Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

June 28, 2014

Partnerships deliver conservation programs

TRAVERSE CITY — In the early 1930s the nation experienced an unprecedented ecological disaster known as the Dust Bowl. Following a severe and sustained drought in the Great Plains, the region’s soil began to erode and blow away, creating huge black dust storms that blotted out the sun and engulfed the countryside.

The storms stretched across the nation. Dust from these massive wind erosion events even sifted into the White House and onto the desk of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Congress would, as a result of the Dust Bowl, unanimously pass legislation declaring soil and water conservation a national policy and priority. At that time three-fourths of the continental United States was privately owned and Congress realized that only active, voluntary support from landowners would guarantee success

In 1937, President Roosevelt wrote the governors of all the states recommending legislation that would allow local landowners to form soil conservation districts. The movement caught on across the country and today the nation is blanketed with nearly 3,000 conservation districts nationwide and 78 in Michigan.

Your local conservation districts still deliver conservation programs today but times have changed and the natural resource concerns are different. The districts partner with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). Conservation Districts are a local unit of government and work with other local, state and federal units of government and non-profits.

Conservation Districts work with the USDA NRCS to deliver conservation programs funded through the Farm Bill. Conservation District employees work one on one with local landowners and provide technical assistance on conservation practices on the land.

The Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) is one of those programs that work directly with the farming community on environmental protection and reducing risk to the natural resources on the farm. MAEAP is an innovative, proactive program that helps farms of all sizes and all commodities voluntarily prevent and minimize agricultural pollution risks.

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