OSKALOOSA — Who doesn’t enjoy taking a walk in the woods on a sunny day? One group is working hard to make sure that a walk in the woods will stay pleasant.
The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation is committed to cleaning up waterways and keeping rural land well preserved. The INHF presented a slideshow during the Oskaloosa Kiwanis’ meeting Monday afternoon at the student union on the William Penn campus.
Following lunch and the meeting being called to order, Brooks Vander Beek, the Mark Akleson Fellowship holder in the INHF, delivered a presentation and slideshow regarding water quality and conservation efforts across Iowa.
Vander Beek, a graduate of Oskaloosa High School and Iowa State University, is one of the creators of the INHF. He believes that there is not just one need, but several needs that Iowa has when it comes to conservation.
“I don’t think that there is any one thing that sticks out more than others, but this is truly a quality of life initiative in the state of Iowa,” he said. “That needs to be the number one thing on our radar. Water quality, recreational places outdoors, and more opportunities for folks to get out and spend time outdoors.”
Vander Beek says that, with Iowa being a part of the Midwest, people will go outside for activities and they want everything to be in good shape.
“I think that we have done some great things in the past, and our water quality has probably gotten better,” he said. “But, we still have a long way to go, and there is a lot of research that backs us up. We just don’t have the funding to put these programs to put them into use.”
The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation has been a major proponent of Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy (IWILL). In 2010, more than half of Iowans voted for a constitutional amendment to create the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, which is a permanent and protected funding source dedicated to clean water, productive agricultural soils and thriving wildlife habitats.
Vander Beek explains that the initiative is a state-wide effort, and requires a 3/8ths of a cent sales tax in the whole state to enact this.
“Who doesn’t like the scenic value of this, having scenic prairies, clean water and having opportunities to get out and about,” he said. “Part of Iowa is going out and seeing the scenery, and this is another reason to push this and the value of it.”
Eric Palmer, an attorney in Oskaloosa and member of the Kiwanis, feels that the INHF will bring out the best in each community that it has contact with.
“What the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation is trying to promote is the IWILL program, which the majority of Mahaska County was in support of,” he said. “The whole point behind this is to not only improve water quality, but to enhance recreation and improve quality of life in the state.”
Palmer says that all that is needed is for the legislature to approve the new sales tax hike.
“What we need is for the legislature to pass the 3/8ths of a cent increase of the sales tax to fund this program,” he said. “It’s there waiting for funding, and it will improve the quality of life in the state. What they have been doing has been working, but that is just with the limited funding they have. If this is passed, it will generate around $180 million a year, and it will provide funding to help the agriculture situation. I hope people will contact their legislators and tell them they want to see this program funded.”
Story in the Oskaloosa Herald, January 31. Story written by Chris Rhea.