Why I want Iowa to Fund the Trust
by Guest Blogger on Friday, August 6, 2021
As a college student in Des Moines, whenever I was stressed or worried or simply up to my eyeballs in studying, I would go to a park. Gray’s Lake and Saylorville Lake became my oases. There’s something to be said about nature bringing peace and clarity. But while there were some pleasant recreational areas to visit during my school year, there was also a notable lack of safe, clean outdoor spaces. A kayak trip isn’t worth a potential skin irritant, at least not to me and my friends.
Imagine my reaction when I began my internship as the Water and Land Stewardship summer intern at the Iowa Environment Council and realized I had been only dipping my toe into the troubled waters of Iowa, so to speak. And it wasn’t just the water quality issues that bothered me, but also the approach to funding them.
Did you know that for more than a decade, Iowa’s Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund (also known as IWILL) has sat neglected and empty? More than 60% of Iowans voted in favor of a constitutional amendment establishing a permanent source of funding for clean water, outdoor recreation, and wildlife habitat. However, to be funded, the Iowa State Legislature must pass a 3/8th cent increase in the state sales tax.
It is clear to me that IWILL would be an asset in improving Iowa’s environment and increasing our quality of life. It has been a decade - half my lifetime! - since voters approved the Trust. That is so much wasted time that could've been spent addressing serious conservation and water quality issues in this state. And yet, I hadn’t heard about this before I started my work at IEC. I’m glad the Council and other member organizations are doing a reboot, calling for the funding of IWILL because there are so many young nature lovers who would benefit, if we only knew about it and could do our part in calling on our legislators to act.
Because the Iowa legislature has failed to take action to increase the sales tax, the Trust has been unable to serve its purpose and Iowans have missed out on over a decade of dedicated resources for our lands, waters, and communities. The Trust would fund projects to protect and enhance water quality, increase opportunities for Iowans to enjoy the state’s natural resources and participate in healthy outdoor activities, and promote economic development. Enhanced outdoor recreation and improved water quality increases economic opportunity, attracts and retains a talented workforce, and generates local revenue.
Recently, IEC published our Nutrient Reduction Strategy 2.0 analysis, where we looked at what the current nutrient reduction strategy is lacking and proposed realistic policy solutions to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus in our water. Part of the issue is that the NRS is grossly underfunded at the state level. Even increasing funding through IWILL would do a lot to help in a tangible way.
The Iowa Environmental Council, individuals and organizations from across Iowa have joined together to form a coalition to see the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund funded. It is imperative that we take action to help support Iowa’s environment and communities and call for the state legislature to Fund the Trust.
Thank you for supporting the Iowa Environmental Council and our work to Fund the Trust. We’ll let you know how the effort to fund the Trust develops and when your action will have the most impact. Learn more at fundthetrust.org.
About the Author
Rachel James is a recent Drake graduate with a double major in political science and multimedia journalism. Following her time as the IEC Water and Land Stewardship summer intern, she has started her first year of law school at Penn State.
- clean water