|Members of the soil conservation districts attend the meeting in Green River.|
The local soil conservation districts will be operating under new names. They learned at their annual meeting of the Utah Association of Conservation Districts that it's not just about soil anymore. The Emery County districts are part of a statewide zone system and Emery County is part of zone 7.
Bob Barry and Joe Begay welcomed the conservation districts present to the meeting. Everyone introduced themselves and renewed acquaintances.
Many of the district members had been heavily involved in the legislative season recently passed. One of the visions for the conservation districts is to be more locally led in the districts without so much advice from the top. The local groups need to plan projects within their own districts and strive to do better. They will also work on provisions in the farm bill and see how these projects will work within their own districts. All of the districts need to work on a long range plan. Ten of the 38 districts in the state have plans and the others need to get their plans going.
Gordon Younker gave the update for the Utah Association of Conservation districts. He told the story of the farmer who was tired of the new neighbors walking across his field so the farmer put up a sign that said, 'Walkers welcome, but the bull charges.' This drew a number of chuckles from the audience. He told of the influence the local conservation leaders have and how the state organization appreciates the leadership on the local level. He said last year the NRCS completed resource assessments and how important it is to get the long range plans in place. He said they had a good year at the legislature. "We don't ask for a lot, but what we ask for we want," said Younker. "We pressed upon them our needs and we would like them addressed."
The conservation committee sends requests to the Department of Agriculture and if they agree with the request it is sent to the governor and it gets into the governors budget if he agrees. On-going money has been appropriated in the amount of $160,000 for conservation planning. Also $50,000 was appropriated with the Kerry Gibson bill which allows soil conservation districts to be treated like any other local department concerning cost of living increases.
He also discussed the open and public meeting minutes records. If the budget of a district is less than $50,000 then they are allowed an exception to recording minutes. But, if the budget is over $50,000 then an audio recording of all meetings must be kept.
He stressed the need for the local plans for projects as the NRCS has so many funds for use in each zone. "Not a lot can get done without good partnerships," said Younker. He said the BLM and US Forest Service have been good to work with. He is also going to Washington in July. He asked for everyone to let him know what their priorities are.
Kyle Stevens gave the commissioners report. He said he has witnessed first hand the salinity projects going on and how the Huntington/Cleveland project is progressing.
He said the bill which cleaned-up the language which affects the soil conservation districts passed a motion which will just refer to them as Conservation Districts takes effect on April 30. All bills take effect 60 days after the legislative session ends unless specified.
The Utah Conservation Commission deals with more than just soil; water and air is always part of the mix, so the name change is reflective of their role in other areas. Grazing improvement projects and weed control projects are also being funded. A spray program is being funded for Utah County in dealing with the Japanese beetle. There is only a small window of opportunity to eradicate the pest before they move out into other areas where they are a danger to the fruit industry and nurseries.
June 7 is the field day in Escalante and Boulder where a tour of the Grand Staircase Escalante Monument will take place and a tour of sawmills in the area. For more information call the zone 5 office at 435-676-8189.
Dave Cook gave the details of the grazing improvement program. State Senator Mike Dmitrich addressed the zone on the legislative update.
George Cook, Randy Bradbury and Cindy Ledbetter gave information on their education camp in Ephraim Canyon. Wayne Urie gave the Castleland RC&D update and the NRCS update was given by Wayne Greenhalgh.