Des Moines Register op-ed highlights importance of REAP in 25th anniversary year
05 Feb 2014 — 04:44 PM
This article written by Mayor John Kruse of Storm Lake, Iowa ran in the Des Moines Register February 4, 2014. Mayor Kruse was unanimously chosen to chair this year's REAP Congress, the culmination of a public participation process that involved more than 500 Iowans since late 2013.
Iowa View: REAP has important role in Iowa's natural resources, life quality
Legislature should fund program at $25M for its 25th year
Twenty-five years ago, in a bipartisan celebration of what is best about living in Iowa, the Legislature created and Gov. Branstad signed into law an innovative program to protect Iowa’s natural heritage for future generations. Iowa’s Resource Enhancement and Protection program, or REAP, has stood the test of time, providing more than $300 million to an incredible diversity of projects.
Wildlife habitat, clean water and the quality of life for residents in Storm Lake, where I am proud to serve as mayor, are very important to me. That’s why I am a strong supporter of REAP and believe the Legislature should fund this program at $25 million for its 25th year.
In light of what REAP provides Iowans, it has inspired tremendous loyalty among people across the state. At last count, 37,000 of us pay a premium for REAP-themed license plates on our vehicles, many with the iconic goldfinch on a wild rose design.
Last fall, through a unique public participation process, more than 500 Iowans took part in regional REAP assemblies, with 90, including me, chosen as delegates for the REAP Congress that makes recommendations about the future of the program to the Iowa Legislature.
My own experience with REAP began in the early days of the program when I worked with Ducks Unlimited to protect land at Kiowa March, just east of Early, Ia. On this project and others since, I have learned that the timely availability of funds is critical to whether a conservation project can succeed.
Conservation projects often involve multiple levels of government, along with private conservation organizations and community volunteers, all of whom have limited time and their own range of priorities. Because of all the hard work required to pull a project together, worthy projects can be upended by a lack of available funding when the time is right.
Unfortunately, since its inception 25 years ago, the Legislature has never funded REAP at its authorized level. The consequence is that many worthy projects to conserve soil, protect clean water, provide recreational opportunities and improve wildlife habitat have been left unfunded.
We can do better. That’s why, in its report to the Legislature which was delivered last week, the REAP Congress recommended that lawmakers seize the moment for clean water and wildlife habitat for future generations by providing the program $25 million for its 25th anniversary year. The delegates, recognizing the critical need Iowa has for more resources for soil and water conservation, also reiterated their support for funding Iowa’s Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, which 63 percent of Iowans voted to create in 2010.
By its design, REAP is uniquely suited to help conservation and outdoor recreation projects in Iowa succeed. Some resources are directed to all 99 counties, and some are available through competitive grants. Urban and rural areas benefit.
Many different types of conservation, recreation and historic preservation projects benefit from REAP. Iowans respect the REAP process — so much so that in 25 years, the formula used to distribute funds has never been changed. How many other government programs stand the test of time that well? Not many.
Iowans are proud of our communities, and we share a sense of urgency about seizing the moment to complete conservation projects that strengthen our communities. Iowa faces serious challenges from continuing habitat loss and declining water quality, and we know REAP helps address these challenges, too.
We value our state’s natural heritage and we feel a sense of responsibility for passing on clean water, productive soils and a healthy environment for future generations.
Right now, we all have the opportunity to turn this vision into reality by encouraging lawmakers to show support for REAP this year.
Sunken Grove State Game Management Area
Frog at Kiowa Marsh, area protected through efforts of REAP
Butterfly at Kiowa Marsh
All images by Hugh Perry of Storm Lake.