Legislature should fund outdoor trust
I have been a member of Ducks Unlimited for 40 years, and a devoted waterfowler and angler for even longer than that. As sportsmen and women, we rely on clean water and healthy habitats to perpetuate the fish and wildlife we so enjoy. With only 10 percent of Iowa’s wetlands remaining, and many of our waters impaired, it is imperative to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust. The trust will ensure a constant source of dedicated conservation funding for us and for farmers to employ. Programs funded by the trust will have an outsize effect on the state as a whole. Iowa loses nearly 5 tons of soil per acre annually due to erosion. Our state’s economy is still heavily represented by agriculture, and the soil and water conservation programs funded through the trust will help keep our soil on the farm and improve our water quality, fulfilling the Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals.
As a former mayor of Storm Lake, and as a member of Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy coalition, I have helped recruit mayors of many of Iowa’s cities to endorse the trust, including the mayor of Sioux City. As our state’s economy continues to diversify, and we try to attract young, active people, they will look to move to places that have a plethora of outdoor activities and access to outdoor recreation. Iowa ranks close to last in state recreation lands per capita and this issue is compounded by the fact there is very little money allocated by the state to increase the amount of hunting and recreational land. This, coupled with a long list of improvements needed on existing public land, means outdoor opportunities are quickly waning. By funding the trust, we will assign a devoted stream of money to rectify these two problems and make the state an even more attractive place to move.
The outdoor recreation industry nationwide is big business — it exceeds the oil and agriculture sectors in percentage of GDP. Our rural communities and state economy can benefit greatly by investing in outdoor recreation opportunities, By allocating trust money to projects that will improve pheasant and duck habitats, we will not only attract out of state hunters, but travelers to our parks as well.
The great thing about funding the trust is that it provides sustainable, long term funding that will help our agricultural sector achieve the Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals, contribute to fish and wildlife conservation to improve our hunting and fishing heritage, strengthen our rural economies, and improve the overall quality of life for all current and future Iowans.
The people of Iowa amended our Constitution to create the Trust in 2010, and recent polling shows stronger support than ever to fund it. It is now time for the legislature to include funding the trust through comprehensive tax reform. It’s a win for the people, it’s a win for the state.
Jon Kruse, Storm Lake