Conservation Districts Bureau
How Do I Contact My local Conservation District?
SUPERVISOR AND ADMINISTRATOR OF THE YEAR
If you missed the Supervisor and Administrator of the Year Awards here are the winners. If you weren’t at the Convention this is a chance to recognize those individuals.
SUPERVISOR OF THE YEAR
This year, many supervisors were nominated, but alas, it had to be narrowed down to three. These three are excellent representatives of all the men and women that so generously dedicate their time and talents to serve their conservation districts. Your dedication and commitment to serving the people of Montana and your creativity in doing so, is never more evident and necessary than it is today. Thanks to each and every supervisor.
The three finalists were Rick Sandru – Ruby Valley CD, Ron Talcott – Powder River CD, and Wayne Maas –Lincoln County CD.
Supervisor of the Year, this year goes to Rick Sandru of the Ruby Valley Conservation District Rick is first and foremost a rancher, and after that, he is a visionary, a leader, and a man who exemplifies cooperation to find solutions to issues. He recognizes the value of working well with state and federal agencies and understands the value of inviting unusual partners to the table to work on solutions together. He leads by example and initiates efforts to address concerns. He supports a proactive approach to weed management and has worked to develop spray days with the county, grazing lessees, the USFS and private citizens which have expanded weed management efforts over the last five years.
He sits on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Working group, where he represents grazing permittees and the CD to proactively manage resources in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest; He supports the coexistence of livestock and wildlife, including predators; he has been a champion of the carcass management in partnership with a many partners; he affected modifications with Senator Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act and worked with Montana Wilderness Association, Greater Yellowstone Coalition and other permittees to modify the Snow Crest Wildness Study areas.
As a board member, Rick goes above and beyond the call of duty to support the board, the CD employees, financially supporting every event that the Ruby Valley CD and Ruby Watershed hosts, and has personally financed continuing education for staff members.
Above all else, Rich always wears a smile under his cowboy hat and is known as the jokester on the board. We feel that Rick exemplifies service to his community, his profession, and his conservation district and he fully deserves the supervisor of the year award.
ADMINISTRATOR OF THE YEAR
There are 70 CD employees across the state. Without the creativity, get-er-done know how, and extreme talents of conservation district employees, we all know conservation districts wouldn’t be where they are today. Thank you CD employees for your contributions to the conservation efforts of our 58 conservation districts. The nominees for the 2016 administrator of the year for 2016 from left to right are Julie Goss – Richland CD, Julie Ralston – Bitterroot CD, and Carie Hess – Petroleum CD.
ADMINISTRATOR OF THE YEAR 2016- Julie Ralston - Bitterroot Conservation District
In her 17 years of service, Julie has had an extraordinarily positive impact on her conservation district, her area, and the state. She is hardworking and direct, yet personable. She projects an air of professionalism and is gifted in dealing with the public, agencies, and non-agencies. She is recognized by her peers as a leader and a mentor. She is always ready to help any administrator, whether new or seasoned with the benefit of her expertise. She has been instrumental in organizing meetings that benefit all eleven of the districts in her area as well as statewide. People say “I can depend on her,” “she’s helped me,” or “I love her.”
She organizes and participates in local educational activities - -she presented the rolling river trailer to over 600 students in a three-day event; and she speaks on behalf of 310 issues to the local realty board, local groups, and other conservation districts. Although she is reluctant to admit it, she is widely recognized as a 310 expert. She is willing to step out of her comfort zone for the good of all conservation districts. Her supervisors rely heavily on her expertise and practical experience in all aspects of conservation district business.
Her conservation district is a hotbed of 310 activity. In addition to her regular load of 310s, she played a key role in the controversial Mitchell Slough case which went all the way to the Montana Supreme Court. This case has had a significant impact in establishing a valuable precedent.
Her presence in the conservation district world makes all of our jobs better. Thank you, Julie, for work well done. Congratulations.
What is a Conservation District?
In the early 1930's, along with the greatest depression this nation ever experienced, came an equally unparalleled ecological disaster known as the Dust Bowl. Following a severe and sustained drought in the Great Plains, the region's soil began to erode and blow away; creating huge black dust storms that blotted out the sun and swallowed the countryside. On Capitol Hill, while testifying about the erosion problem, soil scientist Hugh Hammond Bennett threw back the curtains to reveal a sky blackened by dust. Congress unanimously passed legislation declaring soil and water conservation a national policy and priority. Since about three-fourths of the continental United States is privately owned, Congress realized that only active, voluntary support from landowners would guarantee the success of conservation work on private land. In 1937, President Roosevelt wrote the governors of all the states recommending legislation that would allow local landowners to form soil conservation districts.
The first conservation districts formed in Sheridan and Wibaux Counties in 1939 and today, most land in Montana is within a boundary of one of our 58 conservation districts.
Conservation districts are political subdivisions with broad power and authority under the law to carry out programs that conserve soil and water, protect streams and rivers, improve soil health, as well as improve wildlife habitat, improve the tax base, and protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the state.
Conservation districts are governed by a non-paid, nonpartisan board of elected supervisors. If a city falls within a conservation district boundary, two supervisors are appointed by the city government to represent urban interests. Funding for operations comes from a small tax levied on real property within the boundaries of the conservation district. The revenue from the mill levy varies from $2,500 in less populated counties to over $200,000 in counties with a greater population base. The majority of conservation district levies generate under $25,000 in revenue. This funding is inadequate to meet the goals of conservation districts, so they rely heavily on grants and other creative funding sources.
To find out more about your local conservation district and the programs they offer or to find out how to serve, contact them directly using the links above.
What Do Conservation Districts Do?
The 310 Law
The Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act, also known as "The 310 Law", is administered by the conservation districts. The purpose of the law is to keep rivers and streams in as natural or existing condition as possible, to minimize sedimentation and to recognize beneficial uses. Any individual or corporation proposing construction in a perennial stream, must apply for a 310 permit through the local conservation district.
Conservation districts in Montana are able to reserve water for future beneficial use. Currently, 31 conservation districts hold water reservations throughout the Yellowstone, Little Missouri, and Missouri River basins. Each of these conservation districts administers its reservation for use by individuals within the district. Applications for reserved water use can be obtained from the applicable conservation district.
Conservation districts work with schools to develop conservation education curricula and outdoor classrooms by:
• Coordinating technical and financial assistance, provide teaching aids; and,
• Sponsoring youth conservation field days and annual camps including Natural Resource Youth Camp, Montana Youth Range Camp, Montana Range Days and Montana Envirothon.
Saline Seep Reclamation
Conservation district supervisors in 33 counties make up the membership of the Montana Salinity Control Association. This internationally recognized organization headquartered in Conrad, Montana provides expert technical assistance in the reclamation and control of saline seeps in agricultural areas. What is a saline seep? You may have seen white, powdery-looking spots in the low areas of fields. These spots are seeps, and they have adverse effects on water quality, wildlife, agriculture production, and other resources.
Many conservation districts rent out a wide array of equipment for conservation practices to land users, including:
• Tree Planters;
• Fabric Layers;
• Weed Sprayers;
• Weed Badgers;
• Conservation Tillage Drills;
• Grass Seeders; and,
• Tree Chippers
In addition, many conservation districts sell trees for conservation plantings, provide landowner maps, and provide a host of other services for conservation purposes.
Watershed groups are locally led and work on local and regional natural resource management issues on a river basin or watershed basis. Conservation districts are often instrumental on drawing people and resources together to assist the development of these groups.
With the rapid increase in subdivided acreages, and the resource issues associated with these small tracts, conservation districts have recently taken on a new role. Conservation districts may operate recycling programs, create and maintain interpretive trails, sponsor water projects, or provide education in natural resource management in an urban setting.
Conservation districts promote voluntary, education and incentive-based approaches to conservation. Planning and local input is an important aspect to this approach. Many projects throughout the state are undertaken to demonstrate the latest methods of riparian management, soil health improvements, water quality improvements, river and stream restoration, irrigation efficiencies, and range management. In addition, conservation districts host local conservation education events on the latest farming practices, urban conservation, weed control, and other current topics.
- Conservation District Bureau News
- Next Round of 223 Applications Mini Ed Grants and District Development due January 17th.
Conservation District Bureau
Conservation District Specialists
Karl Christians, 406-444-3022
Scott Kaiser, 406-232-6359
Stream Permitting Coordinator
Bob Flesher 406-444-4340
Oral History Progam & 223 Grant Specialist
Linda Brander, 406-444-0520
Rangeland Resources Program Coordinator
Stacey Barta, 406-444-6619
Duane Claypool, 406-232-6359