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).

In 2019, prior to coming on as Executive Director at MACD, I was working as a Legislative Staffer for my State Representative and serving as a Director on the Genesee Conservation District Board. I saw that MACD needed policy-savvy Directors to help get moving on our policy objectives, so I volunteered to join the MACD Legislative Workgroup to help craft that strategy. 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. 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.

When I started as Executive Director at MACD, one of the first things MACD elected to do was not renew a long-term lobbying contract we held with a third party who previously handled our advocacy efforts. Given my experience in the legislature, we took our funding request up as the highest priority goal for our organization. Along with the help of MACD President Jerry Miller, MACD Vice President Elaine Brown, and countless District Directors, we met one-on-one with several key-legislators to make the case for funding Conservation Districts. Initially, our request failed to make it out of the House Appropriations Sub-Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Natural Resources; but with persistence and grassroots organizing we were able to get House and Senate leadership on-board with our request.

Like many of MACD's committees, our Legislative Workgroup consists of directors, district managers, and some of our partners in the conservation community. MACD would like to specifically thank the following people for their involvement in this process: MACD President Jerry Miller, MACD Vice President Elaine Brown, MACD Treasurer Nancy Szikszay, MACD Past President Art Pelon, MACD Region 10 Vice Chair - Steve Law (Jackson CD), Former MACD Executive Director Lori Phalen, John Switzer - Manager of MDARD's Conservation Program, Ella Swift-Redding of Burly Mermaid, Angela Warren - Genesee Conservation District Manager, Melissa Higbee - Shiawassee Conservation District Manager, Julie Spencer - Former Gratiot Conservation District Manager, Mike McCarty Chippewa-Luce-Mackinac Conservation District Manager, Bill Rice - Director on Dickinson Conservation District Board of Directors, and Susan Bristol Chair of Wayne Conservation District Board of Directors. All of you made substantial contributions to this process, and we couldn't have accomplished this goal without your time and help.

We also want to thank every single District Director, Staff Member, Partner, or community member who took the time to connect with their legislators to urge them to support funding Michigan's CDs. True grassroots advocacy is one of the most effective means of accomplishing legislative goals. Without your help, we wouldn't be celebrating today. That being said, our advocacy efforts never truly end, as many of you know that Michigan's Legislature has term-limits, which means that with the institutional changeover that comes with term-limits so goes institutional knowledge. As Directors specifically, we must always connect with our legislators so we can educate them on the work we do in our communities. As your statewide association, MACD is happy to continue leading the charge in this effort and will always have resources for you to help with this process.

In addition, we wanted to comment on the significance of this victory and its potential for addressing the worst ecological disaster our species has ever faced, and that disaster is the climate crisis. A common refrain we use in meetings, with various partners throughout our state, is that over 72% of all land in Michigan is privately owned. If we're to successfully address the climate crisis and hit target carbon targets, CDs must be robustly funded in order to implement conservation practices on the ground. America and Michigan will never reach climate targets, unless we have private landowners involved in the process. Today marks a first step in continuing the critical conservation practices that occur on private land here in Michigan that will be necessary in tackling the climate crisis for many years to come. 

Lastly, with today's news we hope our membership considers the role MACD played in securing base-operational funding for all of Michigan's CDs. Your membership dues pay for a significant portion of our organization's operational expenses. The more you give, the more MACD is able to maintain and expand our advocacy efforts in the Michigan Legislature for years to come. If your district is in a position to increase your membership level, we hope you'll consider doing so.

Congratulations, MACD members, take a victory lap today because we did it! In the words of my late Grandpa Dan Burton, onward and upward!

Dan Moilanen
MACD Executive Director

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