By MATT MILNER
Courier staff writer
---- — FAIRFIELD — Area residents will have two opportunities to shape state policy on natural resources in the coming weeks.
The “REAP Assemblies” are being held at locations throughout Iowa. The REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) program is among the Iowa Department of Natural Resources' most wide-ranging efforts. It covers development and protection of the state's natural and cultural resources.
What that actually means changes with the funding, which derives from Iowa casino receipts and from the Iowa natural resource license plates. The total REAP budget this year was about $16.5 million.
The first $350,000 of the program's income goes to conservation education. Funding also covers soil and water enhancement, public land management and roadside vegetation, among other things.
Tammie Krausman, the IDNR spokesperson for the REAP program, said the meetings around Iowa are critical because REAP ties in so closely to the local communities. Cities and counties can receive funding, but individuals can as well.
Krausman gave an example of a farmer who needs to create a windbreak. The windbreak can help the farm, certainly, because it keeps topsoil in the field. But it also serves to keep that soil out of creeks and streams, improving those resources. If the farmer applies for funding to help with the windbreak, it would be considered.
“The cool thing about REAP is that it's locally driven,” she said. “What we're looking for is talking to people about outdoor resources and conservation.”
This year also sets up the biannual REAP Congress, which will meet in January. The congress will discuss REAP initiatives and help compile a report given to legislators and the governor as the 2014 session gets underway.
Krausman said the meetings also celebrate the 25th anniversary of the REAP legislation. So organizers are looking for people to talk about how REAP has had an impact on the areas in which they live.
“REAP has had an impact on every single county in the state,” she said. “And 25 years is a nice milestone.”
The first meeting is Oct. 24 at the Fairfield Library. That meeting is specifically aimed at getting feedback from Davis, Jefferson, Keokuk, Mahaska, Van Buren and Wapello counties.
A second meeting is scheduled for Nov. 6 at Honey Creek Resort State Park. That meeting focuses on residents of Appanoose, Lucas, Monroe and Wayne counties.