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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."

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 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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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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MACD Thanks Lori Phalen, Retiring Executive Director

MACD Thanks Lori Phalen, Retiring Executive Director

Lori Phalen

When we transitioned into 2021, a very special era ended as Lori Phalen stepped down as MACD's Executive Director.

It's been a busy year already, but we very much want to give a massive "Thank you!" (and a bittersweet farewell) to Lori as she embraces her well-earned retirement from the ED position. (Lucky for us, Lori will continue supporting MACD as our Grant Coordinator -- we couldn't let her go that fast.)

Lori has served as MACDs Executive Director for over 14 years, and has been pivotal to the success of MACD through her tenure. Her passion and advocacy have inspired many to take an active role in the conservation of Michigan’s natural resources.

Behind the scenes, Lori was a “Jill of all Traits,” juggling tasks from event management to fundraising to program development to website developing (including this one). Her tireless hours of dedication reflected her passion for Michigan’s natural resources.



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MACD Issues Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity

MACD Issues Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity

Michigan Association of Conservation Districts leaders are deeply repulsed by the acts of violence, xenophobia, racism, and bigotry occurring across our state and nation. We are horrified and angered by the recent series of attacks against members of the Asian and Asian-American communities. We condemn these and all acts of violence, xenophobia, racism, and bigotry. Everyone should be able to pursue their life goals without fear of being targeted.

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MACD Urges Michigan Legislature to Extend Open Meetings Act Amendments Allowing Remote Participation

MACD Urges Michigan Legislature to Extend Open Meetings Act Amendments Allowing Remote Participation  

The Michigan Association of Conservation Districts urges the Michigan Legislature to extend the amendments to the Open Meetings Act, allowing remote/digital participation to continue indefinitely as outlined in House Bill 4371 introduced by Rep. Cara Clemente.

Conservation Districts are unique local units of government that are the local providers of natural resource management services; utilizing state, federal, and private sector resources to solve today’s conservation challenges. In order to be held accountable by the voting public, as local units of government we are legally required to adhere to the Open Meetings Act.

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MACD Hires Dan Moilanen as New Executive Director

MACD Hires Dan Moilanen as New Executive Director 

MACD Dan Moilanen Executive Director

The Michigan Association of Conservation Districts (MACD) announced today it has hired Dan Moilanen to lead as the organization’s new Executive Director.

Lori Phalen, the current Executive Director, is retiring effective December 31 after 14 years of service in the position.

Looking to MACD's future, Moilanen sees Conservation Districts as the key touchpoint for integrating conservation work into local communities, and improving the natural health and habitat of Michigan's many unique regions.

“As the ‘boots on the ground’ in our communities across the state, Michigan's Conservation Districts will continue to play a pivotal role in protecting our natural resources by promoting sustainable practices, reforestation efforts, and other critical conservation work," Moilanen said.

Moilanen has held a variety of legislative, political, and community-focused roles, and is a graduate of Albion College. He is the current Board Chair of the Genesee County Conservation District. Moilanen is also the former Owner of Vehicle City Tacos, a popular downtown Flint business.

“Dan Moilanen brings a wealth of experience in small business ownership, community service, and political engagement to the position as Executive Director,” said Jerry Miller, MACD President and Kent County
Conservation District Board Chair.

“I have enjoyed serving with Dan on the Genesee Conservation District Board, and look forward to working with him as he transitions into his new position as Executive Director of MACD,” said Nancy Szikszay, Genesee County farmer and Board Member of the Genesee County Conservation District.

Dan Moilanen New Executive Director MACD

MACD is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that was established in 1937 through the monumental Soil Conservation District Law in response to the Dust Bowl and extreme drought across the country. The Association consists of 75 locally-led Conservation Districts that assist farmers, producers, and foresters with implementing conservation practices across Michigan’s 83 counties.

While the work of Michigan’s Conservation Districts has evolved over the last 83 years, the core mission has remained the same: protect Michigan’s natural resources and empower all Michiganders to do the same.

“As a life-long outdoorsman and environmentalist, I consider conservation and environmental stewardship a sacred duty,” said Moilanen.

"As MACD's Executive Director, I will advocate for member districts and do everything I can to help build capacity in our local units of government to secure a financially sound future.”

Moilanen will officially begin his position on January 4, 2021.

To learn more about the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts, visit macd.org.