HF542 - An Analysis

Here's a section-by-section analysis of the new anti-public lands bill (HF542) recently introduced in the Iowa House. I do not take credit for this, but I'm happy to share it. The credit belongs to other #PublicLandOwners that took the time to put this together. 

HF542 Analysis

Section 1 - Conservation Tax Credit

Strikes committee review of the charitable contribution tax credit expenditures and incentives. Completed in 2015.

Section 2 - Inventory Report

Requires inventory of real and personal property owned by the state or under its control/management to be published online, updated at least every 2 years.

Inventory shall include: specific location, size, current use, and amount of property taxes or payments in lieu of property taxes paid to local governments.

Section 3 - Blufflands Loan Program

No State Revolving Fund (SRF) Blufflands loans can be made after July 1, 2019. Repeals program July 1, 2024.

Section 4 - Blufflands - Loan Program

Outstanding SRF Bluffland loans must be repaid by July 1, 2019. Monies repaid will be credited to RIIF.

Section 5-8 - County Conservation Boards (CCBs)

Note: County Conservation Boards are authorized under Iowa Code Chapter 350

Section 5

Changes purpose of the code and takes away authority of CCBs to acquire property. Replaces “acquire” with “preserve.” CCBs are only authorized to preserve, maintain, and make available… “currently owned” public museums, parks, preserves, etc.

Section 6

Adjusts code language to be consistent with other changes to the law. CCB “shall have custody, control, and management of all real and personal property heretofore or hereafter acquired by the county” for public museums, parks, etc.

Section 7

Takes away county’s ability to acquire real property by purchase, lease, or agreement. CCBs can still acquire property by gift or exchange. Property acquired by CCB must be within territorial limits of the county—previous language allowed CCBs to acquire land out of territorial limits.

EXCEPT THAT: CCBs can only accept donated land if donor also contributes money to cover estimated cost of maintaining the land for 10 years.

Section 8

Adjusts code language for consistency - “board of supervisors shall establish a reserve for county conservation land acquisition and capital improvement projects.”

Section 9 - Conservation Tax Credit

Eliminates Conservation Tax Credit for corporations.

Section 10 - Marine Fuel Tax

Eliminates DNR’s use of marine fuel tax for acquisition of access points to public boating waters and recreation facilities associated with recreational boating. Makes use of tax more prescriptive and only allowed for what is outlined in code: dredging, renovation, administration, etc. Previous language provided funds could be used for these purposes, “but is not limited to” them.

Sections 11-12 - REAP Open Spaces

Note: More information about REAP can be found here.

Section 11

Eliminates REAP open spaces account use for acquisition and development.

Section 12

Changes the department’s priority from “acquisition and control” to “maintenance and enhancement” of open spaces. Funds are to be used for developments on “currently owned” state property.

Section 13 - REAP County Conservation

Counties cannot use REAP allocations for land easements or acquisitions.

Section 14 - REAP City Parks & State Land Management

REAP grants to cities cannot be used acquire or establish parks and open spaces—they can only maintain “and enhance.” Grants cannot be used for city projects located outside city boundaries.

State land management account funds can only be used for “enhancement” of state lands. The bill eliminates expansion of state lands, even if limited to expansion of lands and facilities already owned by the state.

Sections 15-16 – State Revolving Fund (SRF)

Section 15

Eliminates use of State Revolving Fund (SRF) on nonpoint source water pollution control projects that include acquisition of property for future donation or sale to a political subdivision, DNR, or federal government after July 1, 2019.

Section 16 

Adds language to code to be consistent with Section 15 - Land purchased by a private entity with the assistance of SRF shall not be acquired by a political subdivision or DNR after July 1, 2019.

Sections 17-20 - Fish & Game Protection Fund

Note: The Fish and Game Protection Fund (aka Fish & Game Trust Fund) is where all our fishing and hunting license fees go. These dollars are constitutionally protected and are to be used for "the purposes of promoting, managing, researching, and regulating hunting, fishing, and trapping in Iowa."

Section 17

Eliminates use of revenues and matched federal funds for “acquisition of land, leasing of land, or obtaining easements from willing sellers for use of land and wildlife habitat.” Replaced with “enhancement, restoration, operation, or maintenance of currently owned” habitat.

Section 18

New subsection added to clarify that fund cannot be used for land acquisition.

Section 19

Additional language prescribing use of fund revenues: limited to regulation, law enforcement, programs, salaries, support, maintenance, and equipment in support of fish and wildlife activities.

Section 20

Changes power and authority of DNR:

Currently, DNR can use fund to “acquire by purchase, condemnation, lease, agreement, gift, and devise land or waters” suitable for fish and game protection purposes.

Bill changes authority to “own for the public benefit or acquire by gift or devise, including rights-of-way and improvements” for fish and game protection purposes.

Section 21 - Wildlife Habitat Fee

Note: this is the "habitat fee" (otherwise known as the "habitat stamp" though it's not actually a stamp) you pay when you buy your hunting license. Some revenues from this fee are currently used for land acquisitions. It is a valuable grant-based funding source for CCB's to acquire local wildlife areas.
Revenue to be used for the development and enhancement of currently owned wildlife lands and habitat areas only. Not for acquisition.

Section 22 - Game Bird Wetland Conservation Program

Eliminates acquisition from Game Brid Wetland Conservation Program.

Section 23 - Migratory Game Bird Fee

Eliminates use of migratory game bird fee for acquisition and development of wetlands.

Section 24 - Conservation Tax Credit

Repeals the conservation tax credit for individuals.

Further Analysis:

How this affects communities:

Counties would be prohibited from expanding parks, wildlife habitat areas, and trails by any amount. Funding the cities and counties have relied on would be restricted, and could not be used for expansion of open spaces and new recreational amenities.

How this affects property rights:

Individuals who want their land to be enjoyed by the public will have additional restrictions on how they can accomplish this. Many landowners sell their land in a bargain sale when it is not economical for them to donate land - this bill would limit the landowner’s ability to sell their land to public entities, even at discounted prices. For landowners who want to donate their land, a charitable donation tax credit has been available to compensate the landowner for the donation. This bill would eliminate the tax credit and require the donor to pay for the estimated cost of maintaining the land for 10 years. The bill does not elaborate on how the cost of maintenance would be estimated.

Now that you're better informed, I encourage you to contact your legislators directly and tell them where you stand as a #PublicLandOwner