Washington’s Grant County Conservation District is using a technical assistance grant to get more boots on the ground and help the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) climb out of a backlog of program applications.
The district received a technical assistance grant in March 2018 from the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) and NRCS, designed to add capacity at the local level to provide more assistance to local landowners. The Grant County Conservation District project also is providing assistance and training to new NRCS staff.
“It does free up some of the staff at the local office to do field work,” Grant County Conservation District Associate/Washington State Conservation Commission Representative Harold Crose said. “The conservation district is in a unique situation to also provide technical assistance to NRCS staff. We’re providing technical training on irrigation systems and other things that they don’t have the where-with-all or knowledge in the local field. We’ve also been able to integrate that into the NRCS world, which has been very helpful.”
Grant funds allowed the district to hire Conservation Planner Leah Uhl (pictured at right), who has worked on cutting into a backlog of program applications.
Last fall, Uhl was out doing highly-erodible land checks to ensure landowners had crop cover or other practices to assist with maintaining nutrient-rich soils and fields. She has attended trainings on soil health, grazing management and water quality and in the future aims to work on pasture management plans with smaller landowners and determine best practices for water quality and quantity and soil health.
Uhl provided technical assistance in wetland conservation through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). She helped protect Wilson Creek by assisting in wetland reserve easement field monitoring. Field monitoring ensures that the easement landowners maintain the practice standards outlined in Compatible Use Agreements (CUA), where applicable. Easement landowners may be authorized to implement management practices where they will be consistent with the long-term protection or enhancement of wetland functions through a CUA. Uhl helped easement landowners identify noxious weeds that may out-compete native wetland plants and helped easement landowners keep neighboring cattle from entering Wilson Creek.
“The landowners in that area have really collaborated to protect the watershed as a whole, it’s a really amazing effort,” Uhl said.
Uhl has been working independently on projects when new landowners come in looking for resources and best management practices so she can assist from the beginning phases in implementing projects on the ground.
“We can’t say enough about what NACD is doing to facilitate this, it means so much,” Crose said. “The bottom line is we’re doing this for the landowners and natural resources and the more we can pitch in and help, the more conservation we can get on the land. It’s really been a huge benefit to us in central Washington and the producers in Grant County.”