This September, the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts (MACD) secured base operational funding from Michigan’s State Legislative budget for the first time in 12 years.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) awarded 169 grants totaling an estimated $9.7 million to 75 Michigan conservation districts (CDs) to implement voluntary conservation practices on private lands and privately held forests. With $3 million of the grant funding designated towards district operations through Michigan’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget, all 75 Michigan CDs finally have enough money to keep their offices open and staffed for the next year, regardless of incoming contracts, grants or program-specific operational funding.

“These funds will allow districts to identify and prioritize the most pressing needs in their communities and ensure landowners have access to technical assistance for their farms,” said Gary McDowell, MDARD Director. “Conservation districts are integral to the success of many of MDARD’s programs. We partner with conservation districts because they provide trusted expertise and assistance to farmers and landowners. That knowledge is critical for adopting voluntary conservation that protects soil, crops, forests, waterways and wildlife.”

These grants are designated to support the implementation of regular district operations, the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, the Conservation Technical Assistance Initiative, the Forestry Assistance Program, the Produce Safety Program and other district projects. Funding towards these programs will allow CDs to more effectively help local producers, provide access to natural resource management assistance, analyze and identify local conservation needs, and implement best management practices based on the needs identified.

Securing base funding Michigan’s districts has been MACD’s top priority for years, especially to help keep the doors open with some of Michigan’s financially struggling districts. Several districts had to consolidate to keep conservation programs running in their regions since losing state funding in 2009.

“Over the last two years, we've worked hard to develop messaging, policy handouts, advocacy scripts and an advocacy schedule; all necessary to accomplish our goals,” said Dan Moilanen, MACD Executive Director. “This effort culminated countless hours of staff and volunteer time to drive our message home that Michigan needs to fund our CDs in order for us to effectively deliver conservation practices on public and private land.”

Starting in 2019, MACD began rebranding and shifting its media efforts to represent both the community relevance of Michigan’s conservation districts, as well as their cutting-edge and tireless region-specific work throughout the state. The association again pivoted in 2021, shifting its legislative advocacy to target key decision makers on state appropriations committees, including bringing in constituent district managers and staff for meetings with relevant state representatives and senators.

Next steps for Michigan’s CDs in FY 2022 include capturing data of how each district is using its funds, as well as the base funding’s impact on delivery of key conservation efforts in the districts.
Read more on NACD's blog or MACD's blog.
The Baltimore County Soil Conservation District (BCSCD) in Maryland has partnered on two recent stream restoration and water quality improvement projects in the Chesapeake Bay. As part of these projects, informative videos were put together to share the details and successes of the efforts.
One project and its accompanying video focused on the restoration of the Carroll Branch River. Together, the BCSCD, Roseda Farms and Ecotone, Inc. (Ecotone), with funding from the Chesapeake & Atlantic Coastal Bays Fund, restored over 4,800 linear feet of Carroll Branch and its tributary. In addition to the stream restoration, the partnership was able to establish 9.14 acres of riparian buffer and install 12,650 linear feet of exclusion fencing, 4 tire spring development troughs, and 3 in-stream panel crossings.

Combined, these practices present co-benefits for local water quality, Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily loads (TMDL) and cattle management. These BMP’s are estimated to reduce 92 tons of total suspended solids per year, 1,503 lbs. of nitrogen per year and 269 lbs. of phosphorus per year, as well as improve habitat for a Use III non-tidal cold-water trout stream. The project’s riparian buffer was recently planted, and the fencing will be installed December 2021, bringing this phase of the project to its conclusion. The next phase of the project will begin November 2021 and will restore approximately 4,462 linear feet of Carroll Branch on an adjoining property in Baltimore County.
The other project and its video focused on the restoration of the Tributary of Western Run. BCSCD, in partnership with their design/build consultant Ecotone, received funding for the restoration of the tributary project’s design through Maryland Department of the Environment's Chesapeake Bay Regulatory and Accountability Program Grant and construction through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund. This project restored approximately 3,961 linear feet of an unnamed tributary to Western Run and included 10 acres of streamside riparian buffer planting and 2.5 acres of non-tidal wetland.

"Farmers are putting in their practices, but with some of the storms we have, they're overwhelmed," said Jim Ensor, BCSCD District Manager. "If soil moves, things tied in with the soil are now in the water."

The purpose of this project was also to improve water quality, contribute to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL goals and improve habitat in a Use III non-tidal cold water trout stream. These practices are estimated to reduce 700 tons of total suspended solids per year, 847 lbs. of nitrogen per year and 486 lbs. of phosphorus per year. Construction of this restoration project was completed in 2019.

To learn more about the projects, view the videos above and visit the BCSCD website.
Voluntary restoration efforts led by Natrona County Conservation District (NCCD) in cooperation with many partners have improved water quality in the North Platte River in Wyoming.

The North Platte River is an important waterbody protected for drinking water, fisheries, aquatic life and other designated uses. Studies in the 1990s in the irrigated cropland area west of Casper found high concentrations of selenium in plants, soils, water, sediment and biota.

Selenium is a water-soluble mineral that naturally occurs within the Cody Shale underlying Natrona County soils. Groundwater and irrigation water readily dissolves selenium, which can then be carried to surface waters in runoff and can also accumulate on agricultural fields as water pools and evaporates on the surface. Elevated selenium levels are particularly harmful to waterfowl, fish and aquatic insects. Livestock can be affected if they consume too much selenium by eating plants that absorb selenium. As a result of high selenium concentrations, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) added a 36.8-mile segment of the river to the 1998 CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waterbodies.

Both environmental and financial considerations played motivating roles in the restoration project. Farmers knew that reducing selenium was important for protecting wildlife and livestock health, and that the placement of the North Platte River on the list of impaired waters had raised concerns of possible increased water treatment costs. NCCD found that if landowners and local agencies did not make a documented effort to reduce selenium loading to surface waters, it was possible that local municipalities within the county could eventually be required to treat excessive selenium concentrations at the local wastewater treatment plant, substantially increasing water costs for consumers.
In the early 2000s, the Casper Alcova Irrigation District (CAID), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the NCCD and landowners began a focused effort to address the problem by adding new best management practices. Natrona County farmers banded together to reduce levels of selenium in local waters by switching from flood irrigation to sprinkler irrigation.

By 2018, more than 65 percent of the farms had switched to sprinkler irrigation and added other management practices. Water quality improved, field production increased, and water and labor costs were reduced. Plus, local stakeholders and government officials formed lasting partnerships.

Thanks to the restoration efforts led by NCCD, the segment of the North Platte River now meets the selenium water quality criterion, and WDEQ removed it from the impaired waters list in the 2018 Integrated Report.

"Selenium will always be a part of the geologic makeup of much of Natrona County due to the Cody Shale. People’s concerted efforts to work together for a common goal has made the watershed healthier," said Lisa Ogden, district manager of NCCD. "The delisting of the North Platte River from the 303(d) List of Impaired Waters is a tremendous “feather in the cap” of the landowners and the partners who have worked together."

To read the full success story and others like it, click here. For additional information on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Nonpoint Source success stories please contact Cyd Curtis at or Ellie Flaherty at

Full story written and pictures provided by U.S. EPA, Nonpoint Source Success Stories.
As part of our 75th Anniversary celebration, NACD is proud to present our Presidents Association Video Series. In early 2020, we sat down with Presidents Association members, who reflected on their time with the national association, the importance of conservation districts and locally-led conservation, their vision of NACD's legacy and more.

This edition features Gene Schmidt of Hannah, Indiana. Schmidt has been a district supervisor since 1981 and involved in state leadership since the mid-1990s. He went on to represent Indiana on NACD's national board before serving as president.

"The most humbling part in that journey was the opportunity to travel across the country and truly talk to the experts," said Schmidt. "The experts are those districts across the country. They live and work in those communities, they have a passion for it. I was there to listen to the experts and carry their message."

To watch Schmidt's interview, click the image above or watch it here. To view other videos in the series, visit NACD's YouTube channel.
Interested in submitting a story? We're still accepting stories for this special 75th Anniversary newsletter all year round!

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