May 27 12:24 PM
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Proposals for veterans affairs, conservation deserve support

To the Editor:

This November, the citizens of St. Clair County will be asked to approve two millage proposals: one for the county's Department of Veterans Affairs and the other for the St. Clair Conservation District. Each millage request would cost the average homeowner with a property worth $100,000, ten dollars per year ($10.00/year). For most people, this equates to no more than your average trip to a fast food restaurant.

Both are quiet entities of government that deserve a 'YES' vote on their respective millage requests. Each individual agency has a long history of helping the citizens of this county but is required due to continuing funding cuts over the years, to seek the voter's approval on these bond proposals for stable funding or risk the very real possibility of ceasing operations and the services they provide.

The St. Clair Conservation District has been serving the landowners of this county for over 60 years. It was first established as the St. Clair Soil and Water Conservation District, a locally led and established unit of government. It is more commonly known for the tree sales held every spring and fall in an effort to offer affordable reforestation options for landowners but it is more than just trees.The name has changed because our mission has expanded to include more than "just soil and water." While soil and water conservation is still a major priority, the district also offers programs to protect the groundwater and watersheds of the county through assistance on well closures and non-source point pollution control options. Additionally, the district also puts an emphasis on reforestation, wind and snow break plantings, wildlife habitat and conservation education on many levels.

The district has expanded its role to become the best resource for all things related to the environment and conservation of the natural resources of St. Clair County.

The St. Clair Conservation District has become "a one stop shop" for landowners in the county. We assist anyone who walks through our door and provide services which, in the past, came at little or no fee.

Whether it's related to agricultural or residential, habitat or woodland, groundwater or surface run-off, the St. Clair Conservation District is there to assist. For example, when the emerald ash borer infestation first hit St. Clair County and began its devastation, it was the Conservation District forester that identified the infestation in the Marine City area following a sweep of trained USDA inspectors that had declared the area "free of infestation."

The district's wildlife biologist has assisted many landowners implement habitat or land use practices envisioned that the landowner couldn't have done on their own.

The district's groundwater technician has been responsible for assisting in the closure of approximately 600 wells, protecting both the water source of rural residences as well as the occupants themselves. One prime example, when working to close a point driven well, an older "open pit" well was discovered buried under rotting boards with children playing just a few feet away.

Many times the landowners realized an increase in property values or gained tax breaks directly related to what was accomplished with assistance from the district. In many instances there was also monetary assistance the technician was able to apply towards the implementation costs from funding sources only available through federal or state sources such as the Farm Bill or the Clean Michigan fund.

In recent years, due to failing funding sources, the St. Clair Conservation District has had to end many of its programs. The wildlife biologist and district forester have both been laid off and their services are no longer available. Educational outreach programs have been cancelled or greatly reduced in their scope to bare minimums. The district office is currently operating on a skeleton crew.

A 'YES' vote on the millage would allow the district to reestablish and expand services beyond what "what was" and move into "what could be."

St. Clair County has a vast potential that can be reached with the assistance of the Conservation District. Vote 'YES' this November for the St. Clair Conservation District and let us continue to work for you!

—Timothy Maxwell

Vice Chairman, St. Clair Conservation District

September 29, 2010

Castle Creek
Milnes Ford
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