Environmentalists warn of dire consequences of ‘Taxpayers First’ Provision

Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center Wetland in Linn County. Photo by G-Mans Shadow, Flickr

A little-discussed provision in Taxpayers First Act would adversely affect the environment and state revenue gained from recreation, warn state environmental advocates.

The provision of the omnibus spending bill, which passed in the House of Representatives, forbids the Department of Natural Resources to buy, rent or control additional land, except donated properties. Currently, the DNR buys land from willing sellers, who typically want the department to set aside lands from flood mitigation or recreation, according to a DNR document.

Source: Department of Natural Resources

“This prohibition could affect the purchase or public lands to protect greenbelts, floodplains, trails, and public river accesses,” wrote Rosalyn Lehman, executive director of Iowa Rivers Revival, in a widely circulated email.

The provision would have no affect on the state general fund because the DNR only acquires land with federal dollars or fees from boat and hunting licenses, she wrote.

It may also de-incentivize activities that create hundreds of millions in state revenue.

Hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers spent $974 million in retail sales in the state each year, creating and supporting more than 17,800 jobs – a total economic benefit of $1.54 billion, according to an Iowa State University study.

The study found that each acre of public wildlife area generates $402 in economic activity annually. All comes despite Iowa’s poor record of land and water protection.

The DNR owns less than one percent of the state’s land and water acres, and Iowa ranks 49th in the country in public land ownership, according to the National Wilderness Institute.

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