Have you heard of the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund? This fund was put in place in 2010, when 63 percent of Iowans voted for the constitutional amendment to create this fund. It is a “permanent and constitutionally protected funding source” dedicated to clean water, thriving wildlife habitat, and productive agricultural soils. How is it funded? Eight years after it was put in place, it is not being funded. This is because this fund requires a state sales tax increase of 3/8ths of a cent for funding.
With all the challenges our state faces related to water quality and how this is tied to soil conservation and wildlife habitat improvement, it is surprising legislation leading to a sales tax increase has not yet been formed. Add to that the current support of farmers, conservationists, sportsmen, business leaders, and the general public, and it becomes even more surprising. A recent poll showed that 90 percent of Iowans believe that protecting the condition of Iowa’s land and water is critical to keeping Iowa’s economy strong. 86 percent of Iowans also believe that protecting Iowa’s fish and wildlife benefits all living in our state, and now 77 percent of all Iowans support dedicating additional funding to protect Iowa’s land, water and wildlife.
Why is this fund important? Less than 10 percent of Iowa’s wetlands remain – a loss of 5 million acres. These areas help prevent flooding and are habitat for wildlife. Over 1.6 million acres of pheasant and small game habitat has been lost in the past 20 years. Every year an average of 5 tons per acre of soil are lost to erosion. About half of our rivers, lakes and streams cannot meet water quality standards. If a tax increase of 3/8ths of a cent was available for this fund, there would be an estimated 187.5 million dollars a year to be used to better our water quality. Most of this funding would be used for water quality improvement projects such as lake restorations, water protection, enhancing flood protection efforts, wildlife habitat projects and ensuring open spaces will be available for the next generation to enjoy outdoor recreation.
What does this mean for you? This fund would also provide trails, places for outdoor recreation (fishing, hunting, biking, etc.), and access to public land. These make Iowa an even better place to live. But if lawmakers are unwilling to initiate a small tax increase, none of this will take place. Read more about the Trust Fund Legislation (SJR2002), and tell your representatives in the Iowa Legislature what you would like to see.