08-02: Operational Funding For Conservation Districts

WHEREAS, Conservation Districts in Montana are political subdivisions of state government whose primary function is to promote conservation of natural resources through conservation education and on-the-ground conservation projects; and

WHEREAS Conservation Districts have the authority to pass, if necessary, land ordinances to conserve and protect local natural resources; and are mandated to administer and enforce the Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act of 1975 (commonly known as the 310 law), and

WHEREAS, funding for conservation district operations comes from each district’s authority to levy a tax on only the real property within their district, and due to the unique characteristics of most of Montana, including sparse population, lack of metropolitan areas and vast agriculturally designated lands, all of which impact the tax levy income for conservation districts, cause many conservation districts to rely on Administrative Grant funds for over 75% of their operations budgets and

WHEREAS, for a majority, if not all, conservation projects and educational activities, districts must rely on grants from other governmental agencies, organizations, foundations and/or other sources for funding, but

WHEREAS, a majority of the conservation districts do not have full-time staff/personnel needed to provide the grant writing time and skills necessary to obtain funding for the projects/programs necessary for these resource issues and do not have the funds to employ professional staff to write and obtain this funding, and

WHEREAS, several districts are under-funded and unable to meet their required goal to address the natural resources within their districts and are now facing additional budgetary strain to maintain even the most minimal operational standards,

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that conservation districts unite to address this critical funding issue, create a commission/committee/task force of district representatives from across the state who shall be empowered to work with a variety of individual, agency and organizational staff, along with MACD to research the funding problems of the Montana districts and study the operational and funding sources of districts in other states across the United States.   The committee shall be instructed to develop a goal-oriented plan highlighting ideas/strategies to re-organize and re-fund districts (including legislatively) in Montana in such a way as to provide a basic operational foundation for each district, and more equilateral distribution of funding so as to be able to employ qualified, long-term staff, offer realistic wages and benefits and attract people whose interest and hearts are devoted to the ideals of the conservation movement.