We look around this beautiful area we call the Iowa Great Lakes with great pride. Yet, there is so much more that can be done to help protect and improve the natural resources that we love so dearly.
One of my columns in February covered the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. With money raised, this Trust Fund would be a very easy way to do just that.
At this point, a bill to provide funding for the Trust Fund is still alive. However, it needs a little push to keep it going. It’s currently sitting in committee, and we need to send emails, give some calls and send letters to both our local legislators and leaders of the House and Senate.
Here are their email addresses: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
In addition to our local legislators, key players include Representative Upmeyer, Representative Paulsen and the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Representative Thomas Sands.
In review, the trust fund’s legal language states: created for the purposes of protecting and enhancing water quality and natural areas in the State including parks, trails, and fish and wildlife habitat, and conserving agricultural soils in this State.
To make this a viable working fund, we need to let our legislators know just how important this is for all Iowans.
A late 2014 poll showed that an overwhelming majority of Iowans, 81 percent, is in support of the creation of this fund, while 66 percent support a revenue enhancement to fund the trust fund.
As Iowans, we like to think of our state as a leader in the country, but statistics show that we are falling behind neighboring states such as Missouri and Minnesota when it comes to providing dedicated funding sources for natural resources. Over 30 years ago, Missouri provided constitutional protected funding for its conservation programs, while in 2008, Minnesotans voted in support of an amendment similar to the one currently on the table right here in Iowa.
To get us back in the game, all it would take is to legislate funding for the Trust Fund. By providing three-eights of one cent from sales tax revenue, we could generate millions of dollars to help address natural resources issues. Once funded, the Trust Fund would guarantee that money would be allocated to the following areas:
· 7% Lake Restoration
· 10% Trails
· 13% REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection program)
· 13% Local Conservation Partnership program
· 14% Watershed Protection
· 20% Soil Conservation and Water Protection (IDALS)
· 23% Natural Resources (DNR)
These are all areas that Iowans have said in a series of polls over the past several years that are important to us. If we really do believe this, then we need to take action. We need to take the next step and let our elected officials know that we really do believe in the importance of funding the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.