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Technical Assistance Grants get Conservation on the Ground in North Carolina

By Katrina Stacey

North Carolina’s conservation districts have seen a boost in technical assistance thanks to NACD technical assistance (TA) grants awarded to the North Carolina Division of Soil and Water Conservation. In 2018, the Division received its first round of funding, which it used to boost the technical capacity of the soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) for Wilkes, Chatham, Martin, Robeson and Wayne SWCDs. The Division has since received 2019 and 2020 TA grants and has added the Columbus SWCD to its assistance list.

Natural resource concerns vary across the state, so each district’s portion of the TA funds was utilized differently. “It’s all about getting conservation on the ground, and it takes technical expertise to do that and keep the customer happy,” said Edward Davis, engineering technician and department head for Columbus SWCD.

In Wilkes County, where there was a major need for boosted forestry outreach and efforts, the Division used some of its grant funds to hire Daron Brown, a certified forester, for the conservation district. Brown helped with a lot of conservation activities, but the most common were the establishment of forest trails and landings to minimize the impacts of logging on soil erosion and water quality.

“We were able to put a lot of conservation on the ground due to the expertise that we would not have had if we didn’t have Daron on staff,” said Robert Baldwin, district director from Wilkes SWCD. “In the areas where we employed these practices, you can go back, and you can tell a significant difference compared to the ones where we did not.”

Martin SWCD brought on Rupert Hasty to help with Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) enrollment, where he’s helped install practices to address cropland erosion, conservation cover and much more. At the Chatham SWCD, funds were used for Voluntary Agricultural Districts outreach efforts to help improve public awareness of agriculture, especially in rapidly developing areas.

In Columbus County, Sam Warren was brought on as a conservation planning specialist. His design and engineering background has proven to be extremely useful. Recently, Warren has provided assistance with culvert planning following major storm events. “He has helped a lot with our technical needs, as well as training employees for a lot of our disaster response issues,” said David Williams, deputy director of the N.C. Division of Soil & Water Conservation.

“Both Columbus and Robeson Counties have benefited by being allowed to have someone to focus on EQIP and CSP assistance,” said Joshua Davis, supervisory soil conservationist for NRCS. “The benefits extend past just programs work and increase the workflow of the office altogether.”

Centralizing the management and administration of the TA grant funding within the Division and leveraging state funding for the match has helped provide funding where it is needed most. “It has allowed us to put people in places where they may not have otherwise been able to come up with the match to do this,” Williams said.

To learn more about NACD’s Technical Assistance grants or to read other TA success stories, visit the NACD Technical Assistance Grants webpage.

Tags: Technical Assistance

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