Group calls for full funding of Land and Water Conservation Fund
March 21st, 2013 by Ric Hanson
An environmental group used the first day of Spring Wednesday to push for more federal funding to help purchase private land to protect it from development. Amelia Schoeneman of Environment Iowa spoke at Gray’s Lake in Des Moines, calling for full funding of the federal “Land and Water Conservation Fund . Mark Ackelson, president of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, says the fund does more than preserve land. He said “The Land and Water Conservation Fund also funds wetland protection and restoration in Iowa.
The foundation in the process of buying land in the Loess Hills, and in central Iowa’s Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. Ackelson says they are currently working on buying 840 acres at the Smith Refuge. Ackelson says “In the Loess Hills the National Parks Service identified 12 special landscape areas that constitute roughly a hundred thousand acres total. And those 12 sites are distributed along the seven counties along the Loess Hills in western Iowa.”
The cost of Iowa farmland was recently reported at an all-time high, but Ackelson says the cost of buying private land for conservation varies widely. He says they find a lot of landowners “Have a lot of conservation in their heart. And many times they are willing to donate as least a part of the value. That helps them offset some of the taxes that they may have due, but it also helps them perpetuate their family legacy as well.” So, he says “This really is a partnership.”
Ackelson says the federal money is paired with state money and private donations to make the land purchases. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin has introduced a bill to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Schoeneman urged Senator Chuck Grassley to do the same. Congress is expected to vote on funding levels for the Land and Water Conservation Fund as well as the National Parks budget this week as a part of the 2014 fiscal year budget.