The power of conservation: clean water, healthy soils is collaboration among 92 Districts, IASWCD, conservation partners.
By Jennifer Boyle Warner
The stewardship of our natural resources has never been about self-interest or personal gain, but about the wellbeing of generations to come. Indiana’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs), one in every county, were created to deliver technical assistance, education and cost-share funding through voluntary programs which help landowners address important natural resource concerns.
The Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (IASWCD) and our local SWCDs, share a single mission: to coordinate assistance from available sources — public and private, local, state and federal — in an effort to develop locally driven solutions to natural resource concerns. That is over 450 volunteers across the state serving in elected or appointed positions on SWCD governing boards, who, along with staff at the local level, work with landowners in agricultural areas, cities and towns, and the land areas in between. That is approximately 23 million acres in the State of Indiana.
Local Soil and Water Conservation Districts are uniquely positioned to bring a critical environmental perspective to land use and economic development decisions. As a nonprofit representing these grassroots natural resource entities, the IASWCD provides Districts with the information, networks and tools to make these sound decisions. Our programs at the state level focus on five main areas:
• Communications and outreach with Districts and our Conservation partners through our eNewsletter, the Weekly Update, conservation awards, news releases, work on the Pathway to Water Quality exhibit at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, etc.,
• Advocacy at the Statehouse with our elected representatives on Clean Water Indiana and other natural resource issues, and with the National Association of Conservation Districts,
• Capacity building through our conservation development specialist who supports SWCDs and watershed groups, as well as the successful Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative. The CCSI promotes a systematic approach to production agriculture focusing on: continuous no-till/strip-till, cover crops, precision farming and nutrient and pest management.
• Leadership through our Annual Conference and the Indiana Conservation Partnership’s Leadership Institute, and
• District member benefits including a contribution agreement with NRCS, providing the GrantStation eNewsletter grant resource tool, and liability insurance coverage to Districts.
How you can become involved at the local level Volunteer / Assist your county SWCD with legislative awareness programs for local, state and federal officials, conservation programs, urban and agricultural best management practices (BMPs) field days, fundraising, tree sales, youth and adult education events or surveying. Serve as a Supervisor / Represent your community on the County SWCD Board of Supervisors as a natural resource decision maker. Identify local soil and water conservation issues and priorities and develop SWCD programs that provide solutions to these issues. Serve as an Associate Supervisor / Attend monthly board meetings and provide input to the SWCD board on local soil and water conservation issues and programs.
Indiana’s Conservation Partnership The IASWCD and our 92 SWCDs are proud to be an important component of Indiana’s Conservation Partnership (ICP). The partnership provides leadership, information, technical assistance and education on conservation resource issues. Other ICP members are the:
• Indiana Department of Environmental Management,
• Indiana Department of Natural Resources,
• Indiana State Department of Agriculture Division of Soil Conservation,
• Purdue Cooperative Extension Service,
• State Soil Conservation Board,
• USDA Farm Service Agency, and the
• USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Soil and water / quality of life . . . whether you live on a farm, in a small town, or in the heart of an urban center, healthy and sustainable communities begin with the wise management of our natural resources. That is why the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts is pleased to be part of the Indiana Woodland Steward and the Woodland Steward Institute promoting the wise use of our Hoosier forest resources. These are important conservation best management practices in urban and agricultural land settings.
For more information on the IASWCD and our local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, contact the Association at 317.692.7325 or at www.iaswcd.org.
Jennifer Boyle Warner is the Executive Director for IASWCD.