Funding for Conservation District gutted in state House budget | Guest column

— Submitted by the San Juan Islands Conservation District board of supervisors and staff

The House Democrats in the Washington State Legislature have released their budget (PSHB 2127) and they propose eliminating the Washington State Conservation Commission, effective July 1.

All state funding to conservation districts for FY 2013 will be amended and cancelled. Some remaining functions of the commission are transferred to Washington State Department of Agriculture.

If allowed to pass, this would kill conservation districts throughout the state, all 47 of them. This will include the San Juan Islands Conservation District, which has been in existence since 1947.

Our process of providing guidance for private natural resource protection is collaborative, voluntary, and most importantly non-regulatory. The Act of 1939 and subsequent legislation has not given districts direct funding.

San Juan Islands Conservation District currently has an assessment that was recently renewed by the unanimous vote of the County Council is due to expire in 2020. This funding is approximately one-half of our annual budget. Our additional operational funds come from the WSCC (state grant funds) and a small annually renewed agreement with USDA/NRCS.

The loss of any of these three sources of funding would effectively shut our district down. As districts are now, more than ever, being asked to lead or become partners in the Puget Sound Partnership process, watershed planning and the more recent Low Impact Development conservation activities for small parcel and urban landscapes, our funding is more important than ever.

We are, and remain, the only neutral third party organization in existence in our county.

We are asking county residents to show support for our work and the work of all the state districts as well as the WSCC by contacting our three legislators in Olympia. Let them know you value the work we do and the way we do it. Ask them to support the governor's budget in which the WSCC and districts all over the state take a 10 percent cut.

We can handle that.

SJICD has repeatedly taken funding hits over the last three years and with only a staff of three, two part-time and one full-time, we have managed to produce quality forest & farmland planning products; assisted with sustainable land use practices; provided low impact development technical assistance; educated on water quality and watershed awareness as well as native plant use & wildlife habitat preservation, all for the benefit of county residents.

Our workload is wait listed for up to a year and due to this popularity our community has consistently renewed requests for our services.




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