SWCD executive director explains potential impact

Kelly Thompson, SWCD Executive Director
Nearly $7.5 million Soil and Water Conservation District funding for FY 2016 has been named in the governor’s latest budget cuts and will be “suspended” July 1 if a balanced budget cannot be reached by the General Assembly.
The suspension of funds accounts for district operations and cost-share project appropriations. If the suspension is not lifted, soil and water conservation districts around the state will be forced to dismantle their work force and offices will close.
As of April 7, 2015 only $4.7 million had been released to fund the operations of soil and water conservation districts for fiscal year 2015. The SWCDs are currently operating on a reduction of funds that constitutes about $33,900 total for 97 districts, plus health insurance premiums.
The SWCDs were established during the Dust Bowl Era to combat the soil erosion taking place; they continue to provide valuable services to the community by working closely with several federal, state and other non-governmental organizations.
The district serves as a point of contact to landowners wishing to address resource concerns on their property and assists in delivering programs that prevent erosion from urban development and of tillable soil that threaten our agricultural economy and the sustainability of our surface water supplies.
In addition to providing technical service and information regarding federal and state conservation programs, district staff also provide services to the general public. Many of the services and events throughout the year include providing tree seedlings to area students to be planted for Arbor Day, hosting Ag Discovery Day for county students, holding annual poster and photo contests, holding native tree and fish sales, hosting various educational workshops, participating in community events and much more.
Each SWCD office is responsible for bringing state and federal agency funding to both rural and urban citizens in Illinois. Unlike most state funded agencies, SWCDs return to the local economy an average of $23.57 for every $1 spent for their operation.
The SWCD programs are capable of adding more than $400 million to the state’s economy every year, but if SWCDs are forced to close due to a lack of funding, the valuable services they provide to the residents of Illinois will disappear completely.
Agriculture and urban and rural Conservation are all part of the future. We are all taught that we have a responsibility to protect our natural resources. Help SWCDs receive the fiscal year 2016 funding so they may continue to promote conservation and protect the land in Illinois. Encourage your legislators to work together to pass a balanced budget.
 

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