Yes Conservation

Mark Langgin, manager of the Water and Land Legacy Campaign, speaks at the Kiwanis Club meeting Monday afternoon. Langgin is pushing for voters to approve an amendment to Iowa’s Constitution that would improve funding for land and water conservation in Iowa.

Iowa’s outdoor recreation areas could see much more funding in the future, but it’s up to voters to decide.

Mark Langgin, manager of the Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy Campaign, spoke at a Kiwanis Club meeting in the student union at William Penn University Monday.

Langgin is the manager of a campaign backed by just over 100 organizations across the state of Iowa focused on land and water conservation efforts. This campaign is specifically aimed at getting voters to vote “yes” on Question 1 in the upcoming November election.

He explained that a “yes” vote for the Water and Land Legacy Amendment would help improve all of Iowa’s outdoor recreation spots from hunting grounds to fishing areas and walking trails.

If passed, the impact of this amendment would echo for generations to come, said Langgin.

“Really, this amendment is about improving water quality and protection of our natural resources for future generations of Iowans,” Langgin said.

Democratic state Rep. Eric Palmer agreed.

“It’s going to have a big impact if it passes,” said Palmer.

Langgin said the amendment could also lead to keeping young Iowans from moving out of the state by offering them a growing farming industry and plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities.

The underfunding of conservation efforts is nothing new in Iowa.

Back in 2006, then Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack organized the Sustainable Funding Advisory Committee. At that time, the committee found that conservation statewide was being underfunded. Langgin pointed out that Iowa ranks 49th in the nation as far as access to public hunting and fishing areas goes.

“Considering we have such great natural resources in Iowa and that our real livelihood is in our soil and the land here and there’s such a strong stewardship effort related to natural resources, the governor (Vilsack) really felt we needed to do something about it,” said Langgin.

The Sustainable Funding Advisory Committee was half Democrats and half Republicans and included a host of conservation leaders, said Langgin.

“The joke was it was somewhere north of a bajillion dollars that we needed for conservation,” said Langgin. “Now, that’s not realistic and they understood that.”

The committee eventually agreed that about $150,000,000 was needed annually for Iowa’s land and water conservation. Right now, that funding sits at around $50,000,000 annually along with federal funding.

It was then agreed by the committee that a natural resources trust fund was needed similar to the road use tax fund.

“That way all the money could be focused on conservation of natural resources and there wouldn’t be the fear that it would be diverted to some other resource,” said Langgin. “The first thing that always gets the ax is the environment.”

Around 40 different funding mechanisms for that trust fund were considered by the committee, said Langgin.

“They settled on dedicating the first 3/8 of future sales tax increase to fund the trust fund,” explained Langgin. “The amendment itself did not increase the sales tax. It just said that if the Legislature does it at some later date — five, 10, 15 years from now  — that the first 3/8 would go to the trust fund.”

In order to pass, this amendment to the Iowa Constitution would have to pass with over 90 percent support in the election, unanimously in the Iowa Senate and nearly unanimously in the Iowa House of Representatives two sessions in a row.

If the amendment passes and the funding begins coming into the trust fund, much of that money would go toward improving water quality in Iowa, said Langgin. He added, all of the trust fund money would be used for voluntary incentives rather than regulator enforcement for farmers.

For more information on the Water and Land Legacy Amendment, visit www.yeson1foriowa.com.

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Herald City Editor Andy Goodell can be reached at news2@oskyherald.com

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