SWCD and you, doing good work together
Through the last few years, the Carlton County Soil and Water Conservation District has been working to inform and educate landowners and residents about natural resource issues and SWCD projects in the county.
However, there is so much more to the SWCD than what you read in your local newspaper. Some of this "behind the scenes" information is not known until the year is over, the numbers are finalized, and the impact on the county is analyzed. This kind of information can be found in the SWCD's yearly summary, or annual report.
You probably have seen annual reports for your church or local nonprofit organizations, maybe even for the power company or the credit union. Any organization dependent on YOUR contributions for some of their operating funds will likely have an annual report showing what it has accomplished with those funds.
The same is true with the Carlton SWCD. Through our 2016 Annual Report, we want YOU, a county landowner, resident and taxpayer, to see the good work we have accomplished…together. To see what we've done with your tax money and how we've leveraged this money to benefit the county. Following are four highlights of the Carlton SWCD 2016 Annual Report that will be of interest to county residents.
First, the Carlton SWCD did great work leveraging county funds. What does this mean? SWCD operating and project funds come from a variety of sources: monies from federal, state, and Carlton County governments and agencies as well as nonprofit and other grants. Although the SWCD is a subdivision of state government, we depend on county tax dollars for some of our operating funds.
In 2016, the SWCD used Carlton County taxpayer dollars to leverage other sources of operating funds at a 2:1 ratio, meaning that for every $1 in county money, there was $2 in state monies brought into the county. And to make it even better, if the practices and projects monies are added to state totals, the leveraged amount increased to $6.34 in monies brought in for every $1 of county money. This is great news in that county base operating funds are used to leverage federal, state and local government funds, as well as private dollars, to accomplish important projects needed to protect and preserve our county's natural resources.
What is leveraging? Here is a simplified example. You decide you want a dock on your waterfront for ease in boating and fishing. However, you have only $100 to build the dock. You convince six friends to each add $100 to your $100, for a total of $700 to build your dock. Your friends get little or no benefit from their contribution, but you get a great benefit for your share! That's leveraging! We put in less of our county's money and, with leveraging, we get way more bang for our tax bucks!
Second, the Carlton SWCD Is "proud to have brought back over one million dollars of Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment (CWLLA) funds to our county in just the first seven years" for projects and programs, shared Brad Matlack, Carlton SWCD Manager. These CWLLA funds are from a 2008 Minnesota taxpayer vote for additional sales taxes which are designated for outdoor, arts, cultural, parks and trails projects. Here are three of our county projects accomplished in the past few years through the SWCD bringing $1,057,689 (so far) in CWLLA tax dollars back to Carlton County to help protect our natural resources.
The Red Clay Dam Removal and Stream Restoration projects (Phases I and II) brought a total of $201,343 dollars into our county. This money helped to save 4,260 tons of soil from being washed into the river and Lake Superior, to reconstruct 1/3 mile of brook trout habitat, and to investigate and chart the amounts and kinds of pollutants in the Nemadji River Watershed.
The Wild Rice Shoreline Conservation Easements project brought $317,539 into our county. This money purchased nine easements on seven priority wild rice water bodies to protect 352 acres of land with 4.3 miles of sensitive wild rice shoreline waters.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) program brought $197,400 into the county. This money facilitated work with 44 farms to certify 24 of them in our region. Across Minnesota, MAWQCP has resulted in 328 certified farms covering 176,862 acres. In addition, 548 new conservation practices were implemented to protect natural resources throughout Minnesota by using monies from some of the special funding pools available to farmers through this program.
Third, the Carlton SWCD provided technical and financial assistance to landowners all over the county to accomplish projects and implement soil and water conservation practices. In Forest and Wildlife Management, 30 consultations were completed, 375 acres of forest stewardship plans were created, and 223 acres were included in 14 project plans. Erosion and Sediment Control work accomplished seven projects and created three additional plans that involved 6,420 feet of waterways and saved 11,631 tons of soil from washing into rivers and lakes. In Wetland Conservation, the SWCD, along with landowners and county and local governments, analyzed and resolved issues in 22 wetland cases. And work with Riparian Buffers found three new plans created, and six projects maintained, to protect 925 feet of shoreline and stream banks as well as 18,960 feet of buffers. More good works with your tax dollars!
Fourth, one of our biggest partners in conservation is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). In this partnership, we support NRCS by informing landowners of NRCS programs. We also design, contract, and implement landowner projects using funds from the USDA Farm Bill. In 2016, through our NRCS partnership, Carlton SWCD helped to bring $226,935 dollars into our county to implement 29 projects and practices. This partnership brings financial and technical assistance to landowners with projects ranging from installing high tunnels to cropland projects, from preserving wildlife habitat to erosion control projects, and from land use to forestry management, etc. Landowners and our county are the ultimate winners of this partnership!
A key part of this partnership, according to Matlack, is the "one day a week presence of this federal NRCS position in our office. NRCS is facing reduced federal funding across the state resulting in cutbacks to many staff positions in northern Minnesota. However, through our partnership, having this NRCS staff person in our office to help Carlton County landowners with program assistance was a big factor in accomplishing projects that brought this quarter of a million dollars of project funding into Carlton County."
These are just four of the most important highlights in the Carlton SWCD 2016 Annual Report. You can find more information about other projects and work as well, including....
The work being done to keep our county landowners in compliance with the new Buffer Law passed by the state legislature in 2015/
Some of the results of 2016 water monitoring done in our county's portion of the Kettle River and Upper Mississippi-Grand Rapids Watersheds;
Information and pictures showing the progress of work to remove failing red clay dams and restore the natural streams;
The goals and accomplishments of the Carlton County Water Plan; and
Brief descriptions of some SWCD outreach and education events throughout the year, including the Arbor Day tree planting with fourth-grade students, the Envirothon for high school students, the Nemadji Civic Engagement Water Festival, the Kettle River Woodland Council forestland owners' group, the 2016 Conservation Awards winners for our county, etc.
This SWCD 2016 Annual Report will give you, the landowner, information about issues and project ideas. It will also provide you, the taxpayer, with facts to prove your tax dollars are paying for great and necessary work to protect natural resources in our county. In addition, this report reflects our Carlton SWCD pride in what we have accomplished towards our mission to "Protect and enhance the natural resources of Carlton County."
More than that, however, this report shows that we are not doing, and can not do, this work alone. The Carlton SWCD is just a small part of a big partnership made up of landowners, local towns and townships, county government, state agencies, federal agencies, grant organizations, and many other natural resource organizations and professionals around the country.
This report represents All Of Us....Doing Good Work Together!
Writer Kim Samuelson is the Carlton County SWCD elected supervisor for District 4. To see the 2016 SWCD Annual Report online, go to carltonswcd.org and click "About Us," "Reporting," and "Annual Report 2016." You can also contact the Carlton SWCD at 218-384-3891 or stop by their office at 808 3rd St., Carlton. Find them on Facebook, too.
A shorter version of this story ran in the Pine Journal on April 6.