BLM Signs MOU with NACD

The Bureau of Land Management is renewing a partnership with a nonprofit that works with farmers on land and water stewardship measures, advancing the Obama administration’s commitment to working with private landowners to achieve conservation goals.

BLM late yesterday announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) pledging to work together on a range of public lands issues, including forestland and rangeland management needs to address invasive plant species and increased wildfire risks, as well as issues dealing with wild horses and burros.

The national association represents some 3,000 conservation districts nationwide and their state associations. Since it was founded in 1946, the association has worked with private landowners and private land managers to apply conservation practices endorsed by BLM and other federal agencies on their lands. The association also works with local communities and landowners to coordinate funding and assistance from state and federal governments for conservation.

BLM and the national association share common goals “in managing, developing, and protecting federal and private land and water resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner,” according to the four-page MOU. The partnership is necessary in Western states where federal and private lands often intertwine, requiring public and private landowners to work together to make conservation programs effective.

“The BLM values this relationship. The cooperative spirit and goodwill of the more than 3,000 districts across the nation have allowed us to make great strides,” Jamie Connell, BLM’s acting deputy director, said yesterday in a statement. “By renewing this MOU, we acknowledge there is still much left to do, and we recognize we can accomplish so much more together than we could individually.”

The MOU, signed by Connell and Earl Garber, NACD’s president, renews an agreement originally signed between the two parties in 2001, said Beverly Winston, a spokeswoman for the national association.

The renewed partnership comes at a time when budget cuts have affected the ability of BLM and the Agriculture Department, in particular, to put farmland conservation measures and other programs in place (Greenwire,  April 29).

NACD helps to lobby for the farm bill’s conservation programs, which among other things pays farmers to idle cropland for conservation, promotes conservation on working lands and provides funding for environmental improvements on farmland.

“We are very pleased to be renewing our MOU with the Bureau of Land Management,” Garber said yesterday in a statement. “Over the previous years, our close working partnership with BLM has helped open many doors to address important natural resources management issues. The MOU will allow the diverse conservation work underway to continue forward.”

The Washington, D.C.-based national association has actively worked with farmers to help them put into place conservation measures on their lands. The NACD has worked closely with the Obama administration on such measures.

Indeed, former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said before leaving his post last spring that he was proudest of his work with private landowners who agree to participate in programs that permanently protect their lands from development through the use of measures like conservation easements (Greenwire, April 5).

The MOU continues a long-standing relationship between the NACD and the Interior and Agriculture departments.

President Obama recently nominated USDA chief of staff Krysta Harden, NACD’s former CEO, to become the agency’s deputy secretary (E&E Daily, June 28).

And in May it was announced that Dave White, who retired last year as USDA’s natural resources chief, would work as a strategic consultant for NACD (Greenwire, May 3).

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Latah SWCD Dam Removal Project

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July 17, 2013 · 11:47 am

Navigating the Idaho 319 Program

By: Matt Woodard, Chairman of the East Side Soil and Water Conservation District

Section 319 of the Clean Water Act established a grant program under which states, territories, and tribes may receive funds to support a wide variety of non-point source pollution management activities, including technical assistance, financial assistance, education, training, technology transfer, demonstration projects, and monitoring to assess the success of specific non-point source implementation projects.  Source

A good 319 project is regionally significant, important to many agencies, addresses multiple concerns, has multiple benefits beyond water quality, watershed based, on the 303(d) list, and has public outreach such as statewide/local press.

Letters of recommendation about your project are a critical part of your 319 application.  Letters from your local WAG, soil conservation district chairman, DEQ water quality administrator, supporting agencies (like USFC, IDFG, NRCS) county commissioners, city officials, other state/fed reps), environmental organizations, trade associations (like IASCD), industry associations are all examples of acceptable support letters.  Be sure each letter is signed, dated, and provided to DEQ with the completed application.  A large, diverse support base often receives a greater consideration during the competitive funding process.

The maximum amount of funding you can receive from a 319 grant is $250,000.  319 grants will fund up to 60% of the total project.  The remaining 40% needs to be non-federal funding in the form of match funds (hard or soft, or in kind).  You should know that only 10% of the grant can go to administrative costs; administrators like to see the maximum amount of funding go to an on-the-ground project.

Timeline For FY 2014 319 Grant Funding

April 8, 2013: Pre-Application Process Opens

May 6, 2013: Pre-Application Process Closes

May 31, 2013: All pre-application reviews to be completed; DEQ will communicate with applications on any questions they have on your project.

August 1, 2013: A completed online application is due to be received by DEQ; prior to that, the project should have been reviewed by the local WAG.  Their approval of the project is necessary for it to go forward.

September 13, 2013: All qualifying project applications are to be sent to the respective BAG chairman for review.

October 1-31, 2013: Each applicant is required to present their project to the respective BAG.  The BAG will rank projects based on regional importance, the amount of funding requested, and other factors.

November 6, 2013: Results of each regional project ranking are summarized and forwarded to each regional BAG chair.

December 2, 2013: DEQ Water Quality staff and the chair from each BAG meet in Boise to discuss the projects.  From this group of projects comes the final rank in order of priority.

Approximately $1.2 million is awarded state wide each year, and has grown very competitive.  Your project should be thought out and address those multiple concerns.  A good Power Point with lots of photos of the project area and a budget breakdown is a great idea for your presentation.  Also, get to know your local DEQ water quality manager.  You should ask them lots questions.  They are there to help you!

Finally, mark your calendar for April 30th.  The Balanced Rock and Twin Falls SWCDs are holding a training day for 319 grants.  The hours are from 9am to 3pm, at the Jerome Fish and Game Office.

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March/April 2013 eNewsletter Posted

Our March/April 2013 eNewsletter has been posted to our website.  Please click here to read it.

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JFAC Increases 2-To-1 Match By $50,000; Approves Additional $20,000 For Technical Assistance

This morning, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee set the Fiscal Year 2014 budget for the Idaho Soil and Water Conservation CommissionRepresentative Steve Miller (R-Fairfield) made the main motion to support a $50,000 increase to the two-to-one state match, and for an additional $20,000 to allow the SWC to recover indirect costs for professional services related to cooperative conservation projects.

“This is great news for our state, our natural resources, and for the fifty soil and water conservation districts in Idaho,” IASCD President Kit Tillotson said.  “These increases are a result of our member districts sharing their conservation projects with their legislators, and the outreach by the IASCD Board of Directors.”

The motion to support the increases in the budget passed by a vote of 19-0, and now moves to the floor of the House/Senate chambers with a “do pass” recommendation.

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Senate Ag Chairman Steve Bair Requests Full Funding For 2-to-1 Match

The Joint Finance Appropriations Committee (JFAC) wrapped up their budget presentations today with a handful of reports from the Senate and House committee chairmen.  Today’s hearing started promptly at 8:00am with Senate Agricultural Affairs Chairman Steve Bair (R-Blackfoot) discussing the budgets his committee had reviewed.

Bair said they had reviewed the Soil and Water Conservation Commission’s budget, and referenced the two-to-one match was $209,700 from being fully funded.  IASCD and the SWC presented to the Senate Ag Affairs Committee on February 14th, 2013 and discussed the importance of a fully funded match.

Chairman Bair let JFAC know that districts use match funds to leverage grants from the Office of Species Conservation, Bonneville Power Administration, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, and even private grants.  He also said that local soil and water conservation districts can play a great role in reducing the TMDL in Idaho’s streams and rivers.  Therefor, the Senate Ag Committee recommended an additional $209,700.

The date for JFAC to hear the SWC’s budget isn’t known at this time, but we will share it with you as soon as it is set.

Thank you Chairman Bair for your strong support!

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Confirmation Hearing for Soil and Water Conservation Commissioner Norman Wright

Early this morning, the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee held a confirmation hearing for Soil and Water Conservation Commissioner H. Norman Wright.  Chairman Steve Bair started the hearing promptly at 8:00am, and asked Commissioner Wright to share his qualifications.

Commissioner Wright is an Idaho native, a Boise State alum, and currently serves on the American Falls City Council.

“I have learned a lot on the Commission over the last year,” Wright said.  “It’s different being involved, rather than observing.  I was a loan officer with FSA, and as you know the SWC runs an active loan program.  We have looked at ways to streamline the RCRDP loan program, and try to find more people for it to continue.”

Chairman Bair asked Commissioner Wright what has surprised him most during his service on the Commission.  Commissioner Wright said he “didn’t know they had a loan program [RCRDP loan program].  It was a well-kept secret, and I don’t want the RCRDP to be a secret anymore.”

Chairman Bair thanked him for his service, and then called on the Commission and IASCD to give their annual presentation.

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