Montcalm County cuts funds for conservation district

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 11:38 am on Tuesday, December 18, 2012

STANTON — The Montcalm Conservation District is losing half of its county funding next year.

The Montcalm County Board of Commissioners voted 8-1 on Monday to reduce conservation district funding from $12,000 to $6,000, per a recommendation from the county’s Solid Waste Management & Planning Committee after discussion at the committee’s Oct. 18 and Nov. 14 meetings. The extra $6,000 will go to the county’s recycling program.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Patrick Q. Carr of Lakeview cast the lone dissenting vote on Monday. Both Carr and Commissioner John Johansen of Montcalm Township agreed they would like the county’s Finance & Personnel Committee to revisit the issue.

“I can’t disagree, given our funding at this point, but I certainly want to point out that the conservation district is in very dire straits at this point with funding, to the point that they probably will not exist,” Johansen said. “Without additional funding, they’re not going to be in existence for too many more years before their funding runs out.”

Johansen challenged his fellow commissioners to find a way to fund the conservation district from the county’s general fund to bring the amount back up to the $12,000 level.

“We are in a county that depends very heavily on the agricultural base,” he said. “The agricultural base in this county is our economical engine. The conservation district is very instrumental in supporting federal funding for our farming community. Without having them here, that federal funding goes away.”

The issue will be revisited at the county’s Finance & Personnel Committee meeting in January, per a request from Carr and Johansen.

“To take another hit is going to be tough,” said Carr of the conservation district and local farmers in general.

Commissioner Tom Lindeman of Greenville sits on the Solid Waste Management & Planning Committee.

“I don’t think any of them are not in support of what the conservation district is doing, but they just feel that the funding is needed internally for the recycling program and for hazardous waste disposal,” Lindeman said.

The Montcalm Conservation District was organized in 1948. Districts are organized by land owners and occupiers. The district is governed by a five-member board elected by local land owners at the annual meeting. Districts are local organizations by which local people with the assistance of public agencies work together to solve soil and water problems. Technical assistance is provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The district’s programs are directed toward erosion control, efficient land use, maintaining soil productivity, water management and promoting a stewardship for the land. Each year the district also has a tree seedling program.

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