Guest opinion: Local Government, Collaboration, Conservation: Conservation Districts | TSLN.com

Guest opinion: Local Government, Collaboration, Conservation: Conservation Districts

Justin Caudill
Wyoming Department of Agriculture Ag Program Coordinator

Prior to working for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource and Policy Division I had heard of Conservation Districts but did not have any idea what they did or who they were. I kind of knew they were created to work on local issues related to soil and water conservation, and I would see individuals running for the conservation district supervisor's position on the general ballot. But that was the extent of my understanding of these special districts.

For the past eleven years I have had the honor to work with all thirty-four Conservation Districts in Wyoming, and would like to share some basic history and information related to these districts.

Conservation of soil and water came to the forefront of our nation's conscious as an outcome of the Dust Bowl of the 1930's. During this period agencies ranging from Land Grant Universities to the Federal Emergency Relief Administration researched and implemented conservation actions, sometimes competing with each other in doing so. Because of this the President developed a model Conservation District Law, creating an avenue for local leadership to coordinate efforts to local conditions and priorities. In 1941 the Wyoming State Legislature passed an enabling act establishing conservation districts.

§11-16-103. Legislative declarations and policy.

(b) It is hereby declared to be the policy of the legislature to provide for the conservation of the soil, and soil and water resources of this state, and for the control and prevention of soil erosion and for flood prevention or the conservation, development, utilization, and disposal of water, and thereby to stabilize ranching and farming operations, to preserve natural resources, protect the tax base, control floods, prevent impairment of dams and reservoirs, preserve wildlife, protect public lands, and protect and promote the health, safety and general welfare of the people of this state.

As noted there are 34 conservation district in Wyoming all sharing a single mission: to coordinate assistance from all available sources—public and private, local, state and federal—to develop locally-driven solutions to natural resources concerns. Districts also help to:

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• Implement farm, ranch and forestland conservation practices to protect soil productivity, water quality and quantity, air quality and wildlife habitat,

• Conserve and restore wetlands, which purify water and provide habitat for birds, fish and other animals,

• Protect groundwater resources,

• Assist communities and homeowners in planting trees and other land cover to hold soil in place, clean the air, provide cover for wildlife, and beautify neighborhoods,

• Help developers control soil erosion and protect water and air quality during construction, and

• Reach out to communities and schools to teach the value of agriculture and natural resources and encourage conservation efforts.

If you would like to discover information on your local Conservation District visit the Wyoming Association of Conservation District's website at http://conservewy. com/DISTRICTS.html. On this page you will see a map of Wyoming, click the area of the map where you live and you will be redirected to your local Conservation District web-page.