Last year we approved, and the Governor signed, legislation making the first Monday in April the day we officially recognize Iowans who, in the last year, have decided to permanently protect natural areas by donating land for Iowa's parks, open spaces, recreation areas and the enduring conservation of natural resources.
Their generosity results in some of the most important and enduring legacies that Iowans can leave for future generations. Their gifts improve Iowa's quality of life and become important assets to local economies.
On Monday, April 6, we'll be celebrating the first annual "Gift to Iowa's Future" recognition day at the State Capitol. Among those being honored are Clemencia and Martin Nolan of Weston, Florida, who donated the 160-acre Nolan Wetland in Keokuk and Washington counties.
The Nolans, a mother and son, donated a portion of their Iowa property's value through a bargain sale. The 160 acres of wetland are adjacent to a tributary of the English River and are enrolled in the USDA Wetland Reserve Program. This project expands and protects the English River Wildlife Area for additional public recreation and wildlife habitat. The property will be funded and managed by the conservation boards of three counties: Keokuk, Washington and Iowa.
Maintaining protections for abused kids
Even in tough economic times, it's crucial that we protect our most vulnerable citizens. For that reason, a special advocate program for abused and neglected children is likely to see a 2 percent increase this year.
The Iowa Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program recruits, trains and supports adult community volunteers who represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in court proceedings.
CASA volunteers serve as an effective voice in court for abused and neglected children, helping to ensure that each child is living in a safe, permanent and nurturing home. The Court Appointed Special Advocate's work includes investigation, assessment, facilitation, monitoring and advocacy.
For more information, go to http://childadvocacy.iowa.gov/CASA.aspx.
Let's show appreciation for Iowa's volunteer emergency workers
Rural Iowa communities rely on volunteers for many of their emergency services and often have difficulty recruiting qualified people because of the extensive commitment.
The Senate Judiciary Committee recently passed a bill that would prohibit employers from firing an employee for their volunteer work as a firefighter, reserve peace officer or emergency medical care provider. The emergency services volunteer would also be protected if they were to be late to work or miss work because of volunteer duties.
By taking this step, we're recognizing the valuable service of our emergency volunteers and encouraging more Iowans to take on these duties without fear of losing their jobs.
This is a legislative column by Senator Tom Rielly, representing Iowa, Poweshiek, and Keokuk counties, and portions of Mahaska and Tama counties.
To contact Senator Rielly during the week, call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. On weekends he can be reached at home at 641-673-0359. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.