Great Lakes soil
and water conservation districts face growing responsibilities
Report calls for $80 million boost
in regional conservation funding
The Great Lakes Commission
Ann Arbor, Mich. -- An additional
$80 million a year is needed to adequately protect and
manage the soil, water quality and related natural resources
of the Great Lakes basin, according to a
newly released analysis of Great Lakes conservation districts.
The report, compiled by the National Association
of Conservation Districts (NACD) and the Great Lakes Commission,
provides a look at the changing role of conservation districts
in improving and managing the natural resources of the
Great Lakes basin, along with an assessment of what they
need to carry out that mission.
"Local conservation districts are at the
forefront of the effort to improve and conserve the natural
resources of the Great Lakes region," said Joe Newberg,
chairman of the National Association of Conservation Districts'
Great Lakes Committee. "It is important that their needs
are known and the region can speak with one voice to obtain
the necessary resources to carry out this important task
at the local level."
The study found that more than $80 million
in additional annual funding is needed for Great Lakes
conservation districts to carry out their mission of improving
and conserving the natural resources of the basin. The
funds would be used to hire professional staff, purchase
equipment and provide incentives for landowners to improve
and conserve the natural resources on their land.
Titled An Analysis
of Conservation Districts' Changing Responsibilities:
The District Role in Conserving and Protecting Great Lakes
Land and Water Resources, the report is based
on a survey of the 209 conservation districts (sometimes
called soil and water conservation districts) in the Great
Lakes basin. The report categorizes conservation district
programs and funding needs, and makes recommendations
based on those findings.
The survey found that, over the past 10
years, the traditional role of conservation districts
in controlling soil erosion has been supplemented by a
growing emphasis on water quality issues. Although agricultural
programs remain their most significant component, conservation
districts are placing increasing importance on hydromodification,
urban and forestry issues as well.
Another trend has been toward watershed-based
resource management, an approach increasingly taken by
federal and state agencies. However, the survey found
that conservation districts are often hampered from such
an approach by jurisdictional lines that do not follow
Other areas addressed by the survey include
water quality monitoring, groundwater management, land
disposal, resource recovery, mining, communications and
outreach, partnerships and personnel resources.
The survey is a follow-up to a similar
survey conducted in the early 1990s. Survey partners include
the Great Lakes Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Task Force,
the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Ohio
Department of Natural Resources.
The entire report and survey questions,
as well as a brochure summarizing the survey results,
can all be found at www.glc.org/swcdsurvey/
Great Lakes Commission, chaired by Samuel W. Speck
(Ohio), is a nonpartisan, binational compact agency created
by state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting
a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality
of life for the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence region and
its residents. The Commission consists of state legislators,
agency officials, and governors' appointees from its eight
member states. Associate
membership for Ontario and Québec was established
through the signing of a "Declaration
of Partnership." The Commission maintains a formal
program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies,
tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional
interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor,
Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) is the
national voice of America's 3,000 local conservation districts.
By working with landowners, organizations and government,
conservation districts have helped to protect our soil,
water, forests, wildlife and other resources for more
than 60 years.