REAP Public Participation
REAP is special to Iowa --- and its many public involvement opportunities are some of the reasons that it is. As an Iowan --- you have several opportunities to help make the program all that it can be.
Perhaps what makes Iowa's REAP program unique from other similar efforts throughout the country is its many opportunities for people to get involved. Whether you have very specific or very broad interests in resource enhancement and protection, there are places in REAP's public participation elements for you to make a difference. If your "cup of tea" is rallying friends and neighbors to accomplish a small home town project, REAP offers an avenue for you. Or, you may be a person with ideas on how to improve the inner workings of REAP. If so, ways are available to discuss those ideas with other interested people and, if desired, submit them to state lawmakers, the Governor, and appropriate state agencies. Whether you get involved and the way you do so is totally up to you. One key to REAP's success is that opportunities exist for whatever way and level you decide is right for you.
The incorporation of public participation methods into REAP is a natural. After all, REAP was designed by a coalition of private conservation organizations and a few state legislators. Built-in public involvement assures that these and other organizations and individuals can continue to have an influence on REAP after being handed over to state government to fund and implement. Also, these early REAP pioneers realized that ongoing, active public support will be needed for the program to receive significant state funding in years to come. What better way to build public support for a program than to let private organizations and individuals help "fine tune" it? Because people throughout Iowa are actively involved in REAP, a sense of ownership has grown among them and they have a vested interest in seeing it succeed. Some individuals refer to this as a form of constituency building. REAP itself was purposely designed to have a large number and wide range of beneficiaries, or customers. It are these numbers and diversity that bring people together from all walks in life to support the program. By adding public participation opportunities to this beneficiary phenomenon, a very solid foundation is built for ongoing program stability.
Those of you that are involved in REAP are probably questioning just how solid this foundation is given the downward trend in funding for the program. Very real and significant state government budget woes have undoubtedly affected REAP. I often wonder and am glad to not know for sure where REAP would be, or better yet, not be today if it weren't for the many constituents that have been expressing sincere support for the program. Another good indicator of a solid foundation is the fact that REAP's original design has remained intact. When times get tough, it is easy to become vulnerable to being "divided and conquered." I often credit its many public involvement mechanisms for this not happening to REAP.
The ultimate REAP public participant is active on a County REAP Committee, attends REAP Assemblies, is a REAP Congress delegate, is in at least one of the REAP Alliance membership organizations, attends Alliance meetings, and does not miss an opportunity to chat with a state agency official and state legislators about REAP. Believe or not, there are a few people that do all these things. On the other end of the spectrum are people that are involved in only one element of REAP public participation. These people also play a very important role in REAP's success. And of course, we have a whole bunch of participants that fall within these two extremes. The most important thing to know and remember is that all Iowans can be somewhere on the spectrum ---- if they choose to be.
Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Wallace State Office Building, Des Moines, IA 50319