Johnson County Conservation Bond

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Although the precise language has not yet been determined, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors has voted to proceed with the preliminaries leading to a proposal for a $20 million bond issue on the November 4, 2008, ballot. What follows has been written as a support for that proposal. However, it is not a statement of the Steering Committee of the supporting volunteer organization, “Our Land, Our Water, Our Future,” the main Web site for which is http://landwaterfuture.org. — Nicholas Johnson

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The people would act today if the situation were clearly understood. The question is whether we do the right thing now or wait until the expense shall have increased a hundredfold. When . . . beauty will become an object of universal popular concern, and once again across the prairie state the clarified waters of a hundred streams will move in perennial freshness toward the great river and the sea.

— University of Iowa President Thomas Macbride, 1897, as quoted in Cornelia F. Mutel, The Emerald Horizon: The History of Nature in Iowa (2008).

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Our Land, Water and Future is an organization of sponsoring organizations and volunteers who support the conservation bond issue. Co-chairs Janelle Rettig (338-0999) and Dick Schwab (430-0130). Contributions toward the expenses of this public education effort may be payable to Our Land, Water and Future, P.O. Box 5125, Coralville IA 52241. For more information see http://landwaterfuture.org.

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Our land, our water, our future. Each depends on the others. Each depends on us.

Once crystal pure, drinkable, and filled with fish, today’s Iowa River is one of the state’s most polluted.

The answer? Protecting our drinking water, and our rivers’ watersheds, by preserving our existing green areas as wetlands, woodlands, wildlife habitats, parks, prairies and open spaces.

The bonus? In part this is a gift of land, clean air and water, and a reduced carbon footprint for our great-grandchildren. But as good stewards of the land we also benefit from public lands that increase our quality of life. Land that attracts and holds businesses. Land that gives us more room to hunt, fish, bird-watch, picnic and camp. Trails for hiking, jogging and bicycling. Land everyone can use.

The acquisition of parcels of land, or conservation easements, from willing sellers (not condemnation). Leveraging a small amount of public money with multiples of federal, state and private contributions – regularly audited. All for the price of one coffee a month.

Yes, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is a “best buy.” New York discovered this truth when its $5 million investment in Central Park (made 150 years ago) was appraised at over $500 billion today!

Iowa has many legitimate “brags.” The amount of preserved land is not among them. In fact, we’re in the bottom group of U.S. states.

One-eighth of the U.S. is public land. Costa Rica sets aside one-fifth of its land in nature preserves. England devotes 13% of its land just to “greenbelts” – circles of nature around major urban areas (1.2 million acres around London). Of the San Francisco Bay Area’s 4.5 million acres, 3.75 million acres are devoted to its greenbelt.

What would even the lower 13% mean in Iowa? 4.7 million acres; 47,000 acres in Johnson County. Iowa has a lot of catching up to do.

Sensible long range planning could envision a greenbelt surrounding the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids corridor someday. Until then, every individual parcel is a baby step toward that day – jewels of nature, our “emerald necklace” connected with trails.

It’s our land, water and future. We can do it. We must do it. If not now, when? If not us, who?

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