INHF Welcomes Newest Ackelson Fellow

By CJ Younger on August 16, 2021 in Blog


Ryan Smith

Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) is pleased to introduce 2021 Mark C. Ackelson Fellow Ryan Smith.

Smith’s conservation interests began in his youth, growing up on his family’s farm in Mitchellville, IA. Now, after graduating from Drake University Law School, he is looking forward to putting his law degree and passion for Iowa’s outdoors to work.

“I’m leaving a legacy for my kids and for Iowa— helping make the changes that need to happen,” Smith said. “I think we accomplish that by being willing and open to sit down with someone, listen to them and introduce ideas that meet them where they are.”

Conservation has always been a part of Smith’s life — his family manages farms across Central Iowa using sustainable practices. After earning two music degrees (a B.A. in Music Performance from Iowa State University and a Master’s in Music Therapy from University of Iowa), 20 years in sales and four kids, Smith recently returned to his conservation roots, first as an INHF legal intern in the summer of 2019 and now as INHF’s Ackelson Fellow.

Smith will work with staff to help develop an advocacy network system and meet with stakeholders across the state to discuss Iowa’s natural resource and outdoor recreation programs. He will also work with staff and partners to create a campaign for keeping grassroots advocates informed and engaged throughout the legislative session.

“INHF’s mission is near and dear to my heart,” Smith said. “My grandpa worked on conservation issues and he would always tie it back to the land. We are a part of the environment, not separate from it.”

The fellowship was endowed by INHF in honor of its former president, Mark C. Ackelson, who devoted his career to protecting and restoring Iowa’s land, water and wildlife. Fellows work alongside INHF staff and partners to communicate the importance of natural resource protection to legislators and constituents.