A substantial majority of Iowans support providing adequate funding to conservation of Iowa's natural resources, but current budget proposals under discussion at the state capitol are out of step with Iowans' priorities. That's what Marian Riggs Gelb, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council, told the Iowa Legislature last week.
Gelb made her remarks during a February 22 press conference as part of the Iowa Environmental Council's annual Environmental Lobby Day for 2012. She said that although the state reduced spending in many areas during the recent economic downturn, new lower spending levels must not become the "new normal" for Iowa's investment in its natural resources.
"We must do more here at the statehouse to support environmental quality through public policies supported by sufficient investments to accomplish this goal. A healthy environment helps this state attract and retain businesses and qualified employees, and it directly translates to better health outcomes for our people," Gelb told the audience.
Governor's budget proposal is to cut general fund support for DNR by a third
In her remarks, she focused attention on Governor Terry Branstad's budget proposal, which includes what amounts to a 33% reduction in general fund support for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources since the 2009 fiscal year, she says, even as the overall general fund appropriations are proposed to increase slightly over the same time period.
Gelb also noted some of the reductions in the state's commitment to natural resource protection have been problematic for years. For example, she said, the number of soil technicians the state employs to help landowners implement conservation practices across Iowa is off by more than half from a high in the 1980's. "These reductions in personnel have resulted in significant delays of the installation of soil and water conservation practices in Iowa," Gelb said.
These actions do not represent the priorities Iowans expressed when they voted to create a constitutionally-protected trust fund for natural resources and outdoor recreation, Gelb said. More than 63% of Iowans voted to create this fund in 2010. She called on the legislature to align this year's budget with Iowans' desire for a healthy natural environment.
Legislature must find ways to provide more funding for soil and water conservation
"The legislature must find ways to prioritize funding for conservation and protection of natural resources this session and recognize that leaving environmental quality behind will harm our efforts to realize an economically secure future for Iowa," she said.
The Iowa Environmental Council is a coalition of nearly sixty member and cooperator organizations from across Iowa. Representatives from these organizations joined the Council at Environmental Lobby Day:
1000 Friends of Iowa
Environmental Law and Policy Center
Iowa Environmental Health Association
Iowa Farmers' Union
Iowa Interfaith Power & Light
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
Iowa Recycling Association
Iowa Rivers Revival
Iowa Wind Energy Association
Raccoon River Watershed Association
State Hygienic Laboratory
Women Food and Agriculture Network
The Iowa REAP Alliance, of which the Iowa Environmental Council is a member, also held a lobby day event at the state capitol on February 22, 2012. Note: Full text of Marian Riggs Gelb's remarks as prepared for delivery are available here.