By Julie Ann Madden
Loess Hills Alliance members have been holding public forums throughout Iowa’s seven-county Loess Hills area last week to explain what National Reserve is and how it would benefit the Loess Hills.
On Jan. 14, they held a forum at the Westfield Community Center. There were 22 people who attended. Most were government officials from Plymouth County supervisors, The Nature Conservancy and Plymouth County Conservation.
“With the designation of the Loess Hills National Reserve, the region would be considered an affiliate of the National Park Service (NPS) allowing the Loess Hills Alliance to provide increased technical, financial and program assistance to landowners, communities and local businesses,” Allliance members said. “The designation will increase tourism and recreational opportunities that offer significant economic benefits to our region. In partnership with the NPS, the Loess Hills Alliance can ensure that our natural treasure will be preserved for future generations of Iowans.”
One of the main benefits to having the Loess Hills region designated as a National Park System’s National Reserve is financial — the Loess Hills Alliance would have additional financial resources — national and federal — to seek funding to continue to promote and protect the Loess Hills.
In addition, landowners would have more cost-share opportunities for their own private projects such as prescribed burns on their properties.
However, some landowners were concerned how this would affect their rights to manage their properties, especially conservation easements and tourist trespassing issues.
Furthermore, Plymouth County Engineer Tom Rohe expressed concern the federal designation would cause the county to have to meet federal regulations on road and bridge projects in the Loess Hills region.
Alliance members provided answers to the people present.
Presenters urged those with comments and concerns to talk to their Congressional delegates at both the state and national levels and to submit written comments.
Anyone who would like to make comments on the proposed National Reserve can send an email, with “National Reserve designation proposal” in subject line of email, to Jeanette, LHA Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org OR mail written letters to:
Loess Hills Alliance
318 E. Iowa Avenue
Onawa, IA 51040
If the National Reserve proposal moves forward, Governor Terry Branstad would ask Iowa’s U.S. Congressmen to take the application to Washington D.C. to have the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate vote on it. If it passes, then it would go to President Barack Obama for enactment into law.
An Alliance official told The Akron Hometowner, they had finished five of the seven meetings as of Thursday. Fremont County had 20 people attend; Woodbury, 30; Pottawattamie County, 40; and Monona County, where there was much opposition, had 80 people.