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Fund the Trust, Preserve Iowa's Natural Heritage

The Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund could help create bike paths, and other ways to help Iowans be more active. (Pixabay)
The Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund could help create bike paths, and other ways to help Iowans be more active. (Pixabay)
December 27, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa – With 2016 coming to a close, a broad-based coalition is looking to 2017 as a year to preserve Iowa's natural heritage and "fund the trust." The Iowa Water and Land Legacy or "I-WILL" Coalition is focused on raising the state sales tax by three-eighths of a penny, to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.

Seth Johnson, the campaign coordinator with the American Heart Association of Iowa, which is a coalition member, said the fund has sat empty since approved by voters in 2010, and it's up to state lawmakers to approve the added tax.

"Obviously, it's not a very attractive thing to be talking about the need to increase the sales tax," he said. "That being said, it's just vitally important to preserve and enhance Iowa's natural heritage. Part of that is about water quality; part of that is soil preservation; and part of that is increasing trails and access to walking and biking."

The I-WILL Coalition includes farmers, business leaders, and conservation and public health groups. Its most recent report estimates the increased sales tax would raise $200 million a year to address soil erosion and water quality, and provide state funding for wildlife preserves, recreation facilities other outdoor opportunities.

Johnson said the Heart Association's interest in the issue is that two-thirds of adults and children don't get the recommended amount of physical activity. He thinks the fund will create opportunities for all Iowans to get out and get moving on walking paths and biking trails, and many more projects to improve people's activity levels.

"Building new sidewalks to painting crosswalks, to installing lights, to actually, programs for safe routes to school," he added. "Getting those people to actually walk around with kids; doing 'walking school bus' programs; getting schools to incentivize those programs, and education about how kids can bike to safely to school."

He also added that outdoor recreation can reduce the risk for a number of serious health conditions, including the number one killers, heart disease and stroke.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IA