What is the Eagle County Conservation District? | VailDaily.com
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What is the Eagle County Conservation District?

Mike Lederhause
Community Correspondent
Eagle County, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado –During the 1930s, a depression gripped the country along with a severe drought in the Midwest.

The lack of proper conservation practices in the past, combined with the drought and the relentless winds raised great clouds of dust over large areas of the Midwest. On May 12, 1934, a major storm traveling across the United States carried large clouds of dust from the Midwest all the way to Washington D.C., and deposited dust on ships that were 200 miles out to sea in the Atlantic.

This was a real wake up call for Congress and consequently the Soil Conservation Act of April 27, 1935 was passed. After the passage of this act individual states were encouraged to form conservation districts. Today there are approximately 3,000 local conservation districts nationwide. The Eagle County Conservation District is one of these. The district serves the Eagle and Colorado river drainages of the county.

The district is a branch of the state government created under the Colorado Soil Conservation Act and is managed by a board of supervisors elected by the landowners of the district. The mission of the district is stated as: “Providing the preservation and restoration of the natural resources of the district through education, cooperation and initiation of practices that fulfill these goals.”

The district works in cooperation with various entities to accomplish its mission. On a local level the district works with the Colorado State University Extension Office in various programs, such as the “small acreage workshop” and the Eagle County Fair. The district participates in various conservation programs with displays and demonstrations, such as the water trailer that explains the effects of water erosion.

The district also provides scholarships for youth and teachers to several conservation workshops. In 2009, the district administered an $11,000 grant from the Colorado State Conservation Board that helped 24 landowners treat 542 acres of noxious weeds that were a serious threat to the agricultural production and wildlife in the county. The weeds also are very detrimental to the scenic beauty of the county’s open space. There is much work yet to be done to get these noxious weeds under control and this program will be repeated again in 2010.

In 2009 members of the board donated 634 hours of their time and 4,070 miles driven in the interest of conservation in Eagle County.

One of the greatest benefits of the district to all the citizens and visitors of Eagle County is the fact that the district operates in conjunction with the Natural Resource Conservation Service to identify and implement conservation practices. In the past five years these conservation practices were applied to 51 different projects on 3,093 acres of open space in the county.

The federal dollars spent on these projects in Eagle County during this period totaled just over $1 million, which is approximately one half of the total cost of these projects. Another $238,000 has been obligated and will come to Eagle County when the conservation practices are completed.

Much of the cost of these projects involves material, equipment rental, fuel and labor, all of which brings various tax revenues to the county and puts over $2 million in circulation in the county. In addition to the hard cash that the Resource Conservation Service has spent in the county, another $598,000 in staff time has been provided to Eagle County landowners for technical assistance during this period.

Another $165,000 was spent in the county for payments under the Emergency Conservation Program to help with landslides, fires and other events that have an impact on the resources. It is important to note that the Resource Conservation Service would not service Eagle County, and this money would not flow into the county, if the Eagle County Conservation District did not exist.

One of the greatest benefits of this program to the county besides the benefits of the soil, water and wildlife conservation is the preservation and improvement to the open space that is so important to the citizens and visitors .

The district also makes seedling trees and planting supplies available to landowners for conservation practices at a reasonable cost. Through this program approximately 1,000 trees per year are planted in the county.

To continue to provide the above listed benefits to the district, additional funding will need to be obtained to support the district operations. We currently receive a small grant from the Colorado State Conservation Board. We make a very small profit on the tree sales and sell some advertising in this newsletter in addition to a few small donations.

Most county governments in Colorado supplement the funding of the conservation districts in their county or there is a tax levied on real property in the county. No tax levy or assessment has been approved by the voters in the district and the funds are not available to take the matter to a vote.

The district board Is taking an active role to assure that the Eagle County government is aware of the benefits that the district provides to the residents and visitors to the county and how they can help assure our existence to maintain open space in the county and provide conservation programs.

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