Three groups that lobby for land and water conservation have banded together to urge legislators to provide more money for the state’s Resource Enhancement and Protection program. The Resource Enhancement and Protection program had a budget of 18-million dollars a couple of years ago, but both Republicans and Democrats in the legislature propose at least six million dollars less for the coming year.
Mark Langgin, executive director of Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy, says that means less money to clean up the state’s growing list of rivers, lakes and streams which have been branded “impaired waterways” because of pollution.”Those are rivers and lakes where we get safe drinking water supplies. That’s where our kids and grandkids recreate, they fish, paddle, swim and play,” Langgin says.
“And, really, we need to invest some more significant resources at the state level to fund those programs.” Governor Branstad has proposed a 25% reduction in funding for the Resource Enhancement and Protection program.
“It’s not just about the Department of Natural Resources or county conservation, Langgin says. “For every million dollars in REAP funding, there’s $200,000 that goes to the Department of Agriculture for doing cost-share programs in soil conservation. That’s voluntary practices that go right onto the farm to improve water quality and conserve agricultural soils.”
Ray Meylor of Ankeny who has owned farms in Carroll, Dickinson, Monona and Story Counties, is a member of the Izaak Walton League. “As more folks are biking the rail heads, they’re biking the rivers — these city folks are seeing the problems, you know, and a big part of this is land stewardship and that’s the individual land owner’s responsibility.” Meylor says. “I think the civilians in town are getting tired of it.”
About a dozen conservation-minded people gathered at the statehouse today for a news conference on the topic. Roz Lehman, director of “Iowa Rivers Revival”, addressed the group. “Rivers and streams provide many benefits to Iowa’s communities and we urge you to communicate with your legislators and local policy leaders about the importance of funding for natural resources programs and REAP so we can ensure future generations can use and enjoy Iowa’s rivers and streams,” she said.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources in January reported that over 400 individual Iowa waterways have some sort of “impairment” like too much harmful bacteria or too much sediment or soil in the water.