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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."

FY23 Budget Headed to the Governor's Desk, Including $3 Million for Michigan's Conservation Districts

FY 2023 Budget Headed to the Governor's Desk, Including $3 Million for Michigan's Conservation Districts

At 2:12am on Friday, July 1st, prior to the Michigan Legislative Summer break, the Michigan House of Representatives passed the FY23 Budget Bill, which included a renewal of $3 Million in Operational Funding for Michigan's Conservation Districts. The bill is on the way to the Governor's Desk to be signed and approved accordingly. These dollars will be delivered once again via the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development "Conservation Districts Operations Grant". 

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MACD Hosts 2022 Capitol Day in Lansing

MACD Hosts 2022 Capitol Day in Lansing

On Thursday, May 19th, the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts hosted a Capitol Day in Lansing, where we were joined by dozens of MACD members representing Conservation Districts throughout the state, including parts of Northern Lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Throughout the day, District Directors, Administrators, and Staff connected with their legislators one-on-one to make the case for renewing the $1 million "one-time" funding for the FY23 budget, via the MDARD Conservation Districts Operations Grant program.


"Our work is about trust. We build relationships with local landowners so that we can provide the voluntary, non-regulatory technical assistance critical for implementing conservation on private and public land. 72% of all land in Michigan is privately owned, and Conservation Districts are the time-tested system for delivering conservation practices on private land," stated MACD Executive Director Dan Moilanen during his presentation at the "Lunch and Learn Event" in the House Office Building Mackinac Room. He continued, "If the State of Michigan renews the $1 million in funding, and considers increasing funding to levels similar to what neighboring states fund their districts, this will help Michigan's districts stabilize their operations so that they can better retain staff and maintain the relationships they have with local landowners. With the foundation of our work being about the trust farmers and landowners have with their local CD government, high staff turnover significantly affects our capacity to successfully deliver conservation programming."


Following MACD's presentation, a panel discussion was hosted where a deeper conversation occurred about the need for long-term, stable state funding for Michigan's Conservation Districts. The panel consisted of Michigan Association of Conservation Districts President Gerald Miller (Chair of Kent Conservation District), Conservation District Employees of Michigan President Melissa Eldridge, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Conservation Programs Manager John Switzer, and U.S. Department of Agriculture - Natural Resource Conservation Service State Conservationist Garry Lee. MACD's partners spoke at length about the need for increased funding for Michigan's Conservation Districts.

"The more stable districts are, the more they are able to deliver on Federal Farm Bill programs that put dollars directly into the pockets of local farmers' and landowners, stimulating local economies. Michigan consistently ranks behind other Midwest states in total Farm Bill contracts, largely due to the fact that until FY22 our districts received zero operational funding from the state," stated MACD President Gerald Miller. He continued, "Due to our work being non-regulatory and voluntary, Conservation Districts are best positioned to address massive environmental challenges like the algal blooms in the Western Lake Erie Basin and Saginaw Bay watersheds, an issue that affects the drinking water sources for millions of people. We just need the funding to make sure we can get the job done." 

When asked about what the single most critical issue facing Conservation Districts today, Conservation District Employees of Michigan President, Melissa Eldridge expressed, "High staff turnover, without a doubt, is the biggest issue. Districts consistently lose their staff members to MDARD, USDA, DNR, EGLE, or non-profit entities who have more robust funding structures that can provide higher wages, retirement health insurance benefits. If districts had more funding, we could do a better job of making our compensation packages more competitive."

Following the Lunch and Learn event, MACD members finished their remaining legislative meetings, toured the Capitol, and many traveled back across the state to their respective communities.

MACD thanks its members who participated in our 2022 Capitol Day, and we hope to see more District Directors and Staff next year!

FY 2022 Budget Headed to the Governor's Desk to be Signed, Including $3 Million for Michigan's Conservation Districts

FY 2022 Budget Headed to the Governor's Desk, Including $3 Million for Michigan's Conservation Districts


Today, the Michigan House of Representatives passed SB 82, the general appropriations act for government operations for FY '21-22. MACD is thrilled to report that due to our advocacy efforts, included in the bill was a $3 million appropriation for base-line operational support for all 75 of Michigan's Conservation Districts ($40,000 per district)! Today's passing of SB 82 represents a victory that was years in the making. Since 2009, despite being mandated under state law, Michigan's CDs haven't received a cent in state funding for operational expenses, outside of administrative support for specific grant-based programming.

Details on the operational grant requirements and benchmarks will be announced later, as MACD continues conversations with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).

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Conservation District Day 2021 is Here!

Conservation District Day 2021 is Here!

By proclamation of Governor Whitmer no less, we are thrilled to celebrate Conservation District Day 2021 with all of Michigan's wonderful and hard-working Conservation Districts.

To help kick off CD Day, which lands on a Saturday this year, check out MDARD's "Fresh from the Field" podcast interview with MACD President and Kent CD Board President Jerry Miller, where he gives the low-down on what CDs are, why no-till farming rocks, and why Conservation Districts are so pivotal to the ecological and economic future of the Great Lakes State.

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USDA Secretary Vilsack Talks Ag Aid in Michigan

USDA Secretary Vilsack Talks Ag Aid in Michigan Ag secretary: US needs better programs for long-term drought (The Detroit News)

Michigan welcomed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack with a series of in-person agricultural outreach events in early June.

Vilsack's visit comes hot on the heels of the White House announcing over $5 billion in potential funding for U.S. agricultural supply chain and conservation land management through its Build Back Better initiative. The USDA also announced this Spring over $6 billion in additional ag and food production aid through the USDA Pandemic Assistance effort.

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Support for MAEAP Funding Bill Grows

Support for MAEAP Funding Bill GrowsMAEAP Verified Farmer (Megan DeLeeuw of Hand Sown Farm - Washtenaw Co)

Michigan agricultural and conservation groups are joining forces to support Senate Bill 494, so that vital fee-based funding can continue for one of our state's vital conservation programs -- the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP).

Sponsored by fellow farmer Sen. Kevin Daley (31st Dist.), the bill renews agricultural fees that help fund the MAEAP program's work with farms to protect water quality and soil health.

Specifically, the legislation seeks to:

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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 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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