Grant sought to hire natural resources specialist

(Posted Aug. 25, 2016)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

The Madison Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) hopes to hire a third natural resources specialist by tapping into a new source of funding.

The non-profit National Fish and Wildlife Foundation recently received federal funding to promote conservation practices. In turn, the foundation is offering grants to agencies that can help landowners implement those practices.

Madison SWCD is applying for a $60,000 grant to help cover costs associated with adding a staff member for a two-year period. The grant requires a 50 percent match. The Ohio Department of Agriculture has promised $30,000. On Aug. 15, the Madison County commissioners promised the other $30,000. If SWCD receives the Fish and Wildlife grant, to be announced in December, the new staff member would start in January.

The funding opportunity comes at a perfect time, said Julia Cumming, SWCD program administrator. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency recently named the Paint Creek Watershed as a priority for water quality improvement due to sediment and nutrient runoff from cropland. Part of the watershed lies in southwestern Madison County.

“We need more people to help with that,” Cumming said, regarding staffing.

With more professional boots on the ground, the district can help more landowners identify problems, develop solutions, and in some cases access funding to fix the problems. Cover crops, filter strips and grassed waterways are three ways farmers can prevent harmful runoff, Cumming said. Safe manure storage and livestock fencing near natural water supplies also can protect water quality.

Should SWCD secure funding for the additional specialist, Cumming said that person would work with landowners not only in the Paint Creek Watershed, but throughout the county.

“We hope it starts a domino effect. When someone sees a neighbor implementing conservation practices, they might become interested in doing something, too,” she said.

For more about the Paint Creek Water-shed conservation initiative and the overarching Mississippi River Basin initiative, call Madison SWCD, (740) 852-4004.

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