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State marks what conservation districts do for communities

July 17 was the 83rd anniversary of Public Act 297 of 1937, Michigan’s first Soil Conservation District law, enacted to provide a local response to the soil erosion catastrophe of the 1930s Dust Bowl, coupled with extreme drought nationwide.

The scope and responsibility of Michigan Conservation Districts has grown since then far beyond the original focus of agricultural soil quality, to include invasive species management, optimizing forestland habitat, safe-guarding water quality and quantity, providing conservation education, recycling support, farmland protections and more.

“The common mission of Michigan’s conservation districts is to protect and enhance the soil, water and habitat resources on working lands across the states’ 83 counties,” said Gerald Miller, president of MACD and board chairman of Kent Conservation District.

Miller added, “Conservation districts have worked hand-in-hand with Michigan’s farmers and producers for 83 years to accomplish this mission.”

In their agricultural conservation work, conservation districts deliver several state and federal programs, including the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Program and the Qualified Forest Program; and are the local partner with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Those partnerships equate into real dollars for Michigan agriculture.

Last year alone, Michigan Conservation District partnerships with the USDA-NRCS delivered more than $30 million in Farm Bill funding directly to Michigan’s land owners, to specifically address natural resource concerns on their private lands.

“In their 83-year history, our districts have addressed many significant conservation challenges by providing trusted, local assistance working directly with land owners and managers to positively impact our natural resources, including the reduction of rain water runoff, soil erosion and nutrients into Michigan’s lakes, streams and rivers,” said Lori Phalen, executive director of MACD.

All of this is why Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday established July 17 as Conservation District Day throughout Michigan.

“Governor Whitmer’s recognition of Michigan Conservation Districts highlights their importance in providing Michiganders with quality programs and assistance to better manage and conserve our natural resources,” Phalen said.

“In the years to come, Conservation District Day will also remind all Michigan citizens that their local conservation district is there to help protect and enhance their natural resources now and into the future,” Phalen said.

Michigan’s 75 conservation districts are the local providers of natural resource management services, similar to local fire, police, health and school services. They also are neighbors, dedicated to helping fellow Michiganders conserve their lands and waterways.

To learn more about Michigan Conservation Districts and their programs and services, go online to www.macd.org.

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