Iowa Department of Natural Resources

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Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Iowa DNR logo
Agency overview
Formed 1986
Headquarters 502 East 9th Street,
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0034[1]
Employees 1,170
Agency executive

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (Iowa DNR or IA DNR) is a department/agency of the U.S. state of Iowa charged with maintaining state parks and forests; protecting the environment; and managing energy, fish, wildlife, land resources, and water resources of Iowa.

The Mission Statement: To conserve and enhance our natural resources in cooperation with individuals and organizations to improve the quality of life for Iowans and ensure a legacy for future generations.


The DNR was created by the 71st General Assembly in 1986 under Terry E. Branstad, member of the Republican Party of Iowa, by combining four previous state agencies: Water, Air, and Waste Management; parts of the Iowa Energy Policy Council; the Iowa Conservation Commission; and the Iowa Geological Survey Organization.[2]

Commissioners of the DNR since its formation in 1986 were

  • Larry J. Wilson, 1986-1999, Chief of Iowa Conservation Commission[3][4]
  • Paul Johnson, 1999–2000[4] M.S in Forestry[5]
  • Lyle Asell, 2000 (acting),[4] B.S. Fish and Wildlife Biology,[6]Governor Vilsack
  • Jeffrey R. Vonk, 2001-2006, Wildlife Management, B.S. Forest Biology.[7]
  • Richard Leopold, 2007-2010, naturalist[8]
  • Roger Lande, 2010-2012, lawyer[9][10]
  • Chuck Gipp, 2012-present, dairy farmer[10]


The DNR has 1,170 full-time equivalent employees.[11] It is headed by a governor-appointed director, which as of May 2012 has been Chuck Gipp.[11] The DNR has three service divisions: Conservation and Recreation, Environmental Services and Management Services.

There are two governor-appointed citizen commissions that decide on policies and administrative rules: the Natural Resource Commission that oversees fish, wildlife, parks and forestry issues; and the nine-member Environmental Protection Commission that oversees water, land and air quality issues.[11]

Environmental Protection Commissioners[edit]

Of the nine commissioners, at least 5 members have been identified based on public records, to have a conflict of interest when it comes to stricter environmental protections, particularly the enforcement of the Clean Water Act. [12]

  • Nancy Couser owns feedlots and confinements housing 5,200 cattle.
  • Cindy Greiman, whose husband owns feedlots and confinements housing 3,794 cattle.
  • Brent Rastetter owns two confinements housing 9,200 hogs and is the CEO of Quality Ag Builders Inc., a company that builds confinements and manure pits. He is a major Branstad campaign donor.
  • Max Smith owns a hog gestation factory farm that houses 4,117 hogs.
  • Gene Ver Steeg, former president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, owns confinements housing 20,000 hogs and had a manure spill at one of his operations in fall 2013. An April 2013 Wall Street Journal article quoted him saying Clean Water Act regulations were a waste of money.

Environmental Services[edit]

As of 2013 it consisted of five bureaus: Water Quality, Air Quality, Land Quality, Field Services and Compliance, and Iowa Geological and Water Survey.[11] As of 2014, the latter no longer appears in the DNR organization chart,[13] as its eight scientists became part of the Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research (IIHR) Hydroscience & Engineering at the University of Iowa.[14] Field Services staff inspect permitted facilities, annually reviewing permits for more than 200 confined animal facilities, approximately 5,500 manure management plans, permitting more than 450 solid waste facilities and writing more than 2,000 air permits.[11]

Conservation and Recreation Services[edit]

The division assists in wildlife population surveys, provides conservation information to the public, and conducts hunter, boater, ATV and snowmobile safety programs. The division formerly consisted of seven bureaus: A 'Fisheries Bureau', a 'Wildlife Bureau' managing 356,000 acres (1,440 km2) of public land for recreational use, a 'Forestry Bureau', a 'State Parks Bureau' a 'Land and Waters Bureau', an 'Engineering Services Bureau' and a 'Law Enforcement Bureau' where conservation officers enforce laws related to fish, wildlife, boating, snowmobiling and all-terrain vehicles. As of 7/2014, there are only six bureaus, because the Engineering Services Bureau and the Land/Waters Bureau merged.[13]

Forestry Bureau[edit]

It provides technical assistance to Iowa tree, forest and prairie owners and businesses with forestry and prairie management planning, cost-share programs and education. The bureau manages more than 40,000 acres (160 km2) of forests for timber, wildlife, watershed protection and recreation. It operates state nurseries in Ames, Iowa and Montrose, Iowa producing 4 million tree and shrub seedlings annually at low cost to the public for erosion control, wildlife habitat and reforestation.

Parks Bureau[edit]

The 'Parks Bureau' operates and maintains 84 parks and recreation areas with trails and cabins for camping, picnicking, swimming, boating and fishing.[15] It is responsible for more than 90 state preserves set aside for their natural or cultural significance and supervises programs in recreation planning and resource protection.


The department receives less than 1 percent of the state’s general tax appropriations since it was founded, "routinely ranking among the lowest states in per capita spending on environmental protection".[10] The DNR's annual budget as of 2013 was $213 million. Of that, only 6.7 percent is appropriated from the state general fund with the remainder from sources such as non-general fund appropriations, fees and federal funds. The general fund is critical, with about 35 percent used to leverage federal dollars and more than 50 percent used for state parks and state forests operation. The remaining 15% serves to bridge other funding sources that make up the operating budget.[11]

Criticism and lawsuits[edit]

In 2011, three environmental groups sued the US EPA to bring DNR's Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) program into compliance with the Clean Water Act.[16]

Due to DNR's continued non-enforcement of the Clean Water Act, the Des Moines Water Works declared its intent to file a lawsuit against three Iowa counties Buena Vista, Sac, and Calhoun county where groundwater water tests had shown nitrate levels as high as 39.2 mg/L, which was 4 times the federally required Safe Drinking Water Act limit of 10 mg/L.[17]


  1. ^ Iowa DNR. "Contact Us". Iowa Department of Natural Resources. 
  2. ^ Iowa DNR (2010). "Law Enforcement Bureau 2009 and 2010 Report" (PDF). Iowa DNR. p. 2. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  3. ^ Jim Mayer (July 1986). "FOREST AND STREAM". Cedar Rapids Gazette. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c Iowa Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit (6 October 2007). "Celebrating 75 Years of Research Excellence 1932 - 2007" (PDF). Iowa State University. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  5. ^ Agricultural Research Service (January 2004). "Agricultural Research Service 50th Anniversary". U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  6. ^ Iowa DNR (3 March 1999). "Three tapped for top DNR jobs". DNR News. Thompson Environmental Consulting, Inc. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  7. ^ South Dakota Governor's office (n.d.). "Secretary Jeff Vonk - Governor Staff Biographies". South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Park. Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  8. ^ Perry Beeman (17 August 2010). "Iowa DNR director Leopold resigns to take federal wildlife job in Minnesota". Des Moines Register (Des Moines Register). 
  9. ^ ROD BOSHART (14 December 2010). "UPDATE: Branstad names Muscatine lawyer to head Iowa DNR; Findley joins staff". Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier, (Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier). Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c Perry Beeman (13 May 2012). "Iowa DNR director Roger Lande has resigned; deputy Chuck Gipp apparently to succeed him". Des Moines Register (Des Moines Register). Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f Iowa DNR (24 January 2013). "Get to Know Us" (PDF). Iowa Department of Natural Resources. p. 4. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  12. ^ Hugh Espey (8 June 2014). "Iowa View: DNR needs tougher clean water rules". Des Moines Register. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Iowa DNR (July 2014). "Iowa DNR Table of Organization" (PDF). Iowa DNR. Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  14. ^ Hydroscience & Engineering (5 June 2014). "Iowa Geological Survey at IIHR". University of Iowa. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  15. ^ Iowa DNR (n.d.). "State Parks & Rec Areas". Iowa DNR. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  16. ^ Perry Beeman (18 August 2011). "Environmental groups sue EPA, move to take water quality authority from Iowa DNR". Des Moines Register (Des Moines Register). Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  17. ^ The Register’s Editorial (26 January 2015). "Good things could flow from water lawsuit". Des Moines Register. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 

External links[edit]