Conservation district needs millage support

The Dickinson Conservation District, or DCD, is a non-partisan, non-profit organization seeking a 0.1 millage on the Nov. 6 ballot.

This request amounts to 10 cents per $1,000 taxable valuation. A home valued at $60,000 would cost $6 a year for five years.

We are so fortunate to live in the Upper Peninsula and in Dickinson County … the Land of Hiawatha. We have close access to thousands of acres of forests, lakes, rivers and streams.

Many people think because the DCD is a county organization, they receive financial support from Dickinson County. This is not the case. The Conservation District has received no money from the county in more than three years.

It is also thought that, because the Conservation District works under the umbrella of the state of Michigan, the state provides financial support. Although there is a line in the state budget for Conservation Districts, no money has been appropriated for many years.

How does the DCD survive — not thrive but merely survive? They apply for grants that may or may not be received. Some grants require matching funds. Most grants include little or no funding for administration costs. Grants received are to be spent on labor, mileage and equipment for specific projects. Not only must the money be spent, it frequently needs to be spent before it is received. This creates a bookkeeping nightmare.

Fundraisers account for approximately 70 percent of DCD’s operational budget. The largest fundraiser, the Spring Tree Sale, accounts for the majority of the funds. Unfortunately, fewer people are planting trees than in the past and this source of income has dwindled over the years.

Maintaining a local Conservation District is extremely important. The Dickinson Conservation District works hard to protect and preserve our natural resources. They help landowners with land management questions and resources. Good land management can include areas for deer, game birds and endangered species. The DCD also works on tree health and reforestation; invasive species control on land, lakes and streams; drainage issues; school and adult educational programs; safety and productivity in food practices for local farmers; and recycling efforts.

The DCD has formed partnerships with Wild Rivers Invasive Species Coalition, Natural Resources Conservation Services, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Forestry Assistance Program, Michigan Agricultural Environment Awareness Program, local lake associations and volunteer organizations to work on common projects and goals.

When going to the polls, please think of the benefit of having a local Conservation District and vote accordingly. Look at it as a small donation towards sustainability and conservation projects and efforts that will benefit us all now and in the future.