Iowa is suffering from an alarming brain drain. Iowa loses more of its single, well-educated adults than any state besides North Dakota. Investments in quality of life improvements, outdoor recreation, and water quality are critical to attracting and retaining the best & the brightest employees. This is also a key to keeping our kids in rural Iowa – working in our small towns and on our farms. Iowa’s Resource Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP) is a vital piece of a new economic development strategy for rural, and urban, Iowa.
According to Iowa States Center for Agriculture and Rural Development 2007 study, “natural resources can be effectively used as part of an economic development strategy and that quality of life due to amenities at the community level can play an important role in local and regional economic growth policy.”
Iowans are increasingly relying on local parks, trails, and outdoor areas as key sources of recreation. As our economy struggles, local residents are increasingly opting to stay closer to home. As a result, interest in local parks, trails, and outdoor recreational opportunities increases.
Iowa will lose over 250,000 acres of key wildlife habitat over the next few year – reducing opportunities for hunting, fishing and wildlife watching. In addition, over 500 of Iowa’s waterways are impaired – lakes, streams, and rivers where our children swim, fish, and get their drinking water. These waterways are also vital habitat and sources of water for pheasants, ducks, geese, and numerous other birds and wildlife.
According to the Iowa State University CARD study, “Even though Iowa was not endowed with a stretch of the Rocky Mountains or a sandy ocean beach, the state still offers considerable natural resources and opportunities for outdoor recreation. Among these opportunities are a large number of state parks, state forests, rivers, streams, lakes and trails that offer a variety of recreational and wildlife-related opportunities.”
Iowa’s REAP program offers a great opportunity to invest in wildlife as a way to bring tourism dollars to Iowa.