To The Daily Sun,
As a long-time farmer in the county (now retired), I am writing this letter to send a valentine to the Belknap County Conservation District (BCCD) and those that support this worthwhile organization.
On Feb. 14, BCCD will celebrate 70 years of serving the people who live and work here. BCCD assists landowners, businesses, and municipalities in accomplishing their goals of providing needed fresh produce and fruit to the county's hungry, preventing soil erosion that could pollute our local waters, obtaining and leveraging funding from federal, state, local, and non-public sources for natural resource based projects, and providing environmental learning activities to children and adults of all ages.
Sadly, on the eve of BCCD's 70th anniversary the Belknap County Delegation is looking to cut the legs out from under this worthwhile county service. BCCD does receive taxpayer funding from the county to assist it in providing services. In 2015, the taxpayer contribution equaled only 66 cents on every $100 of your county tax bill. While BCCD's proposed budget for 2016 showed no increase in requested funding ($92,400), despite a 5 percent cut in funding in 2015, the delegation is proposing to cut the Conservation District's budget in half. This will leave the agency with only a part-time employee and a small office in the county courthouse. It eliminates the Conservation District's ability to hire local natural resource consultants it needs to help provide assistance to the public and gather field data to support grant funding requests. It also severely limits staff time to administer funding and volunteer efforts for the local food donation program, NH Gleans-Belknap County; curtails the Conservation District's ability to partner and support other organizations in their work; and greatly impacts BCCD's leveraging power to bring funds into the county from public (Federal and State) and non-public funding (businesses and/or private foundations) resources in the form of grants.
Currently, for every dollar Belknap County spends on BCCD, BCCD is able to generate $2 to $3 in services and products to disburse throughout the county. This will be in jeopardy should BCCD's budget be cut.
Here are some BCCD plans for 2016:
— To help Gilford control erosion on Gunstock Brook.
— To work with farmers and home gardeners in the county to feed the hungry by harvesting their produce and fruit and delivering it to local food pantries.
— To assist Laconia in promoting homeowner-initiated landscaping to lessen soil erosion and improve water quality in its urban streams.
— To assist the Lakes Region Food Network in strengthening the connections between local growers and local consumers (we all eat!).
— To assist Meredith in developing an ecology-based public attraction.
— To partner with multiple organizations and agencies, like the UNH Cooperative Extension, to further natural resource projects benefiting Belknap County.
I urge you to contact the Belknap County delegate who serves your community by Feb. 14 and voice your support for this worthwhile service. For a list of county delegates and more information on the work of BCCD please visit website www.belknapccd.org