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GREEN LOBBY: Groups gather at the statehouse to ask lawmakers to fund conservation projects

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Environmental groups gathered at the statehouse to lobby for funds as part of Environmental Lobby Day. Organizers are asking lawmakers to think about natural resources when deciding on the Iowa budget.

You'll find success stories around the state when it comes to protecting Iowa's natural resources. Rosalyn Lehman with Iowa Rivers Revival says, "In Charles City, they had two devastating floods in '99 and 2008. They had the opportunity to put up levees and keep the river out, and they chose an alternative route. They chose to embrace the river and look at projects to bring folks to the river and reconnect that community."

Lehman says state money helped fund that project, and she wants to see similar ones around Iowa. She says, "For the past two years, Iowa Rivers Revival has been advocating for $1 million for state appropriation for river restoration and dam mitigation projects."

She joined about a dozen other groups for Environmental Lobby Day to talk about issues ranging from water quality to local food programs. Iowa Environmental Council Executive Director Marian Riggs Gelb says, "Iowa is a great place to live. We have a lot of really wonderful resources here. And, it's time we got serious about taking care of those resources."

Her group wants lawmakers to restore funding to the Division of Soil Conservation and stop cutting money from the Department of Natural Resources' budget...something lawmakers say could be difficult this year. State Senator Dick Dearden, Democrat, says, "Some of my colleagues are really trying very hard to at least keep it at minimum status quo."

Riggs Gelb says funding conservation projects won't just help the environment. She says, "Whether they're societal benefits of recreation, good health and meeting our economic development needs."

Lehman says, "When you're investing in rivers in the community, you're investing in economy, you're bringing in tourists, visitors to the area." The Iowa REAP, or Resource Enhancement and Protection Program, also held its Legislative Lobby Day today.

The groups will find it out if they get funding for their projects when the budget is passed, which should be in the next few weeks.