Partnering for better local government
This column on Yellow Medicine Soil and Water Conservation District’s (SWCD) partnership efforts is the first of a two-part series explaining how the SWCD is improving local government and conservation implementation.
The cities of Canby, Porter, St. Leo, Clarkfield, Granite Falls, Wood Lake, Hanley Falls and Echo have all resolved to delegate responsibilities of local government administration of the Wetland Conservation Act to the Yellow Medicine SWCD. This provides expert local knowledge and access to a statewide network of professionals that deal with wetland regulation on the part of state law. This is similar to the partnership between the SWCD and Yellow Medicine County for areas outside of city limits. The goal of the SWCD is to provide those who have the potential to impact a wetland to be aware of that fact, and to be well informed of what consequences or alternatives there are to draining wetlands. The SWCD even reviews building permits in Canby and other communities to avoid issues.
Another example of the SWCD working with a community, is that shown by the upcoming involvement in Phase III of the improvement project at Memorial Park in Granite Falls. SWCD staff have been following progress of improvements and restorations at the park. As 2019 approaches, staff will begin to formulate where potential Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Prevention, interpretive or educational items may be appropriate, along with options for further ecological restoration and water quality/quantity conservation measures.
In 2018, the SWCD rapidly expanded its public outreach programming. Specifically, staff began producing news releases for twice-monthly publishing in The Canby News and the Granite Falls-Clarkfield Advocate Tribune. A few articles have been included in Tri-County News and expanded on in the Marshall Independent when deemed regionally significant. www.yellowmedicineswcd.org/news also has an updated register of these stories. The goal is to make sure important information gets to those that it affects. Facebook has also proven to be a useful resource in getting messages on programs out. You can like and follow the SWCD on Facebook as “Yellow Medicine SWCD” in the search bar. Our website also shows the most recent posts that have occurred.
Perhaps the most fiscally strong and valuable partnership for the SWCD is that of itself and the State of Minnesota. The Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) is a governor appointed board that acts as an intermediary for funding to make its way to SWCDs and other local units of government. Programs like the “state cost share fund,” “the buffer law,” “WCA,” and a host of others make their way to SWCD by way of BWSR. The SWCD also does some work with the Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) related to habitat and water regulation, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) related to watershed planning, and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) dealing with drinking water well boring and sealing. Many thousands of dollars in grant funds and allocations from these agencies ensure we can provide our services. In 2017, about half of SWCD revenue was from state funding sources.
Over the last few months, SWCD staff have taken some time out to keep providers of the ag community up to speed on our efforts. Through email, the SWCD reaches out to crop consultants, financial institutions, insurance providers, cooperatives and other retailers. The idea has been to keep those who are paid to keep producers informed, sell products and provide services updated on what we are working on and have available. This year into next year, staff will be continuing to partner and pursue competitive funding to expand and foster the cooperation between local government and private partners. Further information will be shared with the public on exciting implementation of these activities.
In 2017 and 2018, the SWCD was able to share resources with the Yellow Medicine River Watershed District (YMRWD) and Lincoln SWCD by utilizing Yellow Medicine SWCD staff to provide services to those organizations. When Water Resources Technician Brooke Buysse was brought on board, the intent was for her to work out of the YMRWD’s Minneota, MN office one day per week. Through this period, more and less time was utilized for this purpose and Brooke’s added capacity was found to be needed in the form of a more regular watershed district staff person. While Brooke will continue to work as needed at the WD, the WD has hired former SWCD part-timer Michael Luke who will work out of Minneota at least until he is done studying at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. On July 2, Brayden Anderson, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) technician joined the SWCD in Clarkfield. He is also dedicated in part to Lincoln SWCD out of Ivanhoe. Into 2019, Brayden will be transitioning to another position in the Yellow Medicine SWCD. The SWCDs in partnership will monitor funding sources to understand if there is value and stability in continuing to utilize a shared position.
Over the course of the last half-decade and earlier, the SWCD has received funding to promote and implement federal farm bill programs and other programs including the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Walk In Access public hunting allowance (WIA), Wetlands Reserve Easements (WRE), Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM) Easements, and many more. This funding requires some degree of local match. During various ebbs and flows of SWCD funds, it was necessary to reach outside of the SWCD coffers to local nonprofit partners. This led to seeking a total of 5-10 percent of the grant amount from a combination of donations from the Yellow Medicine County Pheasants Forever Chapter and the East Medicine PF. This partnership also led to The YMC PF Chapter, based in Canby, to share local funding with CRP contract participants to soup up seed mixes to add additional beneficial wildflowers to seed mixes. About 18 years ago, the Upper Minnesota Valley National Wild Turkey Federation sought national funding to supply the SWCD with a tree planter to provide additional wild turkey habitat. This machine is still in use and establishing habitat today.
The most critical partnership is that of which is with YOU, our stakeholder. Your interest in this article gives you ownership of the SWCD and its efforts. We are the local government unit tasked with providing technical, financial and educational support to our residents. We work with landowners, farmers, ranchers, city folk, country folk, homeowners, business owners… you get it, everyone.
The mission of the Yellow Medicine Soil and Water Conservation District is to provide technical, financial, and educational support to its residents. For more information on the SWCD and its programs and how they affect you contact the SWCD at 320-669-4442 x 3. Our website also has a lot of information on all of our programs and services. Visit www.yellowmedicineswcd.org to learn more and stay up to date on all Yellow Medicine SWCD has to offer and what we are working on. You can also like us on Facebook!