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Guest Column — Millage sought for Dickinson Conservation District funding

March 10 is the Presidential Primary election in Michigan. In Dickinson County, there are several millage proposals on the same ballot. One is requesting support for the Dickinson Conservation District.

What is the Dickinson Conservation District? This is a locally run unit of state government, a stand-alone entity. It is governed by a five-member board of directors, local citizens elected by the landowners of Dickinson County. The Conservation District does not receive any financial support from either the state of Michigan or Dickinson County. The district is not part of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources or any other state agency.

What does the Conservation District do for the County? The mission statement of the Dickinson Conservation District is “promoting responsible natural resource management.” Since its founding in 1948, the district has been the connector between local resource concerns, and technical assistance and support offered by state and federal natural resource agencies.

Through the district, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has provided local farmers with assistance for addressing water quality issues such as soil and manure runoff and sedimentation in local streams and creeks.

As the county is blessed with significant forest resources, the Conservation District provides access to state and federal forest programs for private landowners. This assistance provides landowners with management plans to develop and manage their timber. These plans help make their forest lands sustainable while providing habitat improvements for deer, birds and numerous other species of wildlife as desired by the landowner.

Education has long been a prime focus for the Dickinson Conservation District. District staff has always been available to answer people’s questions by phone or by visiting the office. They also have developed connections with area schools to promote and encourage environmental education in the classroom, as well as active involvement with various field studies and projects for real-world experiences. As Dickinson County is not immune to the occurrence of invasive species, the district remains vigilant in coordination with the Wild Rivers Invasive Species Coalition as another major information source for county residents and organizations.

Looking ahead, the district is seeking input from residents to identify local resource issues and concerns, to help guide the future direction of district efforts. Such endeavors could include some expansion of stream and lake monitoring for more water bodies in the county, encouragement of and support for local food production and plantings for pollinators, continuing to work with municipalities to enhance urban tree plantings, and strengthened support of recycling efforts.

However, funding for the Conservation District has always been unstable.

Conservation tree sales, done annually in the spring, are the only significant revenue source for operating the district.

We are requesting a 0.1 mill levy, or 10 cents per $1,000 in taxable property value, for five years for district operations. As an illustration, a typical home in Dickinson County with an assessed valuation of $60,000 would contribute $6 a year — a small donation for the environmental future of Dickinson County.

Local support for local issues! We would greatly appreciate the support of Dickinson County residents on March 10.

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