Story County has been blessed with many Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) grants over the years. No less than nine communities have won grants to improve parks and local trail systems. Several communities have scored multiple REAP grants to fund ongoing development projects. Communities compete against other communities their size for grants in large, medium and small categories. Although still not at the full $20 million funding level allowed by the original REAP bill, the legislature did bump the funding up several million dollars for the 2013 round of grants.

Community and county conservation REAP grant proposals are due to the IDNR on Aug. 15, but each grant must include comments from the local REAP committee. The local committee plans to meet to review grant proposals from Story County communities on Monday afternoon, July 15. Committee members have years of experience in reviewing these grant proposals and have seen dozens of them. The committee may make suggestions on how the individual grants might be strengthened before the formal copies are submitted to the IDNR. Written comments will be prepared for each grant, demonstrating how the grant proposal helps to meet goals indentified in the Story County REAP plan.

Communities that may be considering a grant proposal should deliver several draft copies of the grant to the conservation center at McFarland Park by 5:30 p.m. on Monday, July 15. A representative of the community submitting the grant may wish to stay to discuss the proposal with the REAP Committee, but having a person there isn’t required. Unlike some competitive grants, REAP grants can fund up to 100 percent of a project’s expected cost. There’s still time to pull a grant proposal together, but it’s getting short.

Last year’s drought is but a dim memory as we continue in an excessively wet pattern this spring and early summer. Last year’s dry weather wasn’t good for crops, but it was good for ground nesting birds like the few pheasants that were still around. There was some population recovery where habitat existed to support them. Although it’s early for brood counts, it’s likely that this will be another down year. The amount and frequency of recent rains that have kept farmers out of the fields have almost certainly drowned out many pheasant nests, too. We have had wetter years in the recent past, though. I hiked around Jim Ketelsen Greenwing Marsh just east of Ames and was surprised to find the old prairie pothole wetlands holding very little water. They held water well into the summer only a couple of years ago.

There is still time for renesting to occur if the weather settles down. The number of eggs laid will be fewer than in their first nest attempt. A few will lose their second and even third nest attempts to predation, mowing and additional storms. If enough second attempts succeed, it’s possible that pheasant populations may at least hold their own. Very late nest attempts in July and August may hatch a few chicks, but they seldom mature enough to survive the first blasts of winter; especially if winter comes a little early.

The bluebirds nesting just outside our kitchen window have hatched four little ones! The wrens have raised their first brood and moved into one of the other bluebird boxes to raise their second. I sometimes try to discourage wrens from using bluebird boxes, but felt it was better to let them keep busy with that nest rather than risk having them pierce the eggs and try to take over the active bluebird nest as they sometimes do. I’ll remove the bluebird nest, the day the little ones fledge and see if the parents will renest in the same box one more time this summer.

(Steve Lekwa is a retired director of Story County Conservation.)