Responsible custodianship of the environment and providing people with safe clean water should not be a political issue. It is a moral issue.
Do we want to provide people with clean drinking water, lakes that provide pathogen free swimming, and an environment that protects habitat for wildlife that will provide abundant fishing and hunting opportunities? We can do this by restoring and protecting our natural environment.
Public investment in the environment delivers shared benefits. In states such as Minnesota it has been shown that taxes that make such public investment possible are compatible with a vibrant economy.
The United Nations has taken the position that people have a right to safe, clean water and disease free sanitation. Billions of people around the world lack these basic rights. In Iowa we are fortunate to be blessed with abundant water, forests, rich soil and other natural resources. We have an opportunity and an obligation to protect the safety of our citizens by being better custodians of our beautiful land. Unfortunately many of our lakes, streams and wells are polluted.
Restoring wetlands will provide habitat for wildlife and filter out many pollutants. Flood plains, wetlands, forests and oxbows store millions of gallons of water per acre and release water slowly ensuring a reliable flow preventing many disastrous floods which not only destroy property and erode our valuable soil but wash pollutants into lakes, streams and wells.
Farmers can reduce tillage and plant more cover crops after harvesting their major crops. Fortunately, these practices have been shown to increase crop yields. Farmers can leave crop free buffer strips and build fences to keep livestock away from waterways. They can plant trees around crops and pastures. We can restore grasslands and limit the spraying of toxic chemicals along all waterways that drain into lakes that are used for swimming, fishing and drinking. Do we want our children to suffer gastrointestinal and other diseases because they swan in Iowa lakes?
In 2010 the people of Iowa by a large majority approved a constitutional amendment that created the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund to achieve conservation on a large scale. The Trust Fund, when funded, will provide a sustainable permanent source of funds to help improve water quality, protect our soil, provide wildlife habitat and promote outdoor recreation. The amendment has wide support from agricultural, hunting, fishing and environmental groups.
A 3/8 cent tax to fund the Trust Fund was recommended. After seven years the State Legislature has failed to act. The Trust Fund should have its own source of funding and not depend on raiding other programs. Members of the legislature should be concerned about the will of the people and do what is right even if it means a slight tax increase.
On Aug. 1, State Senator Rita Heart is hosting a non-partisan forum on water quality at the Central DeWitt High School. This is a subject in which all of our citizens should be concerned and informed. At the forum there will be displays and discussions led by representatives from several farming and environmental organizations. We will learn about the conditions of Iowa’s water and environmental programs that have been successful. Citizens will have an opportunity to express their concerns and share their experiences.