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Iowa Water & Land Legacy Amendment On November Ballot

By Staff | Oct 26, 2010

A bipartisan group of stakeholders and legislators was formed in 2006 to find the best solution to protect Iowa’s natural resources. After years of research and healthy debate, they recommended creating a constitutionally-protected trust fund to provide sustainable funding for our natural resources-Iowa’s Water & Land Legacy Amendment. This November, Iowa voters will vote on the constitutional amendment to create this critically important trust fund.

To protect Iowa’s land, trust fund revenue will be dedicated to soil conservation and watershed protection programs administered by the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. In addition, revenue will be targeted for natural resources management, additional funding for Iowa’s popular REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) program, and local conservation partnership programs as part of a strategic effort to best address conservation needs in local communities.

Over 90-percent of Iowa’s landscape is used for agricultural production. One out of every six Iowa jobs is supported by Iowa’s agriculture industry. Soil conservation is vitally important to the future of Iowa farming and Iowa’s economy. Today, Iowa farms lose an average of five tons of world-famous soil per acre each year due to erosion.

Iowa’s soil is not the only resource that needs protecting. Over 500 of Iowa’s waterways are impaired. With 71,665 miles of streams and rivers and more than 161,000 acres of lakes, ponds, and wetlands, it may seem as if Iowa has a wealth of water resources. Yet, less than one percent of the state’s land area is covered with water. Each year more than 27,000 Iowa jobs are supported by outdoor recreation, and more than a quarter-billion dollars annually are pumped into the economy by recreation at Iowa’s 35 lakes.

To clean up Iowa’s water, approximately two-thirds of the trust fund revenue will fund important projects such as watershed protection, lakes restoration, and voluntary conservation incentives. Iowa’s Water & Land Legacy would dedicate significant funds for wetlands restoration, water quality programs, and other projects that would help reduce, prevent, and mitigate the impacts from future flooding.

Iowa will lose over 230,000 acres of habitat by 2012, reducing opportunities for hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching. In addition, over 400 of Iowa’s waterways are impaired. These waterways are also vital habitat and sources of water for pheasants, ducks, geese, and numerous other birds and wildlife.

Federal conservation programs have proven insufficient to address Iowa’s natural resource needs. Sportsmen and women have seen first hand how the years of under-funding have negatively impacted habitat, access, and sporting opportunities. Since the 1930’s hunters and anglers have paid for habitat conservation through excise taxes, license sales, stamps, and donations. Today’s natural resource problems are growing faster than funds available.

To strengthen Iowa’s wildlife areas and improve outdoor recreation opportunities, trust fund revenue will be dedicated towards restoring and enhancing fish and wildlife habitat, soil conservation, watershed protection, lakes restoration, natural resources management, increasing funding for Iowa’s popular REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) program and recreational trail improvement.

On Tuesday, Nov. 2, Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy Amendment will appear as Question #1 on the back of the voting ballot. The amendment does not include a tax increase. Trust Fund revenue will come from allocating 3/8 of one cent from sales tax revenue the next time the Iowa Legislature approves a sales tax increase. The amendment simply creates a trust fund to ensure Iowa’s natural resources are protected for future generations if the sales tax is increased at some point down the road.