Officials: SWCD vital to economy

Published 1:14 am Friday, August 12, 2016

Wiregrass area soil and water conservation districts and their partners make a huge impact on local economies.

conservationRichard Collier, assistant state conservationist for Natural Resources Conservation Service, said that just north of $16 million was given to district sites statewide and $8 million was allocated from the state for conservation in to Area V, which includes Barbour, Coffee, Crenshaw, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Pike and Russell counties.

“We have strong legislative supporters,” said Noopie Cosby, legislative liaison from Cosby and Co.

Additionally, Collier said that $1.6 million came through Emergency Watershed Protection Program through NRCS for the area to help make repairs after the Christmas holiday flooding. A total of $3.2 million came to the state.

Collier said that a lot has changed in soil and water in 13 years.

He said that every conservation district in the area is combined. Previously there were 10 conservationists, but that has been cut to five.

Locally, Josh Elliot is the conservationist for Covington and Coffee counties.

Collier said that the agreements and partnerships that NRCS and soil and water have are important.

“A lot of money goes to help partners,” he said.

Laslie Hall, president of the Alabama Association of Conservation Districts said that things are changing in how conservation districts work.

He said they are now charged with writing grants to get funding.

“We are going to have to learn to do things differently and cooperate with our county commissions.”

Dr. William Puckett, executive director of the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee said they would now conduct audits of the districts to get out and make sure they are operating well.

The organization has hired a person to oversee the audits.

“I have challenged her to do 12 per year,” he said.

Puckett said it was essential to have the state legislature on their side to show them how critical it is to the economy to have good, clean resources.

Cosby agreed that it was crucial to keep the legislature informed.

“Take them out to the farm,” he said. “Let them know how many in the district has conservation practices in place.”

Conserve Alabama’s campaign is private lands equals public benefit.

The area annual meeting was held Thursday in Abbeville.