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MACD Hosts 2022 Capitol Day in Lansing

MACD Hosts 2022 Capitol Day in Lansing

On Thursday, May 19th, the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts hosted a Capitol Day in Lansing, where we were joined by dozens of MACD members representing Conservation Districts throughout the state, including parts of Northern Lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Throughout the day, District Directors, Administrators, and Staff connected with their legislators one-on-one to make the case for renewing the $1 million "one-time" funding for the FY23 budget, via the MDARD Conservation Districts Operations Grant program.


"Our work is about trust. We build relationships with local landowners so that we can provide the voluntary, non-regulatory technical assistance critical for implementing conservation on private and public land. 72% of all land in Michigan is privately owned, and Conservation Districts are the time-tested system for delivering conservation practices on private land," stated MACD Executive Director Dan Moilanen during his presentation at the "Lunch and Learn Event" in the House Office Building Mackinac Room. He continued, "If the State of Michigan renews the $1 million in funding, and considers increasing funding to levels similar to what neighboring states fund their districts, this will help Michigan's districts stabilize their operations so that they can better retain staff and maintain the relationships they have with local landowners. With the foundation of our work being about the trust farmers and landowners have with their local CD government, high staff turnover significantly affects our capacity to successfully deliver conservation programming."


Following MACD's presentation, a panel discussion was hosted where a deeper conversation occurred about the need for long-term, stable state funding for Michigan's Conservation Districts. The panel consisted of Michigan Association of Conservation Districts President Gerald Miller (Chair of Kent Conservation District), Conservation District Employees of Michigan President Melissa Eldridge, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Conservation Programs Manager John Switzer, and U.S. Department of Agriculture - Natural Resource Conservation Service State Conservationist Garry Lee. MACD's partners spoke at length about the need for increased funding for Michigan's Conservation Districts.

"The more stable districts are, the more they are able to deliver on Federal Farm Bill programs that put dollars directly into the pockets of local farmers' and landowners, stimulating local economies. Michigan consistently ranks behind other Midwest states in total Farm Bill contracts, largely due to the fact that until FY22 our districts received zero operational funding from the state," stated MACD President Gerald Miller. He continued, "Due to our work being non-regulatory and voluntary, Conservation Districts are best positioned to address massive environmental challenges like the algal blooms in the Western Lake Erie Basin and Saginaw Bay watersheds, an issue that affects the drinking water sources for millions of people. We just need the funding to make sure we can get the job done." 

When asked about what the single most critical issue facing Conservation Districts today, Conservation District Employees of Michigan President, Melissa Eldridge expressed, "High staff turnover, without a doubt, is the biggest issue. Districts consistently lose their staff members to MDARD, USDA, DNR, EGLE, or non-profit entities who have more robust funding structures that can provide higher wages, retirement health insurance benefits. If districts had more funding, we could do a better job of making our compensation packages more competitive."

Following the Lunch and Learn event, MACD members finished their remaining legislative meetings, toured the Capitol, and many traveled back across the state to their respective communities.

MACD thanks its members who participated in our 2022 Capitol Day, and we hope to see more District Directors and Staff next year!

MACD and MDARD Host Webinar on FY22 Operations Grant

MACD and MDARD Host Webinar on FY22 Operations Grant

On Wednesday, October 20th, MACD and MDARD held a webinar on the new operations grant being offered by the State of Michigan for Conservation Districts. The webinar included an overview of benchmarks, grant reporting, and other requirements. You can view the webinar below:

Genesee CD Digs Deep for UAC Grant

Genesee CD Digs Deep for UAC GrantGenesee CD UAC Grant - Urban Conservation Project

When Genesee Conservation District wins a grant, wow! They dig right in and don't mess around.

After receiving the 2020 Urban Agriculture Conservation (UAC) Grant -- a joint initiative with the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) -- Genesee CD got right down to work leveraging several potential District projects and aligning them with the goals of their UAC Grant.
 
To start, Genesee Conservation District (GCD) wasted no time fostering partnerships to transform three vacant city lots into public greenspaces.

With assistance from a local tree service, an invasive species treatment company, and the General Motors (GM) Cares group of volunteers, GCD removed unwanted trees, trimmed overgrown vegetation, and treated or removed invasive plants and trees, making way for a new installation.

Seven park-grade trees were planted, with GCD and GM planting over 1,000 wildflower plugs, plants and grasses. While the transformative nature of the greenspaces is the attraction, tree stumps and park benches were installed to invite people to best utilize the spaces.

GCD also used the UAC grant to address the need for greater natural resource education, primarily geared toward urban conservation and community forestry. The District developed three videos, as well as brochures and updated outreach materials, which are also available through GCD's website. Additionally, they reached out directly to the community through public presentations.
 
Again leveraging local partnerships and Arbor Day 2020, GCD also helped plant trees with the Michigan State University Alumni Group of Genesee County and Genesee Eyewear to promote Arbor Day and the City of Flint’s 'Tree City USA' status.
 
But wait, there's more! GCD also identified two pathways to assist in fortifying their local food system. First, they managed the Hurley Hospital’s Garden, which supplies fresh produce to its Hurley Foundation Food FARMacy.

GCD also identified ways to address issues on the supply side of our local food system by consulting faculty and staff from Michigan State University’s Department of Community Sustainability.

Together, they developed a survey to gather information from local growers participating in various state and federal agriculture programs. Since GCD has a USDA high-tunnel initiative, the survey looked at farmers using high tunnels compared to those not using high tunnels. The report gives GCD and its partners information to further improve Genesee's local food system.

Way to hustle hard with your 2020 UAC Grant, Genesee CD! Hope you've taken a moment to soak in some of your awesome work -- maybe unwinding a bit at one of your THREE new invasive-species-free greenspaces. Well done!

Many thanks to NACD for contributing to this story.

FY 2022 Budget Headed to the Governor's Desk to be Signed, Including $3 Million for Michigan's Conservation Districts

FY 2022 Budget Headed to the Governor's Desk, Including $3 Million for Michigan's Conservation Districts


Today, the Michigan House of Representatives passed SB 82, the general appropriations act for government operations for FY '21-22. MACD is thrilled to report that due to our advocacy efforts, included in the bill was a $3 million appropriation for base-line operational support for all 75 of Michigan's Conservation Districts ($40,000 per district)! Today's passing of SB 82 represents a victory that was years in the making. Since 2009, despite being mandated under state law, Michigan's CDs haven't received a cent in state funding for operational expenses, outside of administrative support for specific grant-based programming.

Details on the operational grant requirements and benchmarks will be announced later, as MACD continues conversations with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).

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Support for MAEAP Funding Bill Grows

Support for MAEAP Funding Bill GrowsMAEAP Verified Farmer (Megan DeLeeuw of Hand Sown Farm - Washtenaw Co)

Michigan agricultural and conservation groups are joining forces to support Senate Bill 494, so that vital fee-based funding can continue for one of our state's vital conservation programs -- the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP).

Sponsored by fellow farmer Sen. Kevin Daley (31st Dist.), the bill renews agricultural fees that help fund the MAEAP program's work with farms to protect water quality and soil health.

Specifically, the legislation seeks to:

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Ottawa & Huron CDs Net Water Quality Grants

EGLE LogoMassive congrats to Ottawa and Huron Conservation Districts on their winning grant proposals totaling $1,691,065 from EGLE (The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy), awarded last week to support the Districts' watershed management projects benefitting wetlands, lakes, and streams.

Ottawa & Huron CDs each received the following project funding to reduce sediment, nutrients, and other contaminants to help restore impaired water bodies and protect high-quality water bodies:

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Three CDs Score EGLE Watershed Grants

EGLECongratulations to Chippewa Luce Mackinac, Genessee, and Isabella Conservation Districts on receiving grants totaling $102,495 to support their Conservation Districts' watershed projects from The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) this week.

The Watershed Council Support grants are funded under Michigan’s Public Act 166 of 2020.  Grants were limited to $40,000 per applicant and the projects must be put into action within a year of receiving the grants.

These hard-working districts received the following grant awards for their proposed watershed projects:
    •    Chippewa Luce Mackinac Conservation District: $40,000
    •    Genesee Conservation District: $31,500
    •    Isabella Conservation District: $30,995

The grants are issued by EGLE’s Nonpoint Source Program, which helps local stakeholders reduce pollution and excess runoff by supporting efforts to develop and launch watershed management plans. The Nonpoint Source Program issues an annual request for proposals for projects, with the next request for proposals available in mid-July. It will be posted at Michigan.gov/NPS.

Gladwin Conservation District Receives NACD Technical Assistance Grant

MACD congratulates the Gladwin Conservation District for receiving a technical assistance grant from the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD).

This grant provides the Gladwin Conservation District (GCD) with resources to spread awareness about the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the GCD's federal partner.  The GCD will be providing programming information and technical assistance to landowners to assist them in addressing natural resource concerns to achieve their personal conservation goals. 

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Van Buren CD Wins $400K+ Grant to Reduce Watershed Pollution

Van Buren CD Wins $400K+ Grant to Reduce Watershed Pollution

Colleen Forestieri of Van Buren CD oversees installation of a water control structure that helps reduce runoff from farm fields and hold water in the field during drought periods.MACD congratulates the Van Buren Conservation District for their recent award of a 2-year Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Grant of $413,362!

The grant will fund efforts to reduce nutrient and pathogen runoff in the Pine and Mill creeks, which are both tributaries of the Paw Paw River listed as impaired by the State of Michigan.

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