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Iowa Press #2725 - Paul Johnson
February 20, 2000

BORG: AT THE IOWA STATEHOUSE, BOTH REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS SAY PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT IS THE TOP LEGISLATIVE PRIORITY. WE'LL LOOK AT THE REPORT CARD WITH THE DIRECTOR OF IOWA'S DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES, PAUL JOHNSON, ON THIS EDITION OF IOWA PRESS.

FUNDING FOR IOWA PRESS WAS PROVIDED BY FRIENDS OF IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION. AND BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS. AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA; THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.

THIS IS THE SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 20th EDITION OF IOWA PRESS. HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: PAUL JOHNSON HAS DIRECTED THE DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES FOR JUST OVER A YEAR NOW. HIS APPOINTMENT BY GOVERNOR TOM VILSACK SIGNALED TO MANY THAT THE DNR WOULD BE TAKING A MORE ACTIVIST ROLE IN PROTECTING IOWA'S AIR, LAND, AND WATER. MR. JOHNSON IS A FARMER AND ACKNOWLEDGED ENVIRONMENTALIST. HE'S NO STRANGER, EITHER, TO STATEHOUSE POLITICS. AS A STATE LEGISLATOR BETWEEN 1984 AND 1990, MR. JOHNSON OFFERED IOWA'S LANDMARK GROUND WATER PROTECTION ACT, WHICH HAS SERVED AS A MODEL FOR OTHER STATES IN THEIR ENVIRONMENTAL CLEANUP. MR. JOHNSON'S TRACK RECORD OF LAND AND WATER STEWARDSHIP ALSO EXTENDS TO THE FEDERAL LEVEL. HE SERVED AS CHIEF OF THE USDA'S NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE. PAUL JOHNSON, WELCOME COME BACK TO IOWA PRESS.

Johnson: THANK YOU.

Borg: YOU'RE NO STRANGER HERE AND THE PEOPLE ACROSS THE TABLE YOU KNOW, AS WELL. DAVID YEPSEN OF THE DES MOINES REGISTER AND KATHIE OBRADOVICH OF THE LEE NEWSPAPERS.

Obradovich: MR. JOHNSON, DEAN MENTIONED A REPORT CARD A LITTLE EARLIER. WHAT LETTER GRADE WOULD YOU GIVE THE ENVIRONMENT IN IOWA. YOU'VE BEEN AROUND A LONG TIME; WHAT'S BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE?

Johnson: WELL, WE TEND TO FOCUS ON THE PROBLEMS AND, OF COURSE, WE HAVE A NUMBER OF PROBLEMS IN THE STATE, ALL THE WAY FROM ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH ANIMAL CONFINEMENT SYSTEMS TO, STILL, A GREAT DEAL OF SOIL EROSION, FOR EXAMPLE, STILL TRYING TO CLEAN UP UNDERGROUND STORAGE AND THINGS FROM MANY YEARS AGO. ON THE OTHER HAND, WE'RE SEEING IMPROVEMENTS AS WELL. IOWA'S WATER, ALTHOUGH WE'RE FOCUSING ON IT AGAIN BECAUSE WE REALIZE IT'S NOT PERFECT YET, HAS IMPROVED SOMEWHAT OVER THE YEARS. IOWA HAS GOOD AIR QUALITY, ALTHOUGH, AGAIN, WE'RE CONCERNED ABOUT MAKING SURE THAT IT CONTINUES TO DO SO. SO I'D HATE TO GIVE IT AN ACTUAL GRADE OTHER THAN I'M GLAD THAT I LIVE IN IOWA.

Yepsen: WELL, LET'S GET AT SOME OF THESE ISSUES. WE WERE TALKING EARLIER THAT FEW AGENCIES GET INTO MORE THINGS THAN YOUR AGENCY, AND SO WE'VE GOT A LOT OF QUESTIONS ABOUT A LOT OF THOSE THINGS. THE FIRST ONE IS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, THE EPA, HAS SAID WE'VE GOT 159 ENDANGERED WATER WAYS. YOU AND THE GOVERNOR HAVE SAID THAT MEANS WE'VE GOT TO ACT. WHY SHOULDN'T THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CLEAN THOSE UP? IF THEY THINK THEY HAVE A PROBLEM, THEN WHY SHOULDN'T THEY BE PAYING FOR THE CLEANUP?

Johnson: THIS IS IOWA'S HOMEPLACE. THIS IS NOT WASHINGTON'S HOMEPLACE; IT'S NOT DES MOINES' HOMEPLACE. IT BELONGS TO ALL OF IOWA, AND I THINK THAT WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY AS WE LIVE AND WORK ON THE LAND ACROSS THIS STATE TO TAKE GOOD CARE OF IT. AND SO IT DIDN'T HAPPEN BECAUSE OF SOMETHING THAT SOMEBODY ELSE DID TO US VERY OFTEN; IT HAPPENED BECAUSE OF THE WAY WE LIVE. IOWA'S AN INTERESTING STATE; IT'S WORKING LAND. EVERYWHERE WE LIVE ON IT AND WE WORK ON IT, AND SO OUR WATER AND OUR AIR DEPEND ON HOW WE LIVE. WE HAVE TO TAKE AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THAT. WE CAN'T TURN TO WASHINGTON AND HAVE THAT DONE; WE HAVE TO DO IT AT HOME.

Yepsen: CAN WE MAKE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAPPY?

Johnson: WELL, I DON'T THINK THAT SHOULD BE THE ISSUE. I THINK THE ISSUE SHOULD BE WHETHER OR NOT IOWANS ARE HAPPY, AND NOT ALL IOWANS ARE, AND THEY HAVE REASON NOT TO BE IN SOME CASES.

Borg: ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT THE THREAT OF AN IMPENDING DROUGHT COMING UP NOW THIS SUMMER COULD EFFECT IOWA'S WATER QUALITY, PARTICULARLY THOSE CITIES THAT GET DRINKING WATER FROM THE RIVERS?

Johnson: YES. WE OFTEN SAY THE SOLUTION TO POLLUTION IS DILUTION. WELL, YOU HAVE TO HAVE A LOT OF WATER TO DILUTE. NORMALLY IOWA DOES; WE'RE A WELL-WATERED STATE. WE HAVE OVER 50,000 MILES OF RIVERS AND STREAMS IN THIS STATE, AND WHETHER OR NOT WATER QUALITY IS GOOD DEPENDS ON WHETHER OR NOT WATER CONTINUES TO FLOW THROUGH IT. SO ANY TIME WE HAVE A LACK OF WATER, A DROUGHT, IT NOT ONLY HURTS CROPS THAT GROW AND SO ON, BUT IT ALSO MAKES POLLUTION ISSUES.

Borg: BUT IS IT SUCH A THREAT, THE DRINKING WATER QUALITY, THAT YOU ARE TAKING SOME MEASURES TO DEAL WITH IT?

Johnson: WELL, WE CERTAINLY ARE CONTINUING, IN FACT, WE'RE INCREASING OUR EFFORTS RIGHT NOW TO TRY TO DEAL WITH THE MAJOR CAUSES OF WATER POLLUTION IN IOWA, WHICH ARE WHAT WE CALL NON-POINT-SOURCE POLLUTION PROBLEMS: NUTRIENTS, PESTICIDES, FERTILIZERS, THINGS LIKE THAT. AND IN FACT, WE'VE PROPOSED A VERY MAJOR EFFORT THIS COMING YEAR TO GET MUCH MORE INTO HOW WE FARM THE LAND AND HOW WE LIVE ON THE LAND.

Obradovich: WHAT ABOUT THE QUALITY OF THE AIR? WE'D HEARD SOME REPORTS IN THE MEDIA, EVEN EARLIER THIS WEEK OR MAYBE LAST WEEK, ABOUT THE LEVEL OF MONITORING THAT HAS BEEN DONE OVER THE PAST DECADE. HAS ENOUGH MONITORING BEEN DONE AND, IF NOT, WHAT SHOULD BE DONE ABOUT THAT?

Johnson: FIRST OF ALL, IOWA HAS VERY GOOD AIR QUALITY OVERALL. ON THE OTHER HAND, IOWA HAS NOT BEEN MONITORING WHAT WE CALL AIR TOXICS, THESE ARE VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS, THINGS SUCH AS BENZINE, AND THINGS LIKE THAT ARE --

Obradovich: WHY NOT?

Johnson: WELL, BECAUSE WE HAVEN'T HAD TO, AND AS I UNDERSTAND IT, IN THE PAST THE ISSUE WAS BROUGHT UP AND THE IOWA ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION COMMISSION CHOSE NOT TO GO AHEAD WITH IT. WE THINK WE SHOULD GO AHEAD WITH IT. THE GOVERNOR PUT TOGETHER A TASK FORCE A FEW MONTHS AGO THAT INCLUDED BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY, ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS, THE DNR, THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, THE DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, AND THEY JUST ISSUED A REPORT THAT SAID THAT WE REALLY OUGHT TO FOCUS A LOT MORE ON THESE ISSUES. SO THEY'RE PROPOSING CERTAINLY MODELING AN INVENTORY OF WHERE THESE THINGS MIGHT BE. THESE ARE VERY OFTEN IN MANUFACTURING AREAS.

Obradovich: HOW HIGH A PRIORITY IS THAT AT THIS POINT? IS AIR REALLY -- YOU SAID IT'S PRETTY GOOD. IS WATER MORE OF A PRIORITY, REALLY, AT THIS POINT?

Johnson: NO, I THINK THEY BOTH ARE. AND AIR IS CERTAINLY A PRIORITY IF YOU LIVE IN AN AREA WHERE WE THINK THEY WE MIGHT HAVE SOME PROBLEMS. SO OUR GOAL IS TO FIX PROBLEMS WHERE THEY ARE. IF YOU ARE ON A FARM A LONG WAY FROM ANY FACTORY, CHANCES ARE AIR TOXICS ARE NOT QUITE AS IMPORTANT AS THEY ARE IF YOU'RE IN A MAJOR INDUSTRIAL PART OF IOWA.

Yepsen: SOIL CONSERVATION. HOW BAD IS THE EROSION PROBLEM IN IOWA?

Johnson: IT'S WORSE THAN IT SHOULD BE. WE'VE MADE PROGRESS OVER THE YEARS. IN FACT, THE PAST TEN TO FIFTEEN YEARS WE'VE PROBABLY REDUCED SOIL EROSION IN IOWA BY ALMOST A THIRD. THIS EFFORT BEGAN BACK IN THE '30s, AND WE CAN ALL PICTURE WHAT IT MUST HAVE BEEN LIKE BACK THEN. WE'VE MADE GREAT PROGRESS BETWEEN '85 AND '95. WE'VE SORT OF LEVELED OFF NOW. IN SOME CASES WE'RE SLIPPING IN SOME OF THE TILLAGE SYSTEMS THAT WE DO. BUT WE'VE COME A LONG WAY, AND I THINK THAT WE PROBABLY NEED A GREATER EFFORT AT THIS POINT TO KEEP THAT PROGRESS GOING.

Yepsen: IS THAT SOMETHING THAT'S DONE AT THE STATE LEVEL, OR IS THAT SOMETHING WE HAVE TO LOOK TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO DO, PARTICULARLY IN THE FARM BILL AND HOW WE ENCOURAGE FARMERS TO FARM OR NOT TO FARM?

Johnson: BOTH. WE HAVE SOME FEDERAL PROGRAMS THAT ASSIST FARMERS IN DOING THIS, AND SOME OF US ARE WORKING VERY HARD TO LOOK AT THE NEXT FARM BILL AS, PERHAPS, A PRIVATE LANDS CONSERVATION BILL. WE'VE DONE A LOT OF CONSERVATION IN THIS COUNTRY IN PUBLIC LANDS, IN PARKS, AND IN FORESTS. AND WE'VE DONE A LOT OF REGULATORY WORK THROUGH OUR CLEAN-WATER ACT AND CLEAN-AIR ACT AND SO ON. BUT THE VAST AREAS IN BETWEEN, WHICH ARE FARMLAND, WE'VE DONE VERY LITTLE, OR WE HAVE NOT COMMITTED A LOT. MANY OF US ARE WORKING AT TRYING TO MAKE SURE THAT THE NEXT FARM BILL PUTS A LOT GREATER EFFORT INTO PROVIDING ASSISTANCE TO PRIVATE LANDOWNERS.

Obradovich: ONE OF THE PROGRAMS THAT YOUR DEPARTMENT HAS PROPOSED WOULD, IN FACT, BE WORKING TO GET MORE FARMERS TO VOLUNTEER TO PLANT VEGETATION ALONG AREAS THAT YOU DON'T WANT TO BE CONTAMINATED WITH FARM RUNOFF OR WHERE YOU'RE WORRIED ABOUT EROSION, I THINK YOU CALLED THEM BUFFER STRIPS. ONE OF THE QUESTIONS THAT HAS COME UP IN THE LEGISLATURE HAS BEEN THAT FARMERS ARE ALREADY WELL AWARE OF THESE PROGRAMS AND HAVEN'T BEEN SIGNING UP. HOW CAN YOU GET MORE OF THEM TO GET INVOLVED IN THAT?

Johnson: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, THEY HAVE BEEN SIGNING UP. IOWA LEADS THE NATION RIGHT NOW IN THE ESTABLISHMENT OF VEGETATIVE BUFFERS ALONG RIVERS AND STREAMS AND ON THE CONTOUR AND SO ON. SO WE HAVE A PROGRAM OF ABOUT 160,000 ACRES NOW IN IOWA, THAT IS, ONE OUT OF EVERY FIVE FARMERS IS TAKING PART IN THIS PROGRAM. OUR GOAL IS TO GET FOUR OUT OF FIVE OR FIVE OUT OF FIVE. THE PROGRAMS ARE THERE; THE MONEY IS AVAILABLE. WE THINK THE WAY TO DO THAT IS TO GET OUT AND SELL IT. YOU KNOW, THOSE WHO WANTED TO COME THROUGH THE DOOR AND ASK FOR THE PROGRAMS HAVE ALREADY DONE SO. TO GET IT REALLY APPLIED ACROSS THE LAND, YOU'VE GOT TO GO OUT AND SELL IT. COCA-COLA DOESN'T ADVERTISE ONCE A YEAR; THEY ADVERTISE EVERY DAY, AND THEY DO IT IN MANY, MANY WAYS. I MEAN THEY RAM IT DOWN YOUR THROAT, THAT THIS IS A GOOD DRINK AND WE OUGHT TO DRINK IT, AND MANY OF US DO. WE THINK THE SAME NEEDS TO BE DONE IF WE'RE TALKING ABOUT VOLUNTARY CONSERVATION. WE'VE DONE GOOD VOLUNTARY CONSERVATION, BUT WE HAVE NOT BEEN PROACTIVE. WE HAVEN'T GONE OUT AND REALLY KNOCKED ON DOORS AND SAID, YOU KNOW, THIS IS GREAT, DO IT.

Obradovich: IS THAT WHAT YOU'RE PLANNING TO DO?

Johnson: THAT'S RIGHT. THAT'S WHAT THE WHOLE WATER INITIATIVE THIS TIME AROUND IS FOCUSING ON, TO DRAW DOWN ON THOSE FEDERAL PROGRAMS.

Yepsen: AT WHAT POINT, MR. JOHNSON, DO WE QUIT THIS BUSINESS OF THIS KINDER, GENTLER APPROACH OF TRYING TO PERSUADE FARMERS AND BUSINESSES TO DO THESE THINGS? I MEAN THE ENVIRONMENT HAS BEEN AN ISSUE FOR YEARS; SOIL CONSERVATION HAS BEEN AN ISSUE FOR YEARS. IF SOME FARMER IS OUT THERE FOLLOWING THE SOIL CONSERVATION PRACTICES THAT POLLUTE, WHY SHOULDN'T WE CRACK DOWN ON THIS GUY? WHY DO I AS AN URBAN DWELLER DRINKING THE WATER HAVE TO PUT UP WITH HIS NITRATES IN MY WATER?

Johnson: YOU HAVE A GOOD POINT AND, IN FACT, WE'RE MOVING IN THAT DIRECTION. AND WHAT WE'RE TELLING FARMERS RIGHT NOW IS THAT GET WITH THE PROGRAM AND GET REALLY PROACTIVE ON IT. AND BY THE WAY, MOST FARMERS HAVE. WE'VE ALWAYS HAD A PROBLEM WITH BAD ACTORS, WHETHER THEY BE IN BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY OR IN AGRICULTURE. IN BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY, WE NOW HAVE A PROGRAM TO SAY GET WITH IT OR ELSE. IN AGRICULTURE I THINK THAT'S COMING. WHAT WE'RE SUGGESTING TO FARMERS IS GET THOSE BUFFERS OUT THERE, IF FOR NO OTHER REASON, TO BE A BUFFER BETWEEN A REGULATORY APPROACH, WHICH WILL BE COMING, WE BELIEVE.

Obradovich: ISN'T THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ONE OF THE STICKS THERE AGAIN IN THAT IF IOWA DOESN'T TAKE CARE OF IT, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MIGHT COME IN WITH MORE STRINGENT REGULATIONS?

Johnson: YES, AND IN FACT, THERE'S A BIG DISCUSSION OF THIS RIGHT NOW. BACK IN 1972 WITH THE CLEAN-WATER ACT, WE LAID OUT A FAIRLY STRICT PROGRAM FOR BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY AND FOR MUNICIPALITIES. WE HAVE WASTE WATER TREATMENT FACILITIES TODAY THAT DO A MUCH BETTER JOB. WE HAVEN'T TAKEN THAT STEP FOR WHAT WE CALL NON-POINT-SOURCE POLLUTION, WHICH IS THE DIFFUSED POLLUTION THAT COMES OFF OF RIVERS AND STREAMS IN YOUR BACKYARD.

Yepsen: I HAVE A RECREATION QUESTION. WE HAVE SEVERAL RECREATION QUESTIONS FOR YOU. THERE'S LEGISLATION PENDING UP THERE TO GET TOUGHER ON DRUNK BOATERS. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?

Johnson: WE SHOULD. WE'VE HAD SOME -- WELL, WE DON'T NEED TO CONTINUE TO TALK ABOUT THE FACT THAT BOATS ARE -- THEY'RE WONDERFUL PLEASURE VEHICLES, BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, WHEN WE'RE INTOXICATED, WE SHOULDN'T BE DRIVING, OR WE SHOULDN'T BE RUNNING THESE BOATS. WE'VE TRIED FOR YEARS TO PASS LEGISLATION, AND WE'RE TRYING AGAIN THIS YEAR.

Borg: THE QUESTION ARISES AS TO WHY HASN'T IT BEEN DONE BEFORE?

Johnson: WELL, THAT'S A GOOD QUESTION. I THINK WE'RE ABOUT THE ONLY STATE IN THE UNION THAT DOESN'T DO IT. WE CONTINUE TO ASK THE LEGISLATURE TO GIVE US THE AUTHORITY TO DO THAT.

Obradovich: SAFETY IN THE LAND, RECREATIONAL LAND IN IOWA, HAS ALSO BEEN AN ISSUE UP AT THE STATEHOUSE. THERE'S BEEN SOME DISCUSSION ABOUT SOME REORGANIZATION BY THE DNR OF ENFORCEMENT IN PARKS. AND SOME QUESTIONS HAVE COME UP ABOUT WHETHER PARKS WILL BE SAFE IF OUR RANGERS ARE ELSEWHERE. THERE'S QUESTIONS ABOUT WHETHER RANGERS SHOULD BE ACTUALLY CARRYING SIDE ARMS. WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON THAT?

Johnson: WE'VE ASKED PEOPLE WHO USE IOWA PARKS OVER THE YEARS WHAT'S GOOD AND WHAT'S BAD ABOUT THEM. OUR PARKS ARE WONDERFUL, BEAUTIFUL PLACES, AND OVER THE PAST THREE OR FOUR YEARS, THE LEGISLATURE HAS ALLOCATED MONEY TO UPGRADE THEM TO RESTORE A NUMBER OF THE OLD FACILITIES. WE'VE DONE THAT VERY WELL. WHAT THEY'RE ASKING NOW IS THAT WE HAVE MORE INTERPRETIVE PROGRAMS, MORE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS. PARKS CAN BE VIEWED AS BEAUTIFUL PLACES WHERE YOU PARK YOUR WINNEBAGO, AND WHERE YOU HAVE A NICE, QUIET WEEKEND. AND THEY CAN ALSO BE VIEWED AS EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES WHERE YOU HAVE A LOT OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR OUTDOOR RECREATION AND OUTDOOR LEARNING ABOUT NATURE. WE'VE DONE A GOOD JOB OF THE FIRST PART. TO DO THE SECOND PART IS GOING TO REQUIRE SHIFTING SOME RESOURCES. IN THE PAST, WE'VE HAD A PARK RANGER, WHICH IS A PEACE OFFICER, IN EVERY PARK. VERY LITTLE OF THEIR TIME IS ACTUALLY SPENT DOING THAT. THE REST OF IT IS SPENT MOWING LAWNS AND PICNIC TABLES OR MAKING SURE THAT GETS DONE. BUT WE'VE WHAT WE HAVE SAID, GIVEN THE LIMITED RESOURCES WE HAVE RIGHT NOW, IS THAT LET'S PUT SOME OF THOSE EFFORTS TOWARDS INTERPRETIVE PROGRAM.

Obradovich: SOME PEOPLE ALSO VIEW PARKS AS MAYBE A NICE, QUIET PLACE TO DO CRIME AND GET IN TROUBLE AND HARASS OTHER PEOPLE. THAT'S PART OF THE CONCERN WE'RE HEARING UP AT THE STATEHOUSE. AND IF YOU HAVE FEWER PEOPLE AND MAYBE THEY'RE SPREAD OUT IN A WIDER ARRAY, ARE PEOPLE GOING TO BE ASSURED THAT THE FOLKS IN THE TENT NEXT DOOR AREN'T COOKING METH OR WHATEVER?

Johnson: YES, I THINK THEY CAN BE. FIRST OF ALL, WHEN YOU GO TO A PARK AND YOU SEE A PARK EMPLOYEE WITH A UNIFORM ON -- AND THEY ALL HAVE THEM -- YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW WHETHER THAT'S THE RANGER OR WHETHER THAT'S A TECHNICIAN. TECHNICIANS CARRY OUT THE RULES OF THE PARK AS WELL. IF WE HAVE A SERIOUS PROBLEM, A PARK RANGER DOESN'T PUT THE GUY IN HANDCUFFS AND TAKE THEM TO THE LOCAL JAIL; HE CALLS THE SHERIFF. THAT'S WHAT WE'VE ALWAYS DONE. SO WE REALLY THINK THAT WE CAN TRANSITION THIS, AND MAKE SURE THAT OUR PARKS ARE STILL VERY SAFE.

Yepsen: THE LEGISLATURE HAS DECIDED NOT TO INCREASE HUNTING AND FISHING LICENSE FEES, OR ALLOW YOU TO DO THAT. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT? IS THAT A GOOD IDEA, A BAD IDEA?

Johnson: WELL, WE ASKED FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO THAT. THE LAST TIME WE DID THAT WAS IN 1991. ALMOST ALL OF THE MONEY THAT WE USE TO PROVIDE HABITAT AND TO WORK ON PROVIDING HUNTING AND FISHING ACROSS THE STATE OF IOWA COMES FROM HUNTING AND FISHING LICENSES. A LITTLE BIT FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. BUT OUR STATE LEGISLATURE AND THE GENERAL FUND PUTS NO MONEY TOWARDS THIS, UNLIKE OTHER STATES. MISSOURI, FOR EXAMPLE, $80 MILLION A YEAR FROM THE GENERAL FUND THROUGH A SALES TAX GOES TO THAT. WE DON'T HAVE THAT HERE, SO WE DEPEND ON HUNTING AND FISHING LICENSES. WE HAVE A GOOD BASIC PROGRAM. WE FEEL WE HAVE OPPORTUNITIES TO EXPAND IT. FOR EXAMPLE, ALMOST ALL OF OUR LAND IS PRIVATE LAND IN IOWA, YET WE HAVE ALMOST NO PROGRAM GOING TO WORK WITH PRIVATE LANDOWNERS TO IMPROVE HABITATS SO THAT WE HAVE MORE PHEASANTS, AND I'M NOT GOING SAY WE WANT MORE DEER, BUT WE WANT MORE OPPORTUNITIES THERE. OUR STREAMS, THE HEALTH OF THOSE STREAMS DEPEND ON THAT NEIGHBORING LANDOWNER, WHETHER THEY HAVE A BUFFER IN AND THINGS LIKE THAT. AND SO, IF WE HAD THE FUNDS, WE COULD DO A LOT MORE OF THOSE THINGS, AND THAT'S WHY WE ASKED FOR IT.

Yepsen: ARE YOU WORRIED THAT IF YOU KEEP JACKING UP THESE FEES THAT FAMILIES AREN'T GOING TO BE ABLE TO USE OR STATE PARKS, THAT THE COST OF RECREATING GETS TO PROHIBITED?

Johnson: FIRST OF ALL, OUR STATE PARKS HAVE NO USER FEE; WE'RE NOT JACKING UP THOSE FEES AT ALL. IN FACT, MANY PEOPLE FEEL THAT WE, PERHAPS, OUGHT TO HAVE A PARK-USER FEE THAT WILL GIVE US THE FUNDING SO THAT WE CAN HAVE A LOT OF PARK RANGERS AND A LOT OF INTERPRETIVE PROGRAMS. WHEN IT COMES TO HUNTING AND FISHING, RIGHT NOW A FISHING LICENSE COSTS $10.50. THAT'S TWO HOURS OF WORK OUT OF A WHOLE YEAR TO MAKE SURE THAT WE HAVE OPPORTUNITIES OUT THERE FOR PEOPLE WHO HUNT AND FISH.

Yepsen: YOU MENTIONED DEER. BIG PROBLEM IN IOWA FOR FARMERS AS WELL AS FOR PEOPLE LIKE ME, BECAUSE THEY EAT MY HOSTAS.

Johnson: BIG OPPORTUNITY TOO, IF YOU HUNT.

Yepsen: WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT THIS DEER PROBLEM IN IOWA?

Johnson: WELL, WE'RE CONTINUING TO MANAGE THE DEER POPULATION BY HUNTING. HUNTERS ARE THE PREDATORS FOR DEER TODAY, AND WE'RE CONTINUING TO MANAGE IT. WE ADJUST IT THROUGHOUT THE STATE DEPENDING ON WHETHER THE POPULATION IS TOO HIGH OR OTHERWISE. IN SOME AREAS, SUCH AS IOWA CITY, FOR EXAMPLE, WHERE YOU DON'T HUNT, BUT THEY HAD TO ARRANGE THIS YEAR TO HAVE A HUNT AND, IN FACT, THEY REDUCED THE NUMBERS.

Yepsen: BUT A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T THINK YOU'RE DOING ENOUGH TO CULL THESE HERDS AND GET THIS POPULATION DOWN.

Johnson: THAT'S TRUE. THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE WHO WANT MORE. OUR JOB IS SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN TO TRY TO PROVIDE THOSE OPPORTUNITIES AND, AT THE SAME TIME, TRY TO KEEP THE NUMBERS DOWN TO WHERE THEY'RE TOLERABLE.

Obradovich: ANOTHER ISSUE THAT'S SORT OF AT THE EDGE OF THE NEWS RIGHT NOW IN THE LEGISLATURE IS THE ISSUE OF ELECTRICITY RESTRUCTURING. THEY'RE TRYING TO FIND WAYS TO OPEN THE STATE TO COMPETITION FROM OUTSIDE ELECTRIC GENERATORS. ONE OF THE BIG ISSUES THAT HAS STILL YET TO BE RESOLVED IS WHAT LEVEL OF RENEWABLE ENERGY WILL BE REQUIRED AND OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL REQUIREMENTS THAT WILL BE ON NOT ONLY COMPANIES IN IOWA BUT ONES THAT ARE TRYING TO SELL IN OUR STATE. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIG ISSUES THERE, AND WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE IN THE LEGISLATION?

Johnson: A YEAR AGO WHEN THIS LEGISLATION BEGAN, THE DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES WAS NOT EVEN AT THE TABLE, AND LEGISLATION STARTED MOVING THAT REALLY DID NOT HAVE STRONG PROGRAMS ON ENERGY EFFICIENCY, RENEWABLE ENERGY. WE'VE BEEN ENGAGED THE LAST YEAR. WHAT WE'RE PROPOSING IS THAT WE HAVE, FIRST OF ALL, THE RATES STABILIZATION, SO WHAT WE'VE BEEN SPENDING ON THE THESE THINGS IN THE PAST WILL NOT BE MORE AS WE GO TO RESTRUCTURING. AND THEN TO HAVE A STRONG PROGRAM OF, PERHAPS, 25 TO $35 MILLION A YEAR IN ENERGY EFFICIENCY; THAT'S WHAT WE'VE BEEN PUTTING IN IT. ON RENEWABLES, WE FEEL VERY STRONGLY THAT IOWA SHOULD HAVE A STRONG RENEWABLE PROGRAM. WE ALREADY RANK THIRD IN THE NATION IN WIND GENERATION, FOR EXAMPLE. WE'D LIKE TO ENCOURAGE THAT HOMEGROWN ENERGY.

Obradavich: THE BIG ARGUMENT, OF COURSE, IS THAT EVERY TIME YOU ADD A REQUIREMENT OR A MANDATE THAT THE COST TO RATE PAYERS TENDS GO UP. HOW MUCH ARE RATE PAYERS -- HOW MUCH SHOULD THEY BE WILLING TO ACCEPT, I GUESS, AS FAR AS A LITTLE ADDITIONAL COST WHEN IT COMES TO HAVING GOOD ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES?

Johnson: WELL, WE'RE PROPOSING THAT IT NOT GO UP OVER WHAT IT IS RIGHT NOW, BUT LET ME PUT THIS IN PERSPECTIVE. GASOLINE PRICES HAVE GONE UP CLOSE TO 40 CENTS IN THE LAST SIX MONTHS IN IOWA. IOWANS ARE NOW PAYING AT A RATE OF ABOUT 600 TO $800 MILLION MORE PER YEAR FOR GASOLINE TO RUN THEIR VEHICLES THAN THEY DID SIX MONTHS AGO. NOW, NONE OF US LIKE IT, AND YET WE'RE PAYING IT. EVERY ONE OF THOSE PENNIES IS LEAVING THIS STATE WITHOUT PRODUCING A SINGLE JOB, OR JUST ABOUT EVERY ONE. WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT HERE WITH ENERGY EFFICIENCY IS TO PUT THIS MONEY RIGHT BACK INTO IOWA SO THAT WE GET THE SAME SERVICES, WHETHER IT BE LIGHT OR HEAT OR DRIVING OUR MOTORS, OR ELECTRIC MOTORS, AND SPENDING LESS ON ENERGY THAN WE SPENT BEFORE SO OVER THE LONG HAUL, WE GET MORE JOBS IN IOWA BECAUSE OF THESE THINGS, AND WE HAVE MORE MONEY IN OUR POCKET WHEN WE'RE DONE.

Yepsen: THE LEGISLATURE HAS DECIDED NOT TO AUTHORIZE A DOVE HUNTING SEASON IN IOWA. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT? SHOULD WE BE ABLE TO HUNT DOVES IN IOWA OR NOT?

Johnson: MY POSITION HAS ALWAYS BEEN THAT THE PEOPLE OF IOWA OUGHT TO MAKE THAT DECISION.

Yepsen: SO YOU'RE GOING TO DUCK THAT ISSUE?

Johnson: I THINK WE HAD THIS LAST TIME, DIDN'T WE? WELL, I THINK THAT THE LEGISLATURE IS DOING WHAT THE PEOPLE OF IOWA WANT. WE IN THE DEPARTMENT TRIED OUR BEST TO INFORM LEGISLATORS ON THE FACT THAT YOU CAN HUNT DOVES WITHOUT HURTING THE POPULATION. ON THE OTHER HAND, YOU DON'T HAVE TO HUNT DOVES, UNLIKE DEER, AS WE JUST TALKED ABOUT. AND I THINK THE LEGISLATORS ARE LISTENING TO THE PEOPLE OF IOWA.

Obradovich: LEGISLATORS ARE ALSO LISTENING TO PEOPLE TALK ABOUT, YOU MENTIONED GAS PRICES, AND ONE OF THE ISSUES IS ETHANOL HERE IN THE STATE, OF COURSE, PRODUCED BY CORN. YOUR DEPARTMENT HAD A STUDY OUT THIS WEEK THAT SHOWED THAT A DIFFERENT KIND OF GAS ADDITIVE CALLED MTBE IS IN SOME OF THE STATE'S GROUND WATER. HOW SERIOUS IS THAT AND HOW IMPORTANT IS IT THAT IOWA MORE SEVERELY RESTRICT THAT PARTICULAR ADDITIVE?

Johnson: FIRST OF ALL, THE ADDITIVE IS THERE BECAUSE IT WAS THERE BACK IN THE '70S AND ON INTO THE '80S. IT WAS PUT IN GASOLINE AS AN ANTIKNOCK, WHEN WE REMOVED LEAD FROM GASOLINE. SO WE THOUGHT WE WERE SOLVING A PROBLEM, AND IT TURNS OUT THAT WE HAVE ADDED A PROBLEM. WE'RE FINDING IT WHERE WE HAVE THE LEAKING UNDERGROUND STORAGE TANKS; WHERE WE'RE STARTING TO PULL THOSE TANKS, AND WE'RE MONITORING WHERE THOSE LEAKS OCCURRED. WE ARE NOT USING IT IN THE STATE OF IOWA TODAY FROM WHAT WE CAN TELL, AND I'VE BEEN WORKING WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND LAND STEWARDSHIP THAT MONITORS THIS. WE THINK THAT WE'RE NOT USING IT. THERE WAS A BILL PROPOSED THIS WEEK TO ACTUALLY BAN IT. RIGHT NOW WE HAVE A RESTRICTION OF NO MORE THAN 2 PERCENT IN OUR GASOLINE --

Obradovich: IS THAT MORE ETHANOL PROMOTION THAN IT IS ACTUALLY IMPROVING THE STATE OF THE CURRENT LAW AT THIS POINT?

Johnson: WELL, PEOPLE ARGUE THAT IF THEY'RE NOT PUTTING IT IN THERE, THEN WHY THE BILL. ON THE OTHER HAND, IF THEY'RE NOT PUTTING IT IN, THE BILL DOESN'T HURT, AND WE HAVE A LITTLE MORE PRECAUTION THAT WAY. SO, IN TERMS OF ETHANOL, I GUESS WE, IN MANY CASES, OUGHT TO BE FORTUNATE THAT WE HAVE USED ETHANOL OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS, RATHER THAN A STATE LIKE CALIFORNIA WHERE THEY'RE FINDING SERIOUS PROBLEMS WITH MTBE. WE HAVE BEEN USING ETHANOL NOW INSTEAD OF THINGS LIKE MTBE.

Yepsen: MR. JOHNSON, YOU MENTIONED GAS PRICES A MOMENT AGO. YOUR AGENCY IS CHARGED WITH MONITORING THOSE PRICES IN IOWA. EVERYBODY IS PAYING MORE FOR GAS. HOW HIGH WILL IT GO? WHERE IS IT HEADED? HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?

Johnson: WELL, I GUESS YOU'RE GETTING BEYOND MY EXPERTISE HERE, ALTHOUGH, ENERGY IS NOW -- OIL IS NOW AS ABOUT $30 A BARREL NOW, I BELIEVE. I GUESS THERE'S SOME FEELING THAT IT PROBABLY, HOPEFULLY WILL LEVEL OUT PRETTY SOON AND QUIETLY GO DOWN. IT SEEMS LIKE GASOLINE PRICES SPIKE VERY RAPIDLY AND THEN SLOWLY WORK THEIR WAY BACK DOWN AGAIN AND THEN SPIKE AGAIN. WE'RE HOPING THAT THEY'LL START WORKING THEIR WAY DOWN. ON THE OTHER HAND, I THINK THAT WE SHOULD REMIND IOWANS THAT THEY CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS. WE CAN WORK TOWARDS MORE EFFICIENT VEHICLES THAN WHAT WE HAVE RIGHT NOW. WE'VE BEEN SLIPPING ON THAT PRETTY SEVERELY. IN IOWA, VEHICLE FLEET STATEWIDE IS PROBABLY ONE OF THE LEAST EFFICIENT IN THE NATION. WE HAVE A LOT OF PICK-UP TRUCKS.

Borg: LITTER IS ALSO AN ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEM, AND THERE'S SOME MOVE TO IN SOME WAY MODIFY, TO EXPAND OR DO AWAY WITH WHAT WE CALL THE BOTTLE BILL? HOW DO YOU FEEL?

Johnson: I DON'T THINK THAT WILL HAPPEN. ABOUT 80 PERCENT OF IOWANS SAY THAT THEY LIKE THE BOTTLE BILL. THERE'S ONE GROUP THAT WOULD LIKE TO SEE IT TRANSITIONED INTO SOMETHING ELSE. THERE'S ANOTHER GROUP EQUALLY AS STRONG THAT WOULD LIKE TO SEE IT EXPANDED. THERE ARE PERHAPS 200,000 BEVERAGE CONTAINERS –

Borg: BUT WHAT DOES PAUL JOHNSON FEEL?

Johnson: WHAT DO I FEEL?

Borg: YES, WHAT DO YOU WANT?

Johnson: WE CERTAINLY OUGHT TO KEEP THE BOTTLE BILL. I THINK IOWANS WANT IT AND WE OUGHT TO KEEP IT.

Borg: EXPAND IT?

Johnson: YES, I THINK THAT WE SHOULD TAKE A LOOK AT EXPANDING IT.

Obradovich: FOR YEARS THERE'S AN -- THERE'S BEEN AN OUTCRY IN THE STATE OVER LARGE-SCALE LIVESTOCK CONFINEMENT. THE GOVERNOR HAS PROPOSED, AGAIN, GIVING MORE LOCAL CONTROL TO COUNTIES TO REGULATE THESE THINGS. LAWMAKERS DON'T APPEAR TO HAVE ANY INCLINATION TO DO THAT. IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU THINK IS LIKELY TO BE DONE THIS YEAR DEALING WITH LARGE-SCALE HOG LOTS?

Johnson: WE'RE PROPOSING THREE OR FOUR PIECES OF LEGISLATION THIS YEAR ON IT. ONE IS TO GIVE US THE AUTHORITY TO BAN THESE FACILITIES ON 500-YEAR FLOOD PLAINS, WHICH IS A REAL PRECAUTIONARY EFFORT. DON'T PUT ANY MORE OF THEM OUT THERE WHEN WE HAVE ANOTHER '93 FLOOD; WE'RE GOING TO SEE WHAT HAPPENED IN NORTH CAROLINA. SECOND, WE FEEL THAT THERE'S A REAL NEED TO START LOOKING AT PHOSPHOROUS AS WELL AS NITROGEN. WE'RE STARTING TO SEE VERY HIGH LEVELS OF PHOSPHOROUS IN OUR SOILS IN IOWA, AND THAT'S PROBABLY GOING TO CAUSE SOME WATER IMPACTS IN THE FUTURE. RIGHT NOW WE BASE MANURE MANAGEMENT PLANS ON NITROGEN. WE THINK THERE SHOULD BE SHARED RESPONSIBILITIES BETWEEN VERTICAL INTEGRATORS, THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THESE FACILITIES OR WHO OWN THE HOGS, AND WE THINK THAT THEY OUGHT TO HAVE SOME RESPONSIBILITY.

Obradovich: IS THERE ANY SENTIMENT TO ACTUALLY DO ANY OF THOSE THINGS THIS YEAR?

Johnson: WELL, WE'LL KNOW WITHIN THE NEXT WEEK, I GUESS. THAT'S FIRST OF THE WEEK OF FUNNEL–

Yepsen: I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT BIKE TRAILS. A WHILE BACK THE LEGISLATURE MADE IT MORE DIFFICULT FOR THE STATE TO REQUIRE RIDE AWAYS TO BUILD BIKE TRAILS. THE FEELING WAS FARMERS MAY NOT WANT THEM. HAS THAT MADE IT MORE DIFFICULT? ARE WE HINDERING OUR RECREATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN THIS STATE?

Johnson: I THINK THAT BILL WAS UNFORTUNATE, THAT'S A PERSONAL FEELING, NOT BECAUSE WE USED IT SO MUCH BUT BECAUSE THERE WAS THAT OPPORTUNITY. I THINK IT MADE IT A LITTLE BIT EASIER FOR OUR COUNTY CONSERVATION BOARDS AND LOCAL GROUPS AS WELL AS THE STATE EFFORTS TO EXPAND OUR TRAIL SYSTEMS.

Obradovich: WE ALSO CAUGHT SOME CONTROVERSY OUT THERE ON ENVIRONMENT VERSUS ROADS. IN THE ENGELDINGER MARSH AREA, AND THE EDDYVILLE AREA, WE'VE HAD ENVIRONMENTAL SENSITIVE AREAS OR ENDANGERED SPECIES THAT HAVE HELD UP THE BUILDING OF INTERCHANGES AND ROADS. SOME PEOPLE DON'T LIKE THAT; SOME PEOPLE SAY WE SHOULD PROTECT THESE SPECIES AT ALL COSTS. WHERE DO YOU COME DOWN ON THAT, AND SHOULD THERE BE MORE OF A BALANCE?

Johnson: YES, THERE SHOULD. WE NEED BOTH AND, IN FACT, THE NEW HEAD OF THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, MARK WANDRO, AND I JUST MET THIS WEEK AGAIN, AND OUR DEPARTMENTS ARE MEETING TO SEE IF WE CAN'T MAKE SURE THAT WE DEAL WITH A LOT OF THESE ISSUES WAY IN ADVANCE RATHER THAN THREE OR FOUR YEARS DOWN THE LINE. WE THINK WE CAN HAVE BOTH. IN FACT, GO BACK TO 1933. DING DARLING BANK ROLLED AN IOWA CONSERVATION PLAN. ONE OF THE MAJOR ISSUES IN THAT WAS ROADS, THE FACT THAT MOST IOWANS RECREATE BY GETTING IN THEIR CARS AND GOING PLACES OR DRIVING, AND THOSE ROADS SHOULD BE PARKWAYS, AND WE SHOULD LOOK AT TRYING TO ENHANCE THEM. AND WE OUGHT TO WORK AT TRYING TO DESIGN THEM IN SUCH A WAY THAT THEY CAUSE AS LITTLE HARM AS POSSIBLE. AND NOT ONLY THAT, BUT YOU CAN ADD SOME DIVERSITY BACK ONTO LANDSCAPE.

Yepsen: MR. JOHNSON, WE'VE GOT JUST A MINUTE LEFT. I WANT TO ASK YOU, YOU'VE BEEN IN YOUR JOB A YEAR NOW. IS IT TIME TO BREAK UP THAT AGENCY? YOU DEAL WITH SO MANY DIFFERENT THINGS, AND WE TALKED ABOUT MANY OF THEM HERE TODAY. SOME PEOPLE SAY THERE'S A CONFLICT OF INTEREST, YOU CAN'T REGULATE AND PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT AT THE SAME TIME, YOU'RE PROMOTING ITS USE. DOES YOUR AGENCY NEED TO BE RESTRUCTURED?

Johnson: I THINK WE HAD THIS QUESTION LAST YEAR, AND I SAID GIVE ME A YEAR, SO I GUESS I HAVE TO ANSWER IT, DON'T I?

[ LAUGHTER ]

Johnson: I MORE AND MORE THINK THAT WE CAN WORK THESE THINGS TOGETHER. A YEAR AGO I WAS SUGGESTING THAT WE OUGHT TO HAVE AN ASSISTANCE DIVISION IN EVERYTHING AND A REGULATORY DIVISION. I THINK IF WE HAVE SUFFICIENT PEOPLE OUT THERE REGULATING, WE CAN HAVE A LOT MORE ASSISTANCE, AND I THINK THAT YOU NEED TO KEEP THOSE TOGETHER. I THINK WE HAVE SOME OPPORTUNITIES TO BRING MORE THINGS TOGETHER. FOR EXAMPLE, WE'VE SAID THAT YOU CAN'T HAVE HEALTHY FISHERIES IF YOU DON'T HAVE GOOD LAND. YOU CAN'T POLLUTE OUR WATERS AND HAVE GOOD FISHERIES. WELL, HOW ABOUT BRINGING WATER QUALITY AND FISHERIES MORE TOGETHER; DON'T KEEP THEM SO SEPARATE THE WAY WE HAVE OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS. I THINK WE HAVE WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITIES TO BRING THEM TOGETHER. I THINK WE NEED MORE PEOPLE IF WE'RE GOING TO DO IT WELL, BUT WE CAN DO IT.

Borg: WELL, WE NEVER HAVE ENOUGH TIME AND WE'LL HAVE YOU BACK AGAIN TO ANSWER NEXT YEAR'S QUESTIONS.

[LAUGHTER ]

Borg: ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF IOWA PRESS, OUR FOCUS CONTINUES ON THE IOWA STATEHOUSE, AND OUR SPOTLIGHT WILL BE ON EDUCATIONAL MATTERS. JOINING US ARE THE LEGISLATORS WHO CHAIR THE EDUCATION COMMITTEES IN THE IOWA GENERAL ASSEMBLY, THAT'S REPRESENTATIVE BETTY GRUNDBERG OF DES MOINES AND SENATOR DON REDFERN OF CEDAR FALLS, NEXT SUNDAY AT NOON AND 7. UNTIL THEN, I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.

FUNDING FOR IOWA PRESS WAS PROVIDED BY FRIENDS OF IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION. AND BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS. AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.