116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
When voters approved the Iowa Natural Resource and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund in 2010, the Iowa Izaak Walton League was one of the prominent conservation voices behind the movement.
We saw then the trend of deterioration in Iowa's rivers and lakes. Soil experts and many conservation voices within the agriculture community also were noting the growing problem with millions of tons of Iowa's black gold laden with fertilizers and chemicals annually washing down the Mississippi River, a leading cause of the growing dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Iowa Ikes could see then the need for more outdoor recreation opportunities, including more trails and parks, if we wanted to attract new commerce and keep young people in Iowa. We were quite aware that without new revenue streams, Iowa's existing parks and public spaces would continue to decline.
These were just some of the reasons why the Iowa Ikes supported then, like today, the passage of a three-eighths-cent sales tax increase that would go into the trust to help fund a range of natural resource
conservation efforts and outdoor
Unfortunately, as everyone knows, while voters were given the authority to establish the trust, the sales tax increase has failed to pass the Iowa Legislature for 11 long years, leaving a zero balance. As a result, Iowa's soil, rivers, lakes, trails and public spaces have been denied nearly
$2 billion in critical funding since then.
That investment would have been greatly appreciated in 2020, a year of record levels of outdoors participation due to the pandemic. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reported individual visits to state parks just from March through July totaled 9.055 million, an increase of over
1 million during the same period in 2019. Bicycle shops, kayak dealers and similar vendors continue to report severe shortages in products as demand exploded overnight.
We came close to seeing the trust funded last year when Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed the Invest in Iowa Act, a massive tax reform bill that would have implemented a one-cent sales tax increase, with part of it going to fund the trust. The bill made significant changes to the citizen-approved formula for where the trust dollars would go, and also included major shifts in tax revenues and state budgets. As a result, it pitted many constituencies against each other, making it difficult to garner support from most corners of the state. Talk of funding the trust got lost in other conversations, the pandemic shortened the 2020 session, and the bill died.
In November, the governor announced her intentions to reintroduce the same bill in 2021. She soon relented when opposition rose up from both sides of the aisle, meaning the issue is dead for this session. Again.
To say that the Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund has been an abysmal failure of state leadership would be an understatement. If there is another example in the country where a citizens' ballot measure approved by
64 percent of the voters still draws 70 percent approval from the public 11 years later, but has not been funded due to politics, we'd like to see it.
All Iowans want clean waters, healthy fish and wildlife habitats and more places to hunt, ride a bike or just take a hike. Let's not take these simple values for granted. To improve and protect such precious resources for future generations is an investment that brings exponential returns. It's who we are as Iowans.
We aim to keep this issue alive. To the governor and the Iowa Legislature, let's go back to the originally passed trust with the original formula as Iowans voted for in 2010 and just fund it accordingly. Iowans deserve nothing less.
Iowa Division of Izaak Walton League officers include: Rick Cerwick, president, Todd Pierce, Lisa McIntyre, Dale Braun, Jan Carmer, Craig Enneking, Vicki Arnold, Mike Delaney, Bill Arnold, Rich 'Bo” Galloway, Jack Johnson, Corky Simmons, Mike Wilkins, Donny Ingle, Dean Knight and Tim Wagner.