Governor Ray's legacy lives on in INHF's work
Since his passing on July 8, Governor Robert Ray has rightly been remembered for his leadership, vision and compassion in making Iowa a better place. Part of that legacy was his creation of Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation in 1979 to serve as a new way to get more conservation done in Iowa.
I was nine years old when INHF was created by Gov. Ray. I was busy being a kid, fishing and playing in creeks in north central Iowa. I had no idea that an organization was being launched that would help protect and restore the thing I loved — nature.
Some years after INHF was founded, Gov. Ray remembered the creation of a new model to deliver conservation in Iowa: “Gerry Schnepf [INHF’s first president] was the one who first brought the idea to me. It didn’t take me long to jump on it and say ‘I think we’ve got the seed of a great opportunity.’ And so the idea was to develop a method by which the public sector could work with the private sector where they would trust the people and would not hesitate to convey their property and preservation to the private concern.”
INHF has grown in ways that would have been hard to imagine in 1979, thanks to leaders like Gerry Schnepf and Mark Ackelson. Now, nearly 40 years later, I am blessed to be a part of such a wonderful organization.
Gov. Ray was a man that brought people together to find solutions. He knew Iowa needed to do more for conservation, and he found a way to make it happen. As our state faces more threats to our natural resources and increasingly extreme weather events, his action, courage and vision should serve as a model for our current leaders.
His passing is a melancholy moment, but we can see his legacy everywhere. On the landscape, there is healthier farmland, more wetlands, more parks, more natural areas for wildlife and outdoor recreation because of his foresight. INHF is here because of him, and we are forever grateful. Thank you, Governor Ray.