Bipartisan push underway to increase Iowa REAP funding

Iowa’s Resource Enhancement and Protection program (REAP) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Among the most successful conservation initiatives in Iowa history, REAP has cumulatively distributed about $300 million to thousands of projects across the state. It is mostly funded through gaming revenues that go into the state’s Environment First Fund. In theory, REAP “is authorized to receive $20 million per year until 2021,” but the state legislature has never fully funded REAP to the authorized level. This year’s budget included $16 million for REAP, and Governor Terry Branstad kept that item at the same level in his draft budget for fiscal year 2015.

Today about three dozen non-profit organizations gathered at the State Capitol for the annual Environmental Lobby Day organized by the Iowa Environmental Council. I attended the event because I’m active in the IEC and in several of its member organizations. At a press conference organized by the IEC, four speakers emphasized the need to increase conservation funding: Republican State Senator David Johnson, Democratic State Senator Bob Dvorsky, Iowa Natural Resource Commission Chair Margo Underwood, and Rod Marlatt, executive director of the Fayette County Conservation Board. Dvorsky particularly emphasized his goal to secure $25 million in funding for REAP in the coming fiscal year, in honor of the program’s 25th anniversary.

Because REAP-supported projects are often popular locally, the program has mostly escaped the partisan divisions that have led to the demise of some state initiatives. Today the Iowa House approved a resolution celebrating the 25th anniversary of REAP. Remarkably, 96 of the 100 state representatives co-sponsored this resolution, which House Democrat Chuck Isenhart proposed. Now that they’re on record agreeing, “Iowans strongly believe that the Resource Enhancement and Protection Program is a successful venture worthy of the continued support of the General Assembly,” let’s hope they will put a lot of money where their mouths are. The $25 million in REAP funding has an excellent chance of clearing the Iowa Senate, since Dvorsky chairs the Appropriations Committee. Will the Iowa House go along? The many state lawmakers who spoke with Environmental Lobby Day exhibitors today included House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer and several members of the House Appropriations Committee.

After the jump I’ve posted background on the REAP program from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website, including a map showing how much REAP funding has gone to each of Iowa’s 99 counties. I also enclosed a press release from the Iowa Environmental Council, with highlights from speakers at the conservation rally.

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Iowa Rivers Revival - 3rd River Congress

Iowa Rivers Revival
3rd River Congress
Saturday, January 8, 2011
1-5PM
Izaak Walton League
4343 George Flagg Pkwy, Des Moines
FREE
& open to anyone interested in attending
EXHIBIT: $100/table
RSVP: rlehman@iowarivers.org; 515-202-7720 (name, address, phone, e-mail, and river(s) of interest)

Each River Congress continues to build and broaden the base of Iowa’s river community and strengthen river policy influence. The most important aspect of the Congress is to develop a statewide river network-a force of river supporters who communicate with policy leaders about the importance of water quality and river conservation. We continue to hear from Iowa legislators and Iowans alike that there is no voice for Iowa’s rivers – with your help, we can to change that!

IRR has recently retained lobbying services for the 2011 session. We are excited to be able to provide representation for Iowa’s rivers on the hill and better inform you about river policy issues during the legislative session.

Congress participants will learn about the 2011 legislative landscape and river priorities, and how we can work together to achieve those goals. The program will also highlight and discuss the economic value of rivers, and the need, importance and opportunities to expand a statewide river coalition. In 2008 River Congress participants helped draft a vision for the River Bill of Rights, we would like to revisit those principles each year to be sure they continue to be the goals and objectives for Iowa’s river advocates.

River Congress Links: www.iowarivers.org
River Congress Agenda
River Bill of Rights 2011
Legislative Agenda River Congress

Sponsors: Des Moines Izaak Walton League and the Raccoon River Watershed Association

Please share this invitation – the outcomes from the River Congress should reflect a range of river perspectives and experiences from across the state: River Advocates • Conservationists & Environmentalists • Watershed Groups • Farmers • Anglers • Community Leaders • Hunters • Recreationists • Outdoor Outfitters • Students • Teachers • Wildlife Observers • Concerned Citizens-anyone interested in water quality and river stewardship.

Please RSVP. We will be providing district-watershed specific information for each participant. It will be very helpful to have participants RSVP in advance to help prepare this information. We will enter each participant that RSVPs in a drawing for a door prize.

Rosalyn Lehman
Executive Director
Iowa Rivers Revival
PO Box 72, Des Moines, IA 50301
515-202-7720
rlehman@iowarivers.org | www.iowarivers.org

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The Nature of Iowa's Economy - Prof. David Swenson/Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

Professor David Swenson of Iowa State University is a regularly featured source in newspapers/reports across the state.  He recently penned an article on the economic benefits of conservation in the Iowa Heritage magazine – from Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.  You can find the piece after the jump, but a quick blurb:

When linking our natural resources with our economy, Iowans too often limit the discussion to recreation and tourism – sometimes casting nature as a mere springboard for commercial development. However, a healthy Iowa environment is not a means to an economic end, but rather the end itself – to which all sustainable economic activity must conform.

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Caring for the Cedar River - Kamyar Enshayan

Caring for the Cedar River

by Kamyar Enshayan – Cedar Falls City Council

This week, The American Rivers, a national river protection organization, chose the Cedar River among the top ten endangered rivers in America. The underlying causes are familiar: radically altered landscape, loss of wetlands, impairment of floodplains, federal policies encouraging farming practices that have degraded soil functions, too much fertilizer and pesticides, straightened out creek and streams, loss of fish and wildlife habitat, and overall loss of the capacity of the land to absorb, retain, process and release water.

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Funding for Clean Water - It's just common sense....

Nobody will dispute the fact that Iowa's distinct character and our quality of life are directly tied to our state's natural resources. Iowa's land is the most heavily altered in the nation. Agriculture plays an INCREDIBLY important role in the state's economy and clean water touches everyone – in the form of drinking water, water to recreate in, and water to feed our crops/livestock. Iowa's parks and lakes receive more than 25 million visits each year, and our fertile soil provides the backbone to our economy.

It's time to get engaged and start motivating the public about this important resource.

The issue goes “hand-in-hand” with progressive priorities such as:

Farm to School
Local Foods
Sustainable Agriculture
Clean Water
Outdoor Education/Recreation
Climate Change

And many others.  This is an opportunity to engage the public on a meat and potatoes prioritiy for ALL Iowans.

DONATE HERE

Also, you can text the word 'LAUNCH' to 97063 to sign up and learn more!

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Environmental Issues, Progressive Activism, and Voter Turnout

With the historic 2008 Presidential elections well behind us it's time to turn to a discussion of how progressives will be mobilized in 2010.  As we've seen from recent Des Moines Register polling, being “progressive” isn't necessarily a Democratic or Republican issue.  It's a question of “getting things done”. 

Voters of all political stripes see major problems that need addressing and politicians of both political parties not fully meeting those needs.  As I mentioned in a recent diary, I'm the campaign manager for Iowa's Water and Land Legacy.  I believe that this particular ballot issue has the potential to be a rallying point for conservation voters of all political stripes this campaign season.  I will be making a series of posts in the coming weeks that will highlight organizations working on conservation issues throughout Iowa, and some national organizations as well.  If there are groups you are members of or are interested in learning more about please comment here or backchannel me at marklanggin [at] gmail.com.

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