Area residents and agricultural and conservation representatives met at the Shenandoah Public Library on December 5 to discuss the benefits of Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) funding and possible future directions.
Michelle Wilson, Executive Officer of the Iowa DNR, started with an explanation of how much money is allocated to REAP, and where it all goes. According to Wilson, the annual allocation amount is supposed to be $20 million, but the program has never actually received that allocation in the 30 years the program has been around. In REAP’s best years, it has been allocated $18 million, but usually, it seems more like $12-$16 million. It also sees a small amount, about $400,000 annually from the sale of REAP license plates.
Whatever gets allocated and the DNR receives the $400,000, added together, then divided among the REAP programs by a formula:
• $350,000-Conservation Education programs (CEP);
• 1percent-REAP Administration;
• 3 percent-Roadside Vegetation;
• 5 percent-Historical Resource
• 9 percent-State Land
Management;• 15 percent-City Parks
and Open Spaces;
• 20 percent-Soil and
• 20 percent-County
• 28 percent-State Open
Wilson and the other presenters said, as a rule, there are far more projects in each of these divisions than there is money to fund them. Additionally, the REAP program is set to “sunset” in 2021, for the first time since its inception. During the fall of 2019, REAP assemblies like this one are being held across the state for local areas to discuss the citizen fund.
Wilson and Daniel Case, Environmental Specialist, Watershed Coordinator with Iowa Department of Agriculture, Tony Toigo, Planner, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Brad Riphagen, Field Coordinator, Trees Forever, took turns explaining how each of the above divisions spent their allocated amount.
The CEP gives out grants twice per year. Funds are used for things like the wildlife camps being held at area parks, the purchase of an educational water conservation trailer, and the purchase of a fleet of kayaks and a trailer.
Roadside Vegetation funding goes to state and local governments to manage roadside vegetation and native plantings, and the Department of Transportation administers it. It may also pay for roadside vegetation management personnel.
The Historical Resource Development Program provides grants twice yearly to individuals, businesses, and nonprofit organizations and agencies for projects. Project funding is administered by the Department of Cultural Affairs and must be in one of three categories: historic preservation, library and archives, or museums. These funds have been used locally to help fund the Todd House and other historical society projects.
The City Parks and Open Spaces funding is often used for the building and development of parks and trails. These grants are available to cities.
Soil and Water Enhancement funds are divided in half, with half being divided among the 100 soil and water conservation districts in Iowa, and half going to targeted projects by landowners and farmers. The funds may be used to pay the salary of a watershed coordinator. Potential projects include things like reforestation, rearing ponds, soil conservation practices, wildlife habitat preservation, and protection of highly erodible soils like the Loess soil found locally.
County Conservation funds go to county conservation boards for use in projects like land easements, capital improvements, stabilization and protection of resources, environmental education, and more. The Fremont County Conservation Board generally uses these funds for maintenance and improvement of the roadside camping park, the archery range and Pinky’s Glen.
State Open Spaces funds generally go for acquisition and development of public lands and waters for recreation and hunting and fishing access. These properties purchased with REAP funds pay property taxes to the county, and Wilson said last year the DNR paid about $630,000 in property taxes across the State of Iowa. Wilson stated positively that the DNR only acquires land from willing sellers and has no quota of land purchases to fill. One-tenth of this funding is used to partner with private organizations and nonprofits for the creation of recreational land or protecting natural resources.
Wilson passed around breakdowns of how REAP money has benefited Fremont and Page counties since 1990. In Fremont County, nearly $2.5 million in REAP allocations have been used over the last 30 years.
In Fremont County in 2019:
• the conservation board received $7,591 in 2018 from the County Conservation fund (2019 amount not received yet);
• $20,656 was received in property taxes from State Open Spaces;
• Waubonsie State Park added a latrine in the equestrian area for $44,000 from State Open Spaces funding, and
• $7,764 was used for forestry and native vegetation practices from the Soil and Water Enhancement fund.
Attendees were asked to divide into groups to discuss how REAP has benefitted or hurt outdoor recreation, natural resource conservation, conservation education, and historic preservation locally and what direction they’d like to see taken over the next five years. Most groups agreed there was no downside to REAP, but said more funding was needed and that there was not enough awareness of the funding sources available.
The group chose five delegates and two alternates from those present and some people who were not present but suggested by attendees. These delegates will attend the REAP Congress at the Capitol in January to represent the interests of this area.
Wilson reminded everyone that REAP money spent on the ground is multiplied in use and said outdoor recreation, a large part of which is funded by REAP, is one of the largest industries in the state and country, producing billions in consumer spending and employee wages, and millions in state and local tax revenue.