Bill to bar DNR from buying land at auction stalls

DES MOINES — A bill to prohibit the Iowa Department of Natural Resources from buying land at an auction to expand state parks has failed to clear a key deadline in the state legislature.

However, Republican Representative Austin Harris of Moulton says it could be revived as an amendment to another bill still eligible for debate.  “We’ll see what future avenues exist moving forward, but today we’re just putting a pause on the bill,” Harris said. “…Nothing’s ever dead in this building.”

For several years farm groups have been lobbying legislators to enact some kind of limit to prevent agland from being acquired for public parks or recreation. Jake Swanson is a lobbyist for the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association.  “The government should not be competing against constituents for land at auctions,” he says. “The bill codifies current DNR practice.”

Conservation and hunting groups oppose the bill, saying it would restrict the state’s ability to act on opportunities to expand public lands. Jim Todd of Boone testified against the bill during a subcommittee hearing.  “If you want your children and your grandchildren to stay in this state, then I don’t think anything should be done to impede…recreational opportunities and open land,” he said.

The bill passed the Senate at the end of February on a 30-to-17, with one Republican joining Democrats in opposing it.