The Florida Legislature is considering legislation to abolish all 58 Florida conservation districts this year. The Duval Soil and Water Conservation District (DSWCD) opposes HB 783 and SB 1078. These bills are currently in committee.
Since their inception during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s, almost 3,000 conservation districts located in counties throughout the United States and its territories, have provided critical conservation services through citizen driven, locally directed agencies led by nonpartisan elected, unpaid Supervisors. What makes conservation districts unique is that their programming is designed to meet the specific needs of each county they serve.
In Duval County, our programs, projects and activities are focused on the needs of our thriving urban District. Through partnerships with FDACS (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services) , NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service), USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and others, DSWCD provides much needed cost share funding to agricultural operators who engage in Best Management Practices to save millions of gallons of water, reclaim land, restore water quality, protect wildlife and enhance soil nutrition to maximize crop production and yield. Over the last three years, through these partnerships, DSWCD facilitated free technical and financial assistance valued at $1,021,503.12 to growers and residents in Duval County.
In addition, DSWCD provides conservation education in many forms including student programs like the annual Fred B. Miller Jr. Regional Envirothon, Joe B. Forshee, Jr. Speech & Poster Contest, visits to classrooms, and other events for students and educators. We also provide programs for the public including our annual Conservation Photo Contest, Earth Day Celebration, educational workshops and more. In 2021, we expanded our Start Farming agricultural awareness event into a yearlong mentorship program for beginning farmers and established our Regeneration Park green infrastructure and community stewardship project in the urban core. These two programs brought in more than 100 new volunteers and over $65,000 in new private donations and grants to conserve, improve and sustain the natural resources of Duval County.
Simply put, Soil and Water Conservation Districts are volunteer educators, not regulators, who meet a critical public need with funding from private donations and grants. Your support in opposing this legislation is both imperative and greatly appreciated. Please reach out to your state senators and representatives and let them know that you oppose HB 783 and SB 1078 any legislation that would dissolve or weaken any Florida Soil and Water Conservation District.
Additional Information - Association of Florida Conservation Districts Memorandum Regarding SB 1078 / HB 783