Category Archives: Conservation funding

Agenda announced for 2015 Annual Conference

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Today, we are excited to announced seven sessions featuring a dynamic slate of speakers hailing from across Iowa, the Midwest and as far as Washington D.C., that will take the stage to share their knowledge and expertise at our 2015 Annual Conference, Elevate: Creating an Environment of Action, on Friday, October 2, 2015 at Drake University in Des Moines.

Join us to learn about work being done in Iowa to elevate agricultural action on climate issues, be inspired by one man’s quest to clean up our rivers one piece of garbage at a time, dive into the sociology of sustainability, engage in conversations about bridging the clean energy divide, and more!

View this year’s agenda and reserve your spot alongside Iowa’s environmental leaders today.

The theme of this year’s conference, which also marks the Council’s 20th anniversary, is elevate. Sessions will focus on providing participants with knowledge, information and resources to identify opportunities, define moments and move interest to action.

As always, the conference will also feature networking opportunities, top-notch exhibitors and a delicious lunch featuring seasonal produce.

Take advantage of early bird registration rates, ending Sept. 4, and register today.

Our  conference is also a great opportunity to connect your organization with a unique cross-section of Iowa’s environmental community. Register as an exhibitor. Don’t delay – space is limited.

Questions? Prefer to register via phone? Contact Communications & Outreach Director Katy Heggen at Heggen@iaenvironment.org or 515-244-1194 x210.

Interested in sponsoring our conference? Contact Development Director Jamie Burch at burch@iaenvironment.org or 515-244-1194 x202

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2015 Iowa Legislative Session in Review

Iowa State Capitol
After several weeks of back and forth negotiations, the 2015 Iowa Legislature reached a budget agreement and adjourned earlier this month.

In all, modest but important legislation that supports a more sustainable future was advanced – much of which now awaits the Governor’s signature –but funding and legislative action to support clean water initiatives and expand clean energy left much unfinished business.

Clean Energy

This session, energy staff focused on continuing to build momentum for growth and expanded access to clean energy in Iowa. This work culminated in the passage HF645. This modest but important bill, which currently awaits the Governor’s signature, would increase available solar energy tax incentive funds from $4.5M to $5M and make improvements to the 476C production tax credit for solar energy, which can be used to support community solar energy projects. If signed into law, HF645 will improve access to solar energy for businesses, farmers, homeowners and utilities.

>>Ask Gov. Branstad to expand access to solar energy by signing HF645<<

The Council supported legislation that would expand and improve tax incentives for wind energy. While these bills did not pass, key bills remain alive for the 2016 session. There were successes for wind energy however, as bills designed to stop critical infrastructure improvements for expanding wind energy – new transmission lines intended for wind – also did not pass.

Finally, the Council helped improve a bill, HF 548, that would have imposed expensive and unnecessary requirements on customers installing solar or other forms of distributed generation. A less burdensome version of the bill did pass that requires the Iowa Utilities Board to initiate a rulemaking. The Council will be actively involved in the rulemaking to reduce potential new barriers to distributed renewable energy.

Clean Water

This session, water program staff focused on strengthening and securing sustainable funding for initiatives to improve water quality and reduce pollutants. We joined other conservation-focused groups to push for funding the Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. Although we were not able to get a bill passed, both chambers filed bills – SF504 and HSB256. Both bills remain alive for the 2016 session.

We continued to convey the need to fully fund the state’s Resource Enhancement and Protection program at $20 million. However, the Legislature ultimately voted to maintain a three-year status quo and funded REAP at $16 million.

We also advocated for increased oversight, transparency and funding for water quality monitoring in the Nutrient Reduction Strategy’s (NRS) Water Quality Initiative (WQI) projects. Funding for WQI projects was allocated at $9.6M, a $2.1M increase from last year, and $450,000 is designated for water quality monitoring equipment and testing. However, the NRS suggests initial investments ranging from $1.2 to $4B, and annual ongoing investments ranging from $756M to $1.2B are needed to meet the 45 percent reduction goal. Iowans are still waiting for substantial, sustainable funding needed to have a meaningful impact on water quality across the state.

We share many of Iowans’ growing and urgent concerns about the state of our land, water and climate, and recognize the importance of that which we were able to accomplish thanks to Iowans that advocated for the environment this session. We are disappointed that more was not accomplished this session to protect and preserve Iowa’s natural resources, but know the work done on behalf of the environment this session lays the foundation for progress in the future.

Percentage of assessed Iowa waters found to be impaired increases

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Recently, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released a draft of its 2014 list of Iowa’s impaired waterbodies as an informational item on the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) May meeting agenda. Since the last time the report was filed in 2012, the total number of impaired lakes, rivers and streams has grown from 630 to 725, a 15% increase over two years.

DNR officials cite an increase in the number of waterbodies being assessed as the source of the uptick. However, the percentage of assessed lakes, rivers and streams found to be impaired has also increased from 51% to 55%. For every two waterbodies assessed, one is impaired, meaning it does not meet the water quality standards for one or more of its designated uses. That is not good news for Iowa’s water quality, environment, economy or quality of life. Stagnant improvement of our impaired waters underscores the need to urgent action to reverse this trend.

We support the DNR’s process of measuring impairments in Iowa’s lakes, rivers and streams. This process is appropriate and important. We also support and continue to call for increased monitoring and assessment. We recognize that increased monitoring will likely result in an increase in the number of waterbodies with documented impairments, which is why it is critical to evaluate the percentage of assessed waterbodies found to be impaired to get an accurate picture of water quality trends. Increased monitoring and reporting, especially in the most threatened waters of the state, will result in a better understanding of the status of our waters.

The Environmental Protection Commission will hold its monthly business meeting next Tuesday, May 19. Discussion of the draft of 2014 list of impaired waters is on the agenda. Members of the public are welcome to attend the meeting:

EPC May Business Meeting
Tuesday, May 19, 10 a.m.
Davenport East Branch Library
6000 Eastern Avenue, Davenport, IA
View the meeting details and agenda

Requests to speak during the business meeting Public Participation must be submitted to Jerah Sheets at Jerah.Sheets@dnr.iowa.gov, 502 East 9th Des Moines, IA 50319, 515-313-8909, or in-person by the start of the business meeting. Please indicate who you will be representing (yourself, an association, etc.), the agenda item of interest, and your stance of For, Opposed, or Neutral. There will also be a 45-day public comment period after the meeting, after which DNR will prepare a responsiveness summary of comments received. Changes in the list will be made based on public comments.

The DNR acknowledges that “once added to a state list, the impairment is likely to remain on the list.” This is in part due to the need for a more detailed study of the impaired waters, including the watershed area that may be contributing to the impairment, as well as a lack of long-term, sustainable funding to take action to address the water quality issues.

“Unless a state has authority and the means to reduce levels of nonpoint source pollution, the NPS-related impairments will likely continue to reside on the state’s list of impaired waters,” states the report.

To successfully achieve measurably cleaner water, we will continue our ongoing and multi-year efforts to engage urban and rural stakeholders in conversations about solutions that provide Iowans with quantifiable, verifiable results that can identify where meaningful progress is being made to improve our water quality. We will continue to be outspoken in advocating for sustained funding to support those efforts. Without these improvements, Iowa is unlikely to achieve measurably cleaner water anytime soon.

Now is the Time: Fund the Trust

Nearly five years ago, an overwhelming majority of Iowa voters (63%) supported the creation of the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, which would provide sustainable,   and substantial funding for conservation, and go toward unmet funding needs in existing programs.

However, the trust, which would raise an estimated $150 million annually to better protect our water quality, agricultural soils and wildlife habitat, has never been filled. This is the year to change that.

#FundTheTrust2015

#FundTheTrust2015

Join Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy (IWILL) Coalition and Iowans across the state TODAY for a Virtual Day of Action to tell legislators that the time is now, the need is clear, and it is time to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.

Our natural resources are an important part of our heritage and our future. The vast majority of trust fund dollars are designated for water quality improvement projects, including watershed protection, wildlife habitat, lake restoration, and enhancing flood protection efforts. Critical funding for the Nutrient Reduction Strategy can also be realized with this trust.

For nearly five years, Iowans have waited for consistent, reliable funding to protect Iowa’s water quality, agricultural soils and wildlife habitat. We cannot afford to wait any longer. Contact your legislators today and tell them now is the time to fund the trust.

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Conserving America’s Natural Places

LCWF helps establish and protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests and wildlife refuges, and provides matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects.

Iowa has received approximately $70 million in LWCF funding over the years. Funding has gone to protecting some of our state’s most treasured natural places including the Neal Smith and Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuges, the Effigy Mounds Monument, and the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site among others.

Earth day is here, and as we celebrate the 45th anniversary of this international event, we are reminded that we share planet and must do our part to keep it healthy. One way environmental and conservation organizations may help this Earth Day is by showing your support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Created by Congress more than 50 years ago, the LWCF has one simple task: utilize a portion of offshore drilling fees to protect America’s precious and fragile natural resources for generations to come.

LCWF helps establish and protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests and wildlife refuges, and provides matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects.

The LWCF is authorized to receive up to $900 million a year, but that commitment has rarely been met. Each year, Congress diverts most of the funds that could go to LWCF elsewhere. Only once in the LWCF’s history has the full $900 million been authorized. As a nation, we need to stand up and insist that LWCF funds be used for their intended purpose.

The LWCF authorizing legislation is set to expire in less than six months on September 30, and broad support is needed to ensure this important source of conservation funds will continue.

The LWCF Coalition has created an update of the LWCF Coalition Statement of Support, which lays out to Congress the need to fully fund the LWCF. This statement has been signed by local and national organizations – including the Council and many of its member organizations – that support reauthorizing and fully funding the LWCF. By signing this statement and inviting our member organizations and allies to do the same, we demonstrate how broad the support for this fund is, and how important it is to protecting and preserving America’s natural resources.

To sign your organization on to the LWCF Coalition Statement of Support, please fill out and submit the online form.

This form includes the full text of the statement. Signatories are putting their organization’s name behind the message contained in the statement. Besides the specific text of the statement, nobody will claim to speak for your organization.

Questions? Contact LWCF staffer Brandon Helm at brandon_helm [at] tws [dot] org