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Governor Whitmer Declares July 17th, 2022 as "Conservation District Day"


Governor Whitmer Declares July 17th, 2022 as "Conservation District Day"

This week, Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared July 17th, 2022 as "Conservation District Day" in commemoration of the signing of Michigan Public Act 297 of 1937, which established Conservation Districts in Michigan.



This year marks the 85th Anniversary of the bill's passage. Michigan’s first Soil Conservation District law was a legislative response to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and substantial drought across the nation. The devastation left by the Dust Bowl was a tragic wake-up call that productive soil and clean water are vital for the daily sustenance and food security of all residents. 

The bill was introduced, heard before committee, passed by both Chambers of the Legislature, and signed into law by Governor Frank Murphy in only 96 days with great urgency. The original intent of this historic law was to conserve Michigan’s bountiful natural resources, preserve wildlife, protect the tax base and working lands of this state, and promote the health and safety of the people of Michigan.

"Today, we recognize a monumental anniversary for our State, as we celebrate 85 years of Conservation Districts in Michigan," Dan Moilanen, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts, expressed in a written statement.

"In the 1930s, the threat of soil erosion presented an ecological existential threat to the health and well-being of Americans," Dan added. "Today, with the many ecological challenges and threats we face, it is important to remember this dire period of American history and the lasting legacy of our government's response."

"Climate change, algal blooms, and other critical environmental issues are being addressed by our nation's Conservation Districts. It is precisely through the relationships our district staff members build with landowners and farmers where we are uniquely positioned to take these challenges head on."

Governor Whitmer's proclamation recognizes that, "Conservation Districts, through a local resource assessment process, prioritize the most pressing soil, water, and habitat resource issues in their communities and identify financial and technical resources needed to address those issues on agricultural and forested working lands" 

"The scope and responsibility of Conservation Districts have grown to include work such as invasive species management, forestland habitat management, conservation education and outreach, soil erosion control, farm and farmland protection, and much more"

"Soil and water will forever be preeminent natural resources that support major economic sectors of our state, including agriculture, energy, forestry, and recreation."

For 85 years, Conservation District Boards of Directors and their staff have contributed to the natural resource management of working lands across every county and every watershed in Michigan. 

Conservation Districts assist in securing millions in local, state, federal, and private dollars for farmers and producers to implement conservation programs on private working lands that address the most pressing resource issues, support the economy through natural resource enhancement and tourism, and protect and conserve Michigan’s most beautiful places.

The Michigan Association of Conservation Districts expresses our deep gratitude and appreciation to Governor Whitmer for recognizing the critical work our members do to protect and manage Michigan's natural resources by declaring July 17th, 2022 as "Conservation District Day."

FY23 Budget Headed to the Governor's Desk, Including $3 Million for Michigan's Conservation Districts

FY 2023 Budget Headed to the Governor's Desk, Including $3 Million for Michigan's Conservation Districts

At 2:12am on Friday, July 1st, prior to the Michigan Legislative Summer break, the Michigan House of Representatives passed the FY23 Budget Bill, which included a renewal of $3 Million in Operational Funding for Michigan's Conservation Districts. The bill is on the way to the Governor's Desk to be signed and approved accordingly. These dollars will be delivered once again via the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development "Conservation Districts Operations Grant". 

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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!

Upcoming Webinar Opportunity: Maximizing Your Social Media

Upcoming MACD Webinar Opportunity: Maximizing Your Social Media



With the annual Tree Sale coming up throughout the state, to help districts maximize their sales and advertising, MACD will be hosting a Webinar on February 3rd, 2022 at 11am EST. MACD will share the tools of the trade to maximize the return on your social media content. Topics will include professional photography tips to get the best shots, editing photos with free tools, crafting your message, and measuring the impact your content has on your audience. Register before January 31st. Registration is $30 to cover speaker expenses.

MACD Members can register
here.

MACD Held Annual Assembly on December 13th, 2021

MACD Held Annual Assembly Virtually December 13th, 2021

On Monday, December 13th, the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts held our 2021 Annual Assembly virtually via Zoom. 31 districts from around the state were represented and presented. The meeting began with a special presentation from Michigan State Senator Roger Victory from Michigan's 30th Senate District  and State Representative Rachel Hood from Michigan's 76th House District. Both had several encouraging words recognizing our success in securing $3 million in appropriations for Michigan's Conservation Districts through the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's CD Operations Grant.

Two resolutions were considered and passed. Resolution 2021-1 was a bylaws amendment to allow the MACD Executive Committee flexibility as to what types of investments could be made regarding the MACD endowment fund. Resolution 2021-2 was a resolution that called on the Michigan Legislature to amend the Open Meetings Act to allow Conservation Districts to hold their Board of Directors meetings virtually.

In addition, MACD Executive Officer elections were held, Gerald Miller (Kent Conservation District) was re-elected as President, Elaine Brown (Clinton Conservation District) was re-elected as Vice President, and Nancy Szikzsay (Genesee Conservation District) was re-elected as Secretary-Treasurer.

The assembly was recorded and can be viewed below.

Conservation Technicians Win Awards at 2021 MACD Virtual Fall Convention

Conservation Technicians Win Awards at 2021 MACD Virtual Fall Convention

For immediate release: November 2021
Media contact: Dan Moilanen

Conservation technicians win awards at 2021 MACD Virtual Fall Convention

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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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MACD State Council Votes to Move 2021 Fall Convention to Virtual Setting

MACD State Council Votes to Move 2021 Fall Convention to Virtual Setting

Today at the MACD State Council Quarterly meeting, in the interest of the health and well-being of the entire Michigan Conservation District community, the State Council voted unanimously to move the 2021 Fall Convention to a virtual setting.

"Given the current rise of COVID-19 cases throughout the state, the high likelihood that our Federal and State partners would be prohibited from traveling, and the significant number of MACD members that have expressed concerns over meeting in person; the State Council concluded that moving the 2021 Fall Convention is the best course of action," stated MACD President Gerald Miller. He continued, "We would love to meet in person, as many new staff and directors haven't yet had the opportunity to meet their colleagues from around the state face-to-face, but until the pandemic subsides to safe levels, MACD feels it would be irresponsible to move forward with plans to reconvene in that setting."

MACD Executive Director Dan Moilanen expressed, "While disappointing, as I still haven't met a majority of our members in person, having only started in this role earlier this year; I agree with the State Council's decision and believe this is the best course of action. We still have a great slate of programming coming together that I think will be really engaging for the Michigan Conservation community." He continued, "Despite the lack of networking opportunities, sometimes the virtual setting presents perks like the capacity to record all sessions which can then be accessed at a later date. Also, for those with busy schedules or limited travel budgets, the virtual setting can be more accessible."

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Update on 2021 MACD Fall Convention

Update on 2021 MACD Fall Convention

The health and safety of the Conservation District community remains the highest priority to the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts. MACD is paying close attention to the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan and checking Delta Variant case number data on a daily basis. The MACD State Council will decide whether or not the 2021 Fall Convention will be in person, later this week when it convenes for its quarterly meeting.

Once a decision has been made, MACD will have additional information regarding registration and further details. Please check back next week, or look to your inboxes for an update accordingly.

Conservation District Day 2021 is Here!

Conservation District Day 2021 is Here!

By proclamation of Governor Whitmer no less, we are thrilled to celebrate Conservation District Day 2021 with all of Michigan's wonderful and hard-working Conservation Districts.

To help kick off CD Day, which lands on a Saturday this year, check out MDARD's "Fresh from the Field" podcast interview with MACD President and Kent CD Board President Jerry Miller, where he gives the low-down on what CDs are, why no-till farming rocks, and why Conservation Districts are so pivotal to the ecological and economic future of the Great Lakes State.

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USDA Secretary Vilsack Talks Ag Aid in Michigan

USDA Secretary Vilsack Talks Ag Aid in Michigan Ag secretary: US needs better programs for long-term drought (The Detroit News)

Michigan welcomed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack with a series of in-person agricultural outreach events in early June.

Vilsack's visit comes hot on the heels of the White House announcing over $5 billion in potential funding for U.S. agricultural supply chain and conservation land management through its Build Back Better initiative. The USDA also announced this Spring over $6 billion in additional ag and food production aid through the USDA Pandemic Assistance effort.

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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.

MACD Unveils New Logo!

The Michigan association of Conservation Districts is pleased to unveil our new logo.

After a year long development process, involving a committee of multiple MACD members, who collectively represented a diverse group of Michigan’s Conservation Districts, we’re excited to share the results.

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MACD Issues Statement on Michigan House Appropriations Omitting Conservation District Funding from FY'22 Budget.

Yesterday, the Michigan House of Representatives Appropriations Committee voted down a budgetary request for funding all 75 of Michigan Conservation Districts in a strict 17-12 vote along party lines. The Michigan Association of Conservation Districts urges Michigan House Republicans to change course, and fully fund Michigan's Conservation Districts.


"I'm extremely disappointed with yesterday's display of partisanship. It ultimately hurts the thousands of farmers and landowners around Michigan, who receive free technical assistance and support from Michigan's Conservation Districts. Conservation is a bipartisan issue that affects all Michiganders. In my mind, there is no sound reason, why we shouldn't fund Michigan's Conservation Districts," stated MACD Executive Director Dan Moilanen. He continued, "We (MACD) met with 
several members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Natural Resources. In those meetings, House Republican Caucus members were very supportive of moving forward on funding Michigan's Conservation Districts. Yesterday's about-face by House Republicans feels like a betrayal to their constituencies who greatly benefit from their local Conservation Districts."

MACD requested $3 million in general funding, to be administered through the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), which would allocate $40,000 per district for fiscal year '22.

Moilanen expressed, "After general funding was cut by the State Legislature 12 years ago, we've witnessed operational capacity diminish among the majority of Conservation Districts around the state. Many of those districts do not receive any funding in the form of grants or other programs through the State. This is yet another blow to the natural environment in Michigan, and the continued dis-investment in local conservation efforts will mean environmental disasters like the algal blooms in the Western Lake Erie Basin and Saginaw Bay, could potentially worsen, affecting the drinking water sources for millions of Americans."

Michigan's Conservation Districts work with local farmers and landowners by providing technical assistance to reduce nitrogen and phosphate run-off into watersheds, like the Western Lake Erie Basin, Saginaw Bay, and Green Bay. 

"Farmers can be resistant to adopting new practices in their operations, and the technical assistance that's provided by local Conservation Districts has been shown time-and-time again to be an effective method in helping them manage their soil, preventing run-off into our fresh water systems," stated MACD President Gerald Miller, PhD. Miller spent his professional career working in soil and water management, and has more than 35 years of experience working with soil and water conservation districts. He continued, "As a retired scientist and academic, who conducted applied research, served as a professor, and Extension specialist for soil, water and watershed management and soil survey and land use; I can tell you with confidence that Conservation Districts are a proven mechanism for addressing larger environmental issues created by poor soil management."

Moilanen expressed, "We're talking about a tiny drop in a very large 'State budget' bucket. A small investment of $3 million in Michigan's Conservation Districts will result in a substantial return for the state of Michigan, in the form of Federal Farm Bill dollars, where 100% of funds go to local farmers and landowners."










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MACD Issues Statement Condemning Changes in State Budget Appropriations Process

MACD Issues Statement Condemning Changes in State Budget Appropriations Process

Today, the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts sent a letter to members of the Michigan House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Natural Resources; urging them to reverse course on proposed changes in the appropriations process. The letter is as follows:

Dear Representatives,

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2021 Stewardship Week for Healthy Trees & Communties

2021 Stewardship Week: "Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities"

2021 Stewardship Week

Welcome to 2021 Stewardship Week, which starts this Sunday, April 25, and runs through Sunday, May 2. This year's theme is "Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities".

This year the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD), who hosts the national Stewardship Week every year, chose to focus this year's theme on the lungs of our land -- TREES! -- and how they impact the health of our local communities.

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