In 2010, Iowa voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment creating Iowa's Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. The goal was to establish a permanent, dependable mechanism for channeling public funds to address an array of natural resource protection and management needs.
The important concerns that were to be supported from the trust fund include lake restoration, trails, the Resource Enhancement and Protection program, the Local Conservation Partnership program, watershed protection, soil conservation and water protection, and natural resources.
When 63 percent of those Iowans who voted approved this trust fund, they anticipated that the needed money would be generated from three-eighths of one cent of a future sales tax increase to be approved by the Legislature. That would yield about $180 million annually for the fund.
After more than six years, however, lawmakers have not approved either the expected sales tax increase or any other way to route tax dollars to the trust fund.
Assorted governmental entities and conservation groups are calling upon the Legislature to find a way to obtain for the trust fund the financial resources voters expected it would have when they approved this constitutional amendment. The Webster County Board of Supervisors has joined in that effort. On Tuesday, it unanimously adopted a resolution that concludes:
"We must fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund to enhance water quality, protect agricultural soils, and improve fish and wildlife habitat, as well as support recreational opportunities provided by Iowa's parks, trails and wild places."
We think Supervisor Merrill Leffler spoke for many Iowans when he explained his support for the resolution.
"It just doesn't make a lot of sense that everybody's approved it, and it hasn't been funded for the last seven years," Leffler said.
Farm News heartily agrees with that sentiment. While we are not persuaded that a sales tax increase is warranted, we urge lawmakers to explore various ways to channel dollars into the trust fund.
Iowa's voters clearly intended that spending on the natural resources sector be given a high priority. It's time to honor that mandate.