REAPing the benefits

Funding for natural resources discussed at Grimes Farm

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS
Iowa DNR and county conservation staff, along with interested citizens from Marshall, Hardin, Tama and Poweshiek counties, converged at Grimes Farm and Conservation Center Thursday for the Resources Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Region 6 meeting. REAP projects, programs and funding were discussed, and delegates were selected for the statewide REAP Congress in January of 2018.

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS Iowa DNR and county conservation staff, along with interested citizens from Marshall, Hardin, Tama and Poweshiek counties, converged at Grimes Farm and Conservation Center Thursday for the Resources Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Region 6 meeting. REAP projects, programs and funding were discussed, and delegates were selected for the statewide REAP Congress in January of 2018.

Each year, the Iowa State Legislature funds a program that helps maintain and improve natural resources and cultural amenities: the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) fund.

“For a program in our state that’s run through our legislature and through our people, our citizens, 28 years is a really amazing thing to keep going strong,” said Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Executive Officer Jerah Sheets at the REAP Region 6 meeting Thursday at Grimes Farm and Conservation Center. “REAP has a very strong connection with a number of our communities, our counties, our citizens, our everyday folks for being able to enjoy our quality of life.”

The region includes Marshall, Hardin, Tama and Poweshiek counties, each of which was represented by conservation staff and citizens at the meeting. Regional meetings are held every other year, and a total of 18 take place in the space of two weeks.

Among the participants Thursday was Marshall County Conservation Director Mike Stegmann.

“The REAP program has benefited Marshall County through the years, through the allocations per county and per population,” Stegmann said. “Those moneys are used to supplement needs; for example, we utilized them in the construction of the (Grimes Farm) Nature Center here.”

He said REAP funds have also helped with special equipment purchases and the acquisition of special lands.

“Any funding source that is present is a huge piece to our operations,” Stegmann said.

County conservation is one part of the REAP funding pie, receiving 20 percent of the amount allocated to REAP by the legislature annually.

Funding for the program can go as high as $20 million, but usually doesn’t hit that mark. The most recent amount given to REAP was $12 million. Every year, the first $350,000 must go toward conservation education, and 1 percent toward REAP administration costs.

Regardless of the total amount of money given to the fund, REAP is divided up the same way every year. Roadside vegetation gets 3 percent of REAP funds, historical resource development gets 5 percent, state land and management gets 9 percent and city parks and open space gets 15 percent.

Along with county conservation, the soil and water enhancement slice gets 20 percent, and open space gets the biggest chunk, at 28 percent. Each piece of the REAP pie is then further divided into various programs and projects by cities, counties and the state.

During Thursday’s meeting, participants were able to share their counties’ experiences with REAP, and asked questions to DNR and conservation staff about programs. From prairie restoration to water management, the group was able to learn more about what projects are funded through the program.

Each area of REAP funding was explained to the group. Tama County Conservation Director Bob Etzel said the funding formula, unchanged since its establishment in 1989, should stay the same.

“The way to go is to fully fund REAP; if you fully fund REAP, then everybody will get a larger portion of dollars to help with their efforts,” he said. “Rather than the coalition falling apart and fighting for pieces of the pie, it’s more important to drive the issues to fund it adequately.”

After discussion about how the funds should be used moving forward, delegates were selected to represent the regions in the REAP Congress, scheduled for January of 2018.

The delegates selected for Marshall County were Jeremiah Manley and Mark Hayes. They are set to attend the statewide congress and help make recommendations to Gov. Kim Reynolds, the legislature, and the natural resource commission on resource enhancement and protection.

From 1989-2017, Marshall County has been allocated $2,130,212 in REAP funds. For more information on the program, go to www.iowadnr.gov/Conservation/REAP

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com