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For the first time in nearly 40 years, Iowa saw a net loss of forested land. High prices for corn and soybeans in 2012 drove much of Iowa’s woodland losses.

The state’s recent decision to dissolve Iowa’s Bureau of Forestry should be disconcerting to all Iowans.

Maintaining a visible and strong forestry bureau is important to ensure sound forest conservation and management across the state. Iowa’s 3 million acres of forests and trees provide a diverse and important range of benefits and services to Iowa’s citizens and tourists including wildlife habitat, cleaner air and water, recreation opportunities, increased property values, timber, and wood products, among others.

Through outreach and cooperative programs, the Bureau of Forestry supports and enhances these vital benefits; and, ultimately, promotes the ecological and economic health of communities of all sizes across the state.

Despite the bureau’s excellent work with farmers, landowners, towns and residents, Iowa’s forests, trees and waterways are in trouble. For the first time since the 1970s, Iowa’s forests are being depleted faster than they are being replanted; they lost 192,000 acres from 2009-2013, according to the U.S. Forest Service’s most recent five-year inventory.

Compounding this rapid loss of forests is an already growing threat from invasive pests and an increasingly costly problem with water quality for drinking standards and recreation. Perhaps now more than ever, Iowa needs to focus on investing in the health and sustainability of its forest and tree resources.

Iowa has had more great conservation leaders than any other state in the country. Some examples:

  • “Tama” Jim Wilson wrote the letter authorizing…