To The Daily Sun,
One of the reasons my husband and I live in Belknap County is the natural setting – lakes, streams, woodlands, farmland, hills and mountains. The Belknap County Conservation District (BCCD) has been assisting landowners and communities with conserving, which means responsible use, of this scenic landscape for nearly 72 years. Valentine's Day is its anniversary, clearly the founders loved this area!
In 2014, and for many years before, the county funded BCCD at nearly $98K. The County Convention (our representatives to the state Legislature) hope to vote on the county budget on Monday, Jan. 22. Please encourage them to bring the county’s allocation for BCCD to the bare bones level of $85,000, which translates to an average of 75 cents per $200,000 of property valuation. Last year’s county funding level of $60,000 cut into the district’s bone marrow. More is needed to maintain services and provide the match needed for the current $410,000 in grants, which do not pay for staff time. Grants help with water quality, land and related natural resources for on the ground projects and outreach to the county residents, towns and businesses. Below are a few supporting comments. For more information on Conservation District activities see the “2017 Year to Date Report” at www.belknapccd.org. Contact information for representatives is at www.belknapcounty.org/pages/BelknapCounty_Delegation/index.
BCCD focuses on best management practices. When soil is disturbed it needs stabilizing to keep surface and ground water clean. Natural resources sustain much of the county’s economy and are fundamental to retaining the quality of life in Belknap County. BCCD promotes informed activities that impact natural resources for now and the future.
BCCD’s 2017 value to the county was $1,227,420. For every $1 the county spends on it, at least $9.50 in products or services are returned to the county’s citizens.
The Conservation District fills a key role through technical assistance, demonstration projects and information provided to landowners, people and businesses who work with land, and municipalities for watershed protection, flood prevention, erosion control, gravel pit revegetation, streambank restoration, and other resource conservation. BCCD assists with finding financing and knowledge to implement conservation measures in cooperation with local, state and federal agencies and other conservation organizations.
Over the years, the Conservation District’s larger projects and the programs vary and affect different towns and watersheds. Since water runs downhill, it can carry eroded soil, fertilizer, vehicles fluids, and other contaminants over town lines and into waterbodies shared by several towns. Water also moves under the ground through sand and gravel aquifers and cracks in the bedrock. Given these broad effects across the landscape, it makes sense for the county to fund BCCD’s office at least at the bare bones level. To me, it seems like a form of insurance to help care for important natural resource related items since they benefit the whole county.
BCCD obtains grants from state and federal governments, and private sources to accomplish projects. The county funds, donations and volunteer time are used for the typically required 50:50 match.
In addition to land and water activities, BCCD does related items such as volunteers gathering fruits and vegetables that would be wasted and gets them to places that will use them, and improving habitats for game birds, crop pollinators and trout.
BCCD accomplishes projects and provides information, some through the office’s knowledge, and some via the 46 statewide staff and materials of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Conservation Districts were formed to make sure there was local input to make the best use of NRCS’ skills and, when appropriate, to help get those technical skills utilized by county residents. Districts provide information to help people do projects in ways that are legal and reduce potential negative impact on others.
A current example of natural resource challenges is HB-1226. The Legislature is considering concerns about lawn watering during droughts and the challenges of the shared underground water resources. Should one land owner be allowed to draw down the water level which could affect the ability to use plumbing in the houses down the road?
I often drive by a real estate billboard that says “if you lived here you would be home now.” How lucky we are to live where others come to vacation because it is so nice here. Over the last 46 ½ years I have lived near the water in Meredith, Barnstead and Center Harbor and a short drive to other recreational spots. My hillside yard is terraced to reduce the potential for erosion or nutrients from my gardens going down the storm drains and into the lake.
In 2018, I will continue to volunteer to help restore a ¼-mile wheelchair-accessible boardwalk at Gunstock and the accompanying Wetlands Walk information guide that explains the importance of wetlands to water quality.
My family doctor answered why he chose Belknap County. He wanted to locate in an area with plenty of good outdoor recreation. Many of us feel the same.
Also as a volunteer, I will be available to provide presentations on general topics to groups and clubs. Please let Lisa at the office, 527-5880, know if you would like to schedule a program for a group.
Hoping you can help with BCCD’s funding by making contacts before Jan. 22.
Jan Hooper, retired coordinator
Belknap County Conservation District