Legislative Update - January 22, 2016
Iowa Rivers Revival
Suggested top-priorities:  Ask your lawmakers to
(1) support funding for rivers, and
(2) protect turtles by limiting commercial harvest.
1.  Iowa Rivers Revival is once again asking the Legislature to appropriate funding for the DNR rivers program for Dam Safety Mitigation and River Trails.  Demand for the funds has grown to the point that we are now asking for $3 million, an increase over the $2 million we have asked for in the past.  (Over the previous 3 years the Legislature appropriated a total of $5.75 million.)  The State funds are matched with other stakeholder funds, multiplying the wonderful benefits of this appropriation.  Modifying low-head dams makes them safe for people paddling or tubing or fishing – and benefits river life by reconnecting the river.  Dam modification allows river life to move up the stream and reproduce naturally.
2.  Limit commercial harvest of Iowa’s wild turtles.  Our turtles are under severe pressure from commercial trapping.  In recent years there has been a strong market for young turtles, turtle meat and, shells.  A small number of commercial harvesters in Iowa takes huge amounts of turtles every year.  Meanwhile, all the states around Iowa have either banned commercial harvest or significantly restricted commercial wild turtle harvest.   Closing seasons in neighboring states puts even more pressure on Iowa’s wild turtles and further imperils the populations. 
Turtle trapping is out of control in Iowa.  We have a continuous open season on turtles -- even during the breeding and nesting season – and there are no limits on how many turtles may be taken.  The Department of Natural Resources has recommended rules that would protect Iowa wild turtles, but the Governor has not approved the rules so that the Natural Resource Commission may act.  IRR has been working with key legislators to introduce legislation that would require the IDNR to protect the resource for the future.  There are legislator discussions going on now, and the bill drafts we know about would either require a no-harvest season during the reproductive months or have an all-year moratorium on commercial harvest of wild turtles.  We will keep you posted on bills that may be filed.
A little more on turtles:  They are an important part of our ecosystem.  It is estimated that only one snapper turtle reaches sexual maturity out of 1400 eggs.  Other wildlife relies on the eggs and baby turtles for critical food in the spring and summer.  As we remove the large turtles from the landscape, there will be ever more pressure on other wildlife as well.   We would expect ground nesting birds are under increased pressure.  We have to manage these resources now.
Bottom line:  This weekend or soon your legislator may be holding forums in your district.  It is a great time to ask lawmakers to support $3 million in funding for dam safety, and to support action to protect Iowa’s wild turtles by limiting commercial harvest.  If you do have the chance to meet your legislator then a post card or email would also help.
Contact Information for the Governor and Lawmakers:
Governor Terry Branstad:   515.281.5211 or
Iowa Senators and Representatives:  Find your legislators
Iowa Senate:  515.281.3371
Iowa House:  515.281.3221
Jerry Peckumn
IRR Chair
Copyright © 2016 Iowa Rivers Revival, All rights reserved.

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