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Natural Resources Director Appears On Track For Confirmation After Senate Hearing

kayla lyon
John Pemble / IPR file
Iowa DNR Director Kayla Lyon speaks at the Iowa Capitol in 2019.

The new director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources appears to be on track to be confirmed to the post after a hearing in an Iowa Senate committee Tuesday.

Director Kayla Lyon, appointed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds last summer, described her career background to the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee.

She worked for the dairy industry, and lobbied for farmers and agribusiness, and worked for former Gov. Terry Branstad and Reynolds, and then worked as the lobbyist for Reynolds’ office.

“Yes, my background is in agriculture. I am proud of my agriculture roots,” Lyon said. “Iowa has a strong culture and heritage in agriculture, but that does not mean agriculture and natural resources cannot coexist. And they should, in order for agriculture in Iowa as a whole to be successful in the future.”

Reynolds appointed Lyon after the DNR lacked a permanent director for more than a year.

Some groups, including the left-leaning Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, have criticized Reynolds’ choice of Lyon to lead the DNR, saying they’re concerned about putting someone with strong ties to agriculture in charge of the state’s outdoor recreation, wildlife protection and drinking water.

But the top Democrat on the Senate Natural Resources Committee said Lyon’s ag background is not necessarily a negative.

“The criticism that has a little more traction is she does not have natural resource management experience,” said Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids. “Which is true, but I also don’t think we’re in a position where we can say that we cannot confirm her simply because of the lack of that experience, because it’s not necessarily the worst thing to have people from outside perspectives come in.”

Hogg commended Lyon for traveling around the state to learn about the DNR’s parks and programs. He was encouraged that Lyon said she’d be willing to meet with people affected by animal confinements built near their property, but also stressed he’d like to see the DNR director push for agency funding and water quality efforts.

He said right now, he does not see a basis for not confirming Lyon as DNR director, unless more specific concerns are raised about her. Hogg predicts Senate Democrats will vote to confirm Lyon.

Republicans control the Senate, but a two-thirds vote is needed to confirm the governor’s appointees. Democrats still hold enough seats to derail them.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter