Welcome to the Eagle County Conservation District
What is it?
How does it benefit Eagle County?
How is the District Funded?
During the 1930’s a depression gripped the country along with a severe drought in the Midwest. The lack of proper conservation practices in the past, combined with the drought and the relentless winds raised great clouds of dust over large areas of the Midwest. On May 12, 1934, a major storm traveling across the United States carried large clouds of dust from the Midwest all the way to Washington DC, and deposited dust on ships that were 200 miles out to sea in the Atlantic.
This was a real wake up call for Congress and consequently the “Soil Conservation Act of April 27, 1935, was passed. After the passage of this act individual States were encouraged to form Conservation Districts in their States. Today there are approximately 3,000 local conservation districts nationwide. The Eagle County Conservation District (ECCD) is one of these. The District serves the Eagle and Colorado River drainages of the County.
The District is a branch of the State Government created under the “Colorado Soil Conservation Act” and is managed by a Board of Supervisors elected by the landowners of the District. The Mission of the District is stated as: “Providing the preservation and restoration of the natural resources of the District through education, cooperation and initiation of practices that fulfill these goals.”
The District works in cooperation with various entities to accomplish their mission. On a local level the District works with the Extension Office in various programs such as the “Small Acreage Workshop” and the County Fair. The District participates in various conservation programs with displays and demonstrations such as the water trailer which explains the effects of water erosion. The District also provides scholarships for youth and teachers to several conservation workshops. In 2011, the District administered an $12,000 grant from the Colorado State Conservation Board that helped 27 landowners treat 2042 acres of noxious weeds that were a serious threat to the agricultural production and wildlife in the county, including a very detrimental impact on the scenic beauty of the Counties open space. There is much work yet to be done to get these noxious weeds under control and this program will be repeated again in 2012. In 2009 members of the Board donated 634 hours of their time and 4,070 miles driven in the interest of conservation in Eagle County.
One of the greatest benefits of the District to all the citizens and visitors of Eagle County is the fact that the District operates in conjunction with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to identify and implement conservation practices in the County. In the past five years through 2009, these conservation practices were applied to 51 different projects on 3,093 acres of open space in the county. The federal dollars spent on these projects in Eagle County during this period totaled $1,000,502 which is approximately one half of the total cost of these projects. Another $238,000 has been obligated and will come to Eagle County when the conservation practices are completed. Much of the cost of these projects involves material, equipment rental, fuel and labor, all of which brings various tax revenues to the County and puts over $2,000,000 in circulation in the County. In addition to the hard cash that the NRCS has spent in the County another $598,000 in staff time has been provided to Eagle County landowners for Technical Assistance during this period. Another $165,000 was spent in the County for payments under the Emergency Conservation Program to help with landslides, fires and other events that have an impact on the resources. . In 2011, 1,450 acres were treated through various programs of the NRCS. This resulted in $277,000 in cost share dollars coming to Eagle County which is approximately half the cost of the completed projects. This resulted in an economic benefit to the County of approximately $426,000. It is early in the year but there have been requests for cost share funding of approximately $400,000 so far for projects that may be funded later in the year if they meet the requirements. Various projects include cost share on pond construction, brush management, high tunnels, range management, weed control and irrigation improvements. It is important to note that the NRCS would not service Eagle County, and this money would not flow into the County, if the Eagle County Conservation District did not exist. One of the greatest benefits of this program to the County besides the benefits of the soil, water and wildlife conservation is the preservation and improvement to the open space which is so important to the citizens and visitors of the County.
The District also makes seedling trees and planting supplies available to landowners for conservation practices at a reasonable cost. Through this program approximately 1,000 trees per year are planted in the County.
To continue to provide the above listed benefits to the District additional funding will need to be obtained to support the District operations. We currently receive a small Direct Assistance grant from the Colorado State Conservation Board. We make a very small profit on the tree sales and sell some advertising in this newsletter in addition to a few small donations. Most county governments in Colorado supplement the funding of the conservation districts in their county or there is a tax levied on real property in the county. No tax levy or assessment has been approved by the voters in the District and the funds are not available to take the matter to a vote. The District Board Is taking an active role to assure that the Eagle County Government is aware of the benefits that the District provides to the residents and visitors to the County and how they can help assure our existence to maintain open space in the County and provide conservation programs.