A ballot initiative would protect future monies for Iowa water, land and wildlife conservation efforts if a simple majority of the state's voters check yes Nov. 2.
The first question listed on the back of ballots asks voters to adopt the Iowa's Water and Land Legacy's constitutional amendment, which creates a dedicated trust fund called Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation. The money would pay for protection and improvement of Iowa's water quality and natural areas throughout the state.
"This November Iowans have chance to clean up our water, protect our soil, enhance our natural resources by voting yes," said Matt O'Connor, Iowa Pheasants Forever State Conservation director and Iowa's Water and Land Legacy co-chair. "This is an initiative we can all get behind."
O'Conner added that the proposed amendment would do a lot for already identified needs, conservation projects and cost sharing projects on private land.
The project has been in the works for five years, bringing together 130 different organizations, legislators and 300,000 people from all of Iowa's 99 counties, according to Mark Langgin, the organization's campaign manager. The group is conducting a statewide tour to get the word out to voters.
More than 500 Iowa rivers are considered impaired, Langgin added.
By voting yes on the amendment, voters would secure the first 3/8 of a cent on any future state sales tax increase for the trust fund. The money would be constitutionally protected from politicians "borrowing"the money for other purposes, Langgin said.
"The Department of Ag has a number of conservation programs that they do," he said. "The stat I hear is that the department has somewhere between $30 million and $50 million in backlogged requests. They don't have enough money, and this is an opportunity to meet those requests."
He estimated the amount would provide $150 million a year to the trust fund when the state raises the sales tax. Until then, legislators could appropriate money to the fund, and Langgin said the Iowa Parks Foundation has talked about donating money to the fund as well.
"It may take 12 years before there is any sales tax rises, but we want that trust fund in place," O'Connor said.
The money from the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation trust fund would be used to help pay for wetland restoration projects and voluntary incentives for private landowners to implement conservation measures, such as buffer strips.
"The majority of the money would go through existing programs," Langgin said. "For example, a lot of incentives for Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will go through existing funding streams. The local Conservation Partnership Program is really the main piece of the trust fund that is a new funding stream and that would be mostly on a grant basis. Money to county conservation boards would go out according to the (Resource Enhancement and Protection) formula. Money for cities and nonprofits would be competitively bid through a grant- making entity that will be created."
Jerry Beck, with the Pheasants Forever chapter in Webster County, said the group has helped share the cost of multiple conservation projects throughout the county.
"Our local chapter's put $750,000 back into the Webster County area," Beck said. "That's just our chapter alone. If this does pass, those dollars available from all the chapters that we have in Iowa would be going to fund a lot of these projects, in addition to the monies raised by the Iowa Legislature."
Contact Lindsey Mutchler at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org