18 Local Elected Leaders, Outdoors Businesses, Environmental Advocacy Groups Call on President Obama to Protect Loess Hills, Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge

For Immediate Release

Des Moines--Today, Environment Iowa and 18 groups released a letter to President Obama calling for lasting protections for the Loess Hills and Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge from development and budget cuts.

The Loess Hills and Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and other beloved parks in Iowa have been providing Iowa residents with lifelong memories for decades. With groups from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to Active Endeavors signed on, the letter demonstrates the tremendous value that citizens, outdoors organizations, and local business owners place on Iowa’s public parks.

“Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and many other parks all across Iowa are where some of our families’ most unforgettable memories are formed — our first hikes, our first time camping, our first encounter with wildlife,” said Amelia Schoeneman, state associate with Environment Iowa. “That’s why Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and the Loess Hills deserve permanent protections from development and other threats.”

The letter urges President Obama to protect Iowa’s natural places by fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund in his upcoming budget proposal. The Land and Water Conservation Fund provides our public lands with critical protection from increasing development by giving our Park Service the ability to purchase privately owned land within or surrounding the park that would otherwise be developed and become a threat to the local ecosystem – all without spending a single taxpayer dollar.

The letter details how Congress’ annual raiding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund has left a legacy of backlogged conservation and recreation needs. Here in Iowa, the Loess Hills and Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and many other parks are facing increasing threats from development and even conversion to farmland.

To address these threats to Iowa’s environment, President Obama must address the undercutting of our nation’s premier fund for land and water protection.

“President Obama has a great opportunity to help ensure that parks like Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and the Loess Hills are protected by calling for full and dedicated funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in his upcoming budget proposal. Our parks and future generations are depending on it,” said Schoeneman.

Full Letter:

Dear President Obama,

From the Mississippi River to Iowa’s prairies, parks, forests, waterways, and wildlife refuges are the best of our natural legacy, where many Iowans make some of their most cherished memories. Yet many of Iowa’s public lands are facing increasing threats from overdevelopment and pollution.

As a far-reaching coalition ranging from hunters and anglers, conservationists, outdoors businesses, and elected leaders, we urge you to protect our most treasured natural areas—places like Loess Hills in western Iowa, the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in the central part of the state, and the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge that makes Iowa’s eastern border, where Iowans have the opportunity to enjoy hiking, biking, camping, and hunting. We hope that you will ensure their long term protection by calling for full, permanent and dedicated funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the FY14 budget and for the remainder of your term as president.

The annual diversion of LWCF funds to non-conservation purposes has left a long legacy of backlogged conservation projects and missed opportunities to safeguard our natural heritage. To prevent the overdevelopment and increased pollution that continue to threaten Iowa’s environment, you must address the underfunding of our nation’s premiere program for land and water protection.

We applaud your recommendation of $900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund in your FY12 budget. As a historic step towards providing this country’s parks, forests, waterways, and wildlife refuges with the environmental protection they need and deserve, we urge you to call for full, permanent, and dedicated funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund in your FY14 budget.

Sincerely,

Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

Iowa Audubon Society

Iowa Environmental Council

Iowa Wildlife Federation, Des Moines

Jean McGuire, Doctoral Candidate, Rural Agriculture and Sociology, Iowa State University

Friends of Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge

Gabrielle Roesch, Doctoral Candidate, Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University

Active Endeavors Des Moines

Active Endeavors Iowa City

Active Endeavors Davenport

Derek Carmona, Environmental Services Analyst, City of Sioux City

Michael E. Delaney Vice President Raccoon River Watershed Association

Stephen Roe President Raccoon River Watershed Association

State Representative Dan Kelley

State Senator Nancy Boettger

Teaming With Wildlife Coalition, Iowa

The Wildlife Society, Iowa Chapter

Iowa Farmers Union