Let's Face Facts on Rain Forest

Albert Jagnow

Iowa City Press-Citizen

April 8, 2004

It seems strange that an "Environmental Education" project would begin by filling in wetlands and a flood plain. With such insight and planning, the rain forest project is sure to be a colossal failure ("Readers support, criticize rain forest," April 1). With rising prices for gasoline and energy in general, tourism will be less and operation costs will be increased.

We need to face the facts. Iowa does not have a large enough population base to support such a project. The dollars spent to try to recreate and maintain a rain forest could be better spent on our schools. Every day, we hear of school districts that are cutting programs, increasing class size, or laying off teachers because they do not have sufficient funding.

So far, it seems that the only support for the project is coming from those who stand to benefit financially from it. The Iowa Environmental/Education Project would seem to be the equivalent of a family spending $10,000 to purchase a large screen, high-definition, plasma TV when they don't have enough income to pay the rent or to buy groceries. Sure, it would look nice in the living room, but it would not be a wise use of funds. We need to take care of the necessities first and leave the frills for later.

Note that Iowa already has an excellent environmental education facility in the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and Prairie Learning Center located in Jasper County, just east of Des Moines. Although it may not have the glitz value of a rain forest, it is a valuable existing resource and can be used to teach environmental education in a setting that is appropriate to the state and to the local climate.

Albert Jagnow
North Liberty