Conservation Districts are one of the best bargains in government. Districts are administered by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry, but are locally controlled by elected boards of supervisors who volunteer their time to help land owners address soil and water conservation needs.
Districts are non-regulatory with a long history of encouraging voluntary cooperation to improve the productivity of our soils while preventing erosion, loss of nutrients, and adverse impacts on water quality. Districts are trusted by local property owners to provide objective advice and technical assistance
Most importantly, Districts are cost-effective, low-overhead organizations. They can deliver conservation services more affordably than most federal and state agencies, because they are located in the communities they serve.
State funding represents only about 15 percent of District budgets. Our Districts have been highly entrepreneurial in using State funds to match grants from federal agencies and private foundations with contributions from counties, municipalities, businesses, and private land owners.
Presently, the State of Maine provides $280,000 a year to Districts. That amount has not changed since 2001. With inflation over the past 12 years, we are seeing signs that the capacity of Districts to deliver conservation services is beginning to erode. District employees have been looking for ways to collaborate to increase their efficiency.
LD 377, sponsored by Rep. Russell Black of Wilton, would provide an additional $200,000 per year to bring each District’s state allocation from $17,500 to $30,000. Based on our past experience, Districts will be able to leverage this increased funding to provide an additional $2-3 million in conservation programs to support our natural resource-based economy.
We know budgets are tight and there’s never a good time to ask for money. But we believe the time is right to invest in Conservation Districts. With the current session of the Maine Legislature due to close this week, now is the time to e-mail or phone to support passage of LD 377.
For the past several years the Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District has offered a Natural Resources and Agricultural Summer Camp to children ages 7-12. Starting this summer, the PCSWCD will be offering a Teen Conservation Camp for youth ages 13-18! With generous funding provided by the Maine Community Foundation’s Piscataquis County Fund, the PCSWCD will be offering this new full day, two week summer camp so that we can provide continuous exciting learning opportunities for youth of all ages in the Piscataquis County region.
The PCSWCD Summer Camp makes learning fun and gives youth opportunities to learn about agriculture and natural resources first-hand from farmers and natural resource professionals that provide lively presentations, unique demonstrations and engaging hands-on activities. Each day has a different theme to increase the youths’ knowledge about how productive farmland and forests, clean air and drinking water, are all important for a healthy natural ecosystem that benefits our community and the people who live in Piscataquis County.
The summer camp schedule for children ages 7-12 is half day sessions from 9:00AM-Noon, Monday-Friday. Week One is Natural Resources Week and runs from July 15th-19th. Week Two is Agriculture Week and runs from July 29th-August 2nd. Registration forms for this camp were sent home via partnerships with our local schools. There is an early signup rate for this summer camp for registrations postmarked by June 20th. Pre-registration is required by Tuesday, July 9th.
The summer camp schedule for youth ages 13-18 is full day sessions from 9:00AM-4:00PM, Monday-Friday. Week One is Natural Resources Week and runs from August 5th-9th. Week Two is Agriculture Week and runs from August 12th-16th. Pre-registration is required by Tuesday, July 30th.
The integrated curriculum for the youth ages 13-18 will also include learning about the history of our region’s agricultural entrepreneurship and technological innovations, as well as sustainable agriculture. The youth will learn about plant and animal science, nutritional aspects of food, and how our local food and fiber are processed and moved to markets. Youth will also have an opportunity to explore our rich natural resource heritage by going on field trips to learn about the forest products industry, watersheds and water quality, renewable energy, wildlife species and their habitats that contribute to our region’s biodiversity, and other related conservation biology topics.
In addition to the Maine Community Foundation grant for the Teen Conservation Camp, these camps are made possible due to support from the local community businesses, schools, and civic groups, the guest speakers who donate their time to put on presentations, and also the farm families that host our youth. For more information and for pre-registration, please contact the Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 564-2321, extension 3, or stopping by our office at 42 Pine Crest Drive in Dover-Foxcroft.
About the Maine Community Foundation: The Maine Community Foundation is a statewide nonprofit created by and for the people of Maine. The foundation is a philanthropic leader in building sustainable and vibrant communities for all Maine people. Maine Community Foundation grants cover the full range of nonprofit undertakings, with a special focus in the areas of education, community economic development, the environment, and civic engagement. The Community Building Grant Program, which includes the Piscataquis County Fund, seeks to support organizations and programs that recognize and build on a community’s strengths and assets. The Piscataquis County Fund was established in 1986 by area businesses and individuals to ensure that the county would have the local charitable resources to address community issues. Once a year, grants from the Piscataquis County Fund are awarded to nonprofits to support innovative projects. All grant decisions are made by local volunteers with strong connections to, and knowledge about, Maine communities.
The Maine Association of Conservation Districts is the statewide voice of Maine’s 16 local Soil and Water Conservation Districts. By working with landowners, nonprofit organizations and federal, state, and local governments, Districts have helped to protect our soil, water, forests, wildlife, and other natural resources for over 60 years.
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