Conservation groups fight bill that would end property acquisition

A controversial bill made waves across the state this week as county conservation officials flocked to Des Moines to weigh in on bills that would restrict public entities from purchasing new property.

House File 542 was introduced on Wednesday, February 27 by Representative David Sieck (R-Glenwood), a farmer and real estate agent, and would all but strip the ability of county conservation boards to acquire land for parks, museums, playgrounds, recreation centers, wildlife areas, or any other purpose.

If passed, the bill would limit the ability for county conservation boards to gaining land by gift or exchange, and only within county borders. In addition, donated land could only be accepted if accompanied by a monetary donation sufficient to cover the cost of maintaining the land for ten years.

“From our standpoint there is really no upside,” said Mike Webb, Director of Cerro Gordo County Conservation. “It would prevent all future improvements.”

The bill would not affect Cerro Gordo County’s Prairie Land Trail project. The 21-mile trail from Meservey to Mason City will continue development this year and Cerro Gordo County Conservation already has the land for the trail acquired. However, similar projects would be threatened if the bill is passed as county conservation would be unable to purchase land for new routes.

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