IASCD was able to have an Earth Day editorial published last week in the Idaho Falls Post Register. Since we were limited to 450 words, and not everyone receives a copy of the Post Register, we thought you would be interested in reading the editorial in its entirety.
Before you woke up this morning, a group of environmentalists were already up working to improve and conserve Idaho’s natural resources. When they come home tonight, their boots will be covered in dirt, their hands muddy from fixing irrigation lines, and their brains racked from trying to think of a way to grow more crops using less water. Today is Earth Day, but every day is Earth Day for Idaho’s soil and water conservation districts.
During the Dust Bowl, the federal government sought out local land owners to help solve the erosion problem plaguing our nation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt encouraged the formation of local conservation districts, and Idaho landowners created the first five soil and water conservation districts in 1939. Their goal then, as it is today, was to promote non-regulatory conservation to preserve and protect Idaho’s natural resources. Today, there are 50 individual districts, each day working to make improvements to our state’s environment.
Conservation district boards are made up of farmers, ranchers and private land owners. The work and projects they complete seldom make the news, however these projects have increased agriculture production, while saving water, keeping the air clean, and keeping millions of tons of sediment from entering our rivers. Soil and water conservation districts help land owners develop common sense solutions to challenges they face. These are crafted by people with real expertise in land and natural resource management, not a pencil-pusher in San Francisco with zero background in farming or natural resource conservation.
Here are a few projects from some of the districts around Idaho:
The Gem Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) helped a land owner install a pivot irrigation line on his land, which resulted in reducing sediment loads by 324 tons per year.
The Teton SCD held a poster contest for students in their district. This year’s theme was Forests: For People More Than You Imagine, and district educated youth on the importance of forests in their daily lives. Nearly 300 students participated in the contest, a new record for the Teton SCD.
The Valley SWCD worked with the Valley County Road Department to improve road surface drainage that annually reduces sediment load by 70 tons, nitrogen by 193 pounds and phosphorus by 142 pounds.
The Squaw Creek SCD treated 12,800 acres of forest land in FY ’10 with tree planting and thinning, noxious weed control and stock watering facilities.
The Adams SWCD is implementing the Little Weiser River stream bank stabilization and rehabilitation project in Adams and Washington counties. Their goal is to prevent stream bank and stream channel erosion, thus protecting farmland, improving the flood channel, irrigation diversion and wildlife habitat through enhanced riparian areas.
The Butte SCD signed an agreement this week with US Fish and Wildlife to enhance the riparian habitat of the bull trout and other native fish in the Little Lost River Watershed.
The Bonner SWCD has taken the lead in addressing aquatic invasive species by managing boat inspection stations. This has protected Priest Lake, Lake Pend Orielle, and a number of other bodies of water in Bonner County.
The West Side SWCD helped landowners install over a half-mile (2,733 feet) of center pivot irrigation lines in their district. These systems are highly water efficient, and save tons of soil from eroding into nearby streams and creeks.
The Latah SCD recently completed work on the Corral Creek Steelhead Habitat Restoration Project. This created 18 miles of habitat upstream from Corral Creek by restoring the stream channel, allowing water to flow naturally from the creek to the Potlatch River. They also revegetated the stream bank and meadow with native plant species to reduce erosion, enhance stream bank stability, and provide shading for the fish.
Power SCD worked with two land owners to improve planting and irrigation techniques. These efforts stopped severe wind erosion in the Sand Farms and near I-84. It is estimated that this project saved 5 to 10 tons of soil per acre.
Ada SWCD’s biggest project this past year included active natural resource management of all Ada County conservation easement parcels (over 800 acres) as well as the management of the Avimor Planned Community conservation easement (400 acres) for protection and enhancement of open space and wildlife habitat.
Soil conservation districts don’t have one day a year to celebrate Earth Day; for them, it’s every day. Districts produce tangible, common sense solutions to save natural resources, and each day improving the world around them. We simply don’t see these kinds of positive results from individual activists. You will not find Idaho’s True Environmentalists at an Earth Day rally today; they are too busy actively saving resources and getting their hands dirty.