The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will host a second public meeting Tuesday on a pilot program that encourages conservation and hunting. Kelly Smith of the D.N.R.’s Wildlife Bureau says the state was awarded a $1.5-million federal grant for the program.
Smith says the premise of the program is to pay landowners for wildlife habitat improvements on private land, and in exchange, the landowners would allow hunters onto their property. Smith says the program has generated some confusion, specifically about how it is funded.
“With state budgets being tight, there is a lot of concern that the state should not be funding a new program, particularly one that is funding a recreational hobby for some individuals in the state,” Smith says. But she says the funding is not coming from that state general fund, it is coming from a federal grant in the federal farm bill. Smith says any state money will come from habitat fees. Smith says concerns have also been raised about how the program will be implemented.
Smith says she has been getting calls from people who say landowners shouldn’t be forced to do this, but she says that is not happening as the program is voluntary. Smith says the program has benefits for landowners and hunters. “It’s absolutely a win-win opportunity,” Smith says. She says there are programs that landowners can enroll in that they have to pay the costs of the habitat improvements themselves, but this program provides them some money to help offset those costs.
The public meeting is set for 1 P.M. Tuesday in the fourth floor west conference room of the Wallace State Office Building in Des Moines. Comments received on the program will be included in the pilot program discussion during the April 14th Natural Resource Commission meeting.
The legislature’s rules committee will also review the comments. Smith says if everything goes ahead, the program could roll out sometime this summer.