Landowner Rights Challenged in Iowa

Submitted by: Mike Sorensen

Friends of Iowa Landowners & Sportsmen

The state of Iowa has long been known to be home to world-class levels of whitetail
deer, consistently being ranked as one of the top 3 states in the country. However,
with that reputation and what is a natural environment for its deer herd, all is not
well in Iowa these days.

To understand the issues that Iowa’s deer herd has been causing, you only need to
listen to local citizens and businesses that have had to deal with increasing levels
of property and crop loss. These issues are not uncommon to many other states, but
may be compounded by Iowa’s own hunting law.

Despite an aggressive plan initiated in 2003 to reduce the deer herd by increasing
the number of anterless permits for Iowa residents, there continues to be much debate
within the state on the success of this aggressive campaign. A stalemate on this issue
within the state legislature led Iowa’s governor Chet Culver to form a Deer Advisory
Committee this past year. Their mission is to evaluate the state’s present deer management
plan as well as assess the economic value of the deer herd in Iowa.

A group of landowners that has long been left out of Iowa’s deer management plan are
out of state landowners, many who are native Iowans. In February of 2008 a grassroots
group of Iowa non-resident landowners from across the country helped to form the non-profit
organization, “Friends of Iowa Landowners & Sportsmen.” Our website is www.friendsofiowa.com.

The mission of Friends of Iowa Landowners & Sportsmen is to “create a healthy
and diverse environment that will benefit wildlife, landowners and sportsmen alike.”
Friends of Iowa Landowners & Sportsmen believe that for Iowa to have a successful
deer management plan it must include all landowners. Involving all landowners will
help to improve the quality deer herd that Iowa has been known for, as well as control
the population of its herd effectively.

Due to its increasing economic appeal and recreational value, Iowa farmland attracts
a great deal of interest from out of state. Iowa land ownership has changed dramatically
since the mid 1980’s when out of state land ownership was 6%; today, Iowa’s out of
state land ownership is over 20%. In addition, the generational transfer of landownership
from Iowa landowners to non-residents has the potential of increasing this ownership
even greater over the next few years.

Iowa’s choice to exclude non-resident landowner hunting opportunities in the past
may have been well suited for the state at that time. However, today with declining
farmland due to urbanization, declining CRP habitat and an increasing amount of land
that is being owned by non-residents, is Iowa’s deer management plan of the 1980s
& ’90s suited for today?  

With a growing investment by non-residents, excluding this large economic landowner
group from being able to actively participate in their own land and wildlife management
could have major implications for Iowa and its landowners.