By Gildo Tori, Director of Public Policy, Ducks Unlimited
Finding permanent, secure and dedicated conservation funding sources to compliment the American System of Conservation Funding is a must if we are going to continue to provide fish and wildlife habitat and places to pursue our outdoor heritage. We have great examples already in place in Minnesota, Missouri and Arkansas, where a portion of the sales tax that everyone pays is dedicated towards fish and wildlife conservation. Those dedicated funds have worked exceedingly well for hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreationists in those states.
Since 2006, the conservation, outdoor recreation, agriculture and business leaders in Iowa (The Iowa Water and Land Legacy, or IWILL Coalition) have united to secure dedicated funding. We got the heavy lifting done – a Constitutional amendment passed in 2010 by 63% of Iowa voters that created the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. The problem was the funding mechanism, a 3/8th percent sales tax increase, must be passed into law separately by the legislature. That is where we have been and currently are stuck at.
Recent polls taken by the IWILL Coalition and the Des Moines Register show continued strong support from voters to raise the sales tax to fund the Trust, yet the legislature has not advanced the measure. Here is where sportsmen’s groups and other conservationists, working with Iowa’s Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus, are critical. For too long, sportsmen and women have not been sufficiently engaged with the legislature. Hunters and anglers must work hand in hand with the legislature to ensure that the Trust is funded, and that professional fish and wildlife management is well supported into the future.
In Iowa, the Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus, a bicameral and bipartisan group of lawmakers committed to protecting and advancing Iowa’s outdoor heritage, is working with sportsmen-conservation groups to generate support for funding the Trust. CSF’s Central Midwestern States Coordinator Joel Hodgdon has exemplified great partnership working with Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation, the Iowa Conservation Alliance and others by hosting caucus breakfasts that provide an opportunity to advocate for funding the Trust, as well as providing support during IWILL Days at the Capitol, business leaders receptions and other IWILL focused events.
The future of our outdoor heritage is dependent on long-term, secure dedicated funding, whether from license fees or special dedicated funding sources. Nationally the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act has some promise, but requires a big lift, convincing Congress to reallocate over a billion dollars of federal funds. In Iowa we are close to funding a conservation legacy that will benefit hunters and anglers, farmers, urban dwellers, businesses and future generations – but conservationists and sportsmen and women will need to heed the call and lead the charge and ensure our legislators Fund the Trust. In Iowa, we will not stop and we will prevail – WE-WILL for IWILL.