Conservation districts

Thursday, April 26, 2018 6:18 PM

In the frightening aftermath of the Dust Bowl, the Soil Conservation Service was established to protect the country’s soil from erosion and depletion. For more than 80 years, conservation districts have provided expertise, education and funding to partner with landowners in that mission. The country was divided into soil conservation districts, which now are called, more simply, conservation districts, to convey that conserving soil is part of a much broader need for stewardship of all natural resources.

Now, as Southwest Colorado experiences deepening drought (Journal, April 24), photos from the “Dirty Thirties” remind us just how important those efforts are. We don’t want to see our soil billowing eastward in towering dark clouds.

That, though, is just one component of the work of the county’s two conservation districts – the High Desert Conservation District, formerly known as the Dolores Soil Conservation District, and the Mancos Conservation District. Besides their educational programs and technical support for the region’s agricultural producers, they work cooperatively with a network of other agencies and provide access to federal cost-share programs.

Both are asking for small local mill levies to help fund local agricultural programs, and both deserve “yes” votes from every eligible voter who depends upon agricultural products. Needless to say, that need is universal.

The High Desert Conservation District, spanning most of Montezuma County, is seeking a 0.5 mill levy. The smaller Mancos Conservation District, which covers the Mancos River drainage, also is seeking 0.5 mills. (The two districts do not overlap.) For the owner of a property assessed at $200,000, that’s about the price of one fast-food lunch.

These are boots-on-the-ground agencies providing locals with practical benefits, not generic information from a Washington office staffed by people who have never been to Montezuma County. Grant funding from federal, state and local governmental agencies is shrinking. Local financial support will help the districts maintain their staff, programs and facilities.

If you are an eligible voter and property owner in one of these districts, you should have received a mail-in ballot. The boundaries of the HDCD are complicated; the district includes the portions of the county outside of the Mancos Conservation District, but the city of Cortez and town of Dolores, as defined by their 1946 town boundaries, are excluded. The town of Mancos is not exempted from the Mancos Conservation District. If you have questions about your eligibility, call your conservation district office.

If you receive a ballot, be sure to return it by the May 8 deadline. Vote for the local board members that guide this important work, and vote in favor of the small levy to help pay for it.