Funding IWILL necessary to protect Iowa’s natural attributes and future

By Ann Wolf, executive director of Iowa Heartland RC&D

Kayla Bergman co-authored this story

While COVID-19 has disrupted our daily activities and lifestyles, including suspending the Iowa legislative session, it gives elected officials more time to consider HSB 657/SSB 3116 to fund the Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, also known as IWILL. 

The governor’s proposal, called the Invest in Iowa Act, would generate $171.3 million for IWILL.This includes funding for natural resources, local conservation partnerships, soil and water quality improvement, watershed protection, lake restoration, and trails. Such a comprehensive approach is commendable and deserves debate by the full legislature.

As a woman farmland owner with a 300-acre farm in eastern Iowa, near the Mississippi and Maquoketa river confluence, I have practiced, implemented and utilized for many years a number of programs for soil erosion control, preserving and maintaining a healthy timber stand, and initiating water quality environmental protection initiatives along my pasture stream and around my 1.8-acre wetland.  

The benefits to these conservation and environmental practices have been extremely successful and rewarding, hopefully demonstrating a positive impact on nearby area recreation facilities, communities, and farms.

Iowa is a beautiful state with many natural rural and urban attributes and attractions we should all treasure, preserve and appreciate. Our state’s outdoor recreational trail system is one of our greatest economic resources that gives us the opportunity to get outside and enjoy natural habitats, improve our health and stimulate area businesses along the trail routes. 

Having grown up in Clinton, Iowa along the Mississippi River, I have a deep reverence, awe, and love for this mighty body of water that lies on the eastern shore of our state. The Mississippi River, along with all of Iowa’s rivers, lakes, and streams, need to be protected, respected, and preserved now and for future generations of Iowans to enjoy. 

Owning, managing, and working on a farm is hard and demanding work. With the opportunity to implement conservation farm practices on my own farm, I’ve been able to see the return and increase of wildlife species within a native balanced habitat setting, retain healthy soil on highly erodible bluff lands, and create a clean wetland and pasture stream that flows directly into the Maquoketa and Mississippi rivers a short distance away. 

There is nothing more mesmerizing and stunningly pleasing on a warm, summer late afternoon than being in a native Iowa prairie stand listening to the sounds of birds, insects and wildlife with the background whisper of a soft summer wind blowing through the timber as the sun begins to set over the horizon. The fresh aromatic scent of wild prairie flowers in bloom is captivating to the senses and beyond description. 

This is Iowa, this is our state, this is our natural home. Let’s preserve and take care of it.