quality initiatives, conservation of agricultural soils, improvement of existing natural areas and fish and wildlife habitat protection.

Future impact of the Trust Fund:

  • Up to two-thirds of the total revenue for the trust fund is available for voluntary, non-regulatory private land conservation projects.
  • The vast majority of the trust fund dollars are designated for water quality improvement projects, including lake restoration, wildlife habitat projects and flood protection efforts.
  • Critical funding for the Nutrient Reduction Strategy would be realized with this fund.
  • Significant trust fund dollars can be allocated for wildlife habitat, parks and nature preserves — ensuring open spaces for the next generation to enjoy Iowa’s traditions of hunting, angling and outdoor recreation.

Economic benefits

Clean water and a healthy landscape are essential to attract great workers and businesses to Iowa. On the flip side, outdoor recreation provides real economic benefits to Iowa’s communities, particularly rural ones, by contributing millions in local and state tax revenues, providing jobs and generating billions of dollars for Iowa’s economy.

  • Recreational amenities and quality of life opportunities are critical to recruiting and retaining a highly educated and motivated workforce.
  • Outdoor recreation in Iowa generates more that $6.1 billion in consumer spending annually. It creates 75,000 direct Iowa jobs, $1.7 billion in wages and salaries and $433 million in state and local tax revenues.
  • Hunters alone support over 7,000 jobs in Iowa and spend over $449 million annually on their sport, which in turn generates over $47.8 million in state tax revenue.
  • Visits to state parks, county parks, lakes and trails are estimated at 50 million visits per year, representing $2.63 billion in spending.
  • River recreation supports more than 6,350 jobs with $824 million in sales and $139 million of personal income.

Learn more about the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.