Conservation and Public Health Groups Applaud Iowa Health Board's Endorsement of Outdoor Trust Fund
on Wednesday, October 16, 2019
Water and Land News
Maintaining the Recommended Funding Formula is High Priority
Des Moines (IA) – Numerous conservation and public health groups in Iowa are applauding the Iowa State Board of Health’s resolution endorsing the implementation of a three-eighth cent sales tax increase to fund the Iowa Natural Resource and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, or IWILL. The Board of Health unanimously passed the two-page resolution on September 11, and notified the Governor’s office and the Iowa State Legislature in an official transmittal letter on September 25.
The resolution calls to maintain the original funding formula to encourage development of public trails and other local outdoor recreational projects to benefit of Iowans’ health.
The formula includes local partnership projects for public lands and recreation infrastructure throughout Iowa communities, lake restoration projects, recreational trail construction and maintenance, local watershed protection projects, soil and water conservation partnership programs, various natural resource enhancement projects, and Iowa’s Resource Enhancement and Protection program (REAP).
Source: Iowa Water and Land Legacy Coalition
The Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund was first approved and established by a statewide voter ballot in 2010 with 63 percent approval by voters. At the time, it was estimated that the tax increase would generate approximately $150 - $185 million annually for a variety of natural resource enhancement and outdoor recreation opportunities for the state. Yet despite public support, the Iowa Legislature has not implemented the tax increase. As a result, no monies have been generated or appropriated to fund the trust in the past ten years.
The Board of Health’s action is being met with praise from conservation groups including the Izaak Walton League, Iowa Environmental Council, and many county conservation boards and county health boards.
“It’s especially important to note that this resolution specifically supports the original formula that was approved by the voters,” said Tim Wagner with the Izaak Walton League. “We think it’s imperative to understand that Iowans of all stripes stand to benefit from this formula as it was first established. The Iowa State Board of Health agrees.”
Because the Board of Health’s focus is on maintaining and improving public health for Iowans, the resolution focuses largely on the benefits of outdoor recreation opportunities and getting Iowans outside as a way to improve both physical and mental health. In supporting the trust fund, the resolution sites several alarming statistics, including Iowa’s high obesity rate that rose from 12 percent in 1990 to currently 36 percent. The resolution also cites the state of Nebraska’s report that for every dollar invested in trails, the state sees three dollars in health cost savings.
“The citizens of Iowa should be proud of the Iowa State Board of Health’s action on this important issue,” said Ingrid Gronstal Anderson with the Iowa Environmental Council. “As an independent health-focused and apolitical organization, the Board of Health recognizes the direct link between a physically active lifestyle, high quality outdoor recreational opportunities, the protection of our land, water, and other natural resources, and the benefits to our local economies.”
Over the past decade, many within Iowa’s conservation community have held annual lobby days at the Iowa State Capitol to demonstrate support for the trust fund, even as movement to establish the tax lagged. Proponents of the fund are encouraging voters across the state to get engaged in the 2020 legislative session to show the continued widespread support that exists across the state.
“Action on this voter approved fund is long overdue. 2020 should be the year that the Iowa Legislature finally acts in a bipartisan fashion to honor the will of the people,” said Gronstal Anderson. “Whether one likes to walk, hike, bike, fish, hunt, or boat, or you just appreciate clean water and good health, Iowans know what they want to see. All of the evidence from states that have similar funding mechanisms for these valuable resources such as Minnesota and Missouri clearly show it to be a win-win for everyone.”
The full resolution can be found at https://www.mycountyparks.org/uploads/1/0/6/7/106716567/iowa_board_of_health_resolution_-_9.11.2019.pdf
More information on the Trust Fund can be found at www.iowaswaterandlandlegacy.org