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Sustainable natural resource funding still a top priority for Iowans

The Iowa Legislature could commit more than $120 million in new annual investment for natural resource protection by funding Iowa's Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation trust fund.

In 2008 and 2009, more than 90 percent of Iowa’s state legislators overwhelmingly approved legislation that would establish the constitutionally protected Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.  Polls conducted in 2006 and 2008 continue to affirm that Iowans value natural areas and the features that are unique to this state.

Approved by Iowa voters in 2010, the trust fund will allocate 3/8ths of one cent from sales tax revenue the next time the Iowa legislature raises the state sales tax – providing the Trust Fund over $120 million per year (based on 2011 sales tax data).  This funding recommendation was based on over two-years of research and study conducted by a legislative advisory committee.  The advisory committee concluded that those funds, strategically used at state and local levels, would meet current needs.   The impact on the average taxpayer in Iowa would be about 8¢ a day, with nearly half of the revenue coming from business and travelers.

Funding for conservation programs and outdoor recreational opportunities is subject to a fluctuating state budget.   The trust fund will provide a permanent and protected source of funding for Iowa’s natural resources, in addition to annual state budget allocations.  A broad range of programs will be enhanced by the trust fund, including REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection program), local conservation programs, watershed protection, lakes restoration, trails, natural resources management and agriculture and land stewardship.

Investing in our natural resources provides quality of life opportunities close to home where Iowans can enjoy and appreciate healthy activities, natural areas and Iowa’s beauty.  Enhancing and developing more competitive outdoor “destinations” will attract visitors and business to the state, helping to diversify local economies and increase tax revenues related to hunting, angling and other outdoor activities.

In 2008 our neighbors to the North, Minnesota, voted in support of a very similar constitutional amendment to fund conversation programs, and over 30 years ago, our neighbors to the South, Missouri, provided constitutional protected funding for its conservation programs and later reauthorized this funding after 20 years of progress. 

A broadbased bipartisan coalition of sportsmen, farmers, nurses, first responders and others interested in sustainably funding clean water, soil conservation, and fish & wildlife habitat programs supported the establishment of the trust fund.