National Park Reserve designation causes controversy in western - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

National Park Reserve designation causes controversy in western Iowa's Loess Hills

The Loess Hills sits on more than 640,000 acres of land in Western Iowa. The rolling hills are a land mass many want to preserve, saving the scenic and natural values of the area for generations to come. To do that, The Loess Hills Alliance is requesting the land be designated a National Park Reserve.

In 2002, a study published by the National Park Services acknowledged the Loess Hills contain resources of national significance, but said the land did not reach the requirements to be included in the National Park System.

"We are suppose to look at something and say, does it look the way it use to look? Can you see the whole range of the Loess Hills as they were initially formed in that millennium. And, no you don't," said Sandra Washington, Associate Regional Director for the National Park Services.

Nearly 12 years later, the push to earn a National Park Reserve designation is heating up again; but this time, the Loess Hills Alliance is requesting the land be designated as a National Park System affiliate. It's a request that has families living in the Loess Hills concerned, some who've called the area home for more than a hundred years and they don't want to be forced out.

"My family has lived here for over 150 years and my concern is what would happen in the future," said resident David Maule.

"Our farm has been in the family since 1878, so it's very important to me that it stays in the family," said resident Bo Fox.

Last week landowners and operators got together to discuss the proposed reserve designation. Republican Representative Matt Windschitl also addressed the crowd. He said calls have flooded the Capital, but Governor Branstad has decided not to take a side on the issue. However, that's not the case for the Iowa representative.

"I still have that bad feeling in my gut, we just cant trust the federal government right now. There's just this huge lack of understanding of how it would affect us now and how it would affect us in the future," said Representative Matt Windschitl, (R) Missouri Valley.

The Loess Hills Alliance says the designation would provide additional funding and program assistance to landowners, who would still retain ownership of their private property.

"That's where our concerns come in, because one entity tells us one thing, and then we talk to another entity and find out through the National Park Service that there is no funding," said resident Bo Fox.

However, the National Park Service says any decision to move forward with a designation could be a long ways off. In order for the Loess Hills to gain a National Park designation, Congress would have to bring up the issue and vote in favor of it, and the President would have to sign off on the legislation. There is no indication at this point that Congress plans to bring it up.

KTIV tried to get in touch with the Loess Hills Alliance, but were unable to reach them.

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