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September 24, 2017

Conservation budget worry


We received this Letter to the Editor on Friday.
Thank you Mr. Campbell.

I’m worried about the results another budget cut from the state legislature will have on Oklahoma City and the metro area. Recently, I became a director for the Oklahoma County Conservation District. I joined the board, because I believe that locally led, voluntary, incentive based conservation makes practical sense. As the Oklahoma City metro area continues to expand, it is more important than ever to conserve our natural resources, such as water and air. I am proud to be part of an organization that ensures that metro residents have access to clean drinking water.

Our district was formed in 1941 following the 1937 Standard State Soil Conservation Districts Law being signed into federal law. The policy change was implemented to prevent another Dust Bowl from occurring. The Oklahoma County Conservation District gives local farmers and ranchers a voice in federal and state programs aimed at protecting our natural resources – including our water supply.
Conservation Districts save municipalities and the state millions of dollars each year in water purification and environmental cleanup costs. It is important that our state legislature understand that locally-led, voluntary conservation practices reduce the need for increased regulation and expensive environmental cleanup costs down the road. We need members of the legislature to understand the economic importance that state cost share dollars and farm bill programs have on Oklahoma City residents. By investing in locally- led conservation districts, we are able to reduce the amount of sedimentation and non-point source pollution in our watersheds. This means that the quality of our water is improved naturally, at a relative low cost by agriculture producers that volunteer to implement conservation practices. The funding of conservation districts is a win-win for municipalities, the state of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City residents who do not have to shell out more money for clean water, as well as, farmers and ranchers.

In times like these, with commodity prices next to nothing, the state and federal cost share dollars are the only way I can afford to implement conservation practices on my land. The cost share dollars are the difference between my having to decide between being a good steward of the land and making a profit.

Over the last three years, the budget for conservation districts has been cut by more than 20%. Where we used to have 171 employees, we now have only 100. This means that fewer farmers are getting the technical assistance and information about programs that they need to make decisions that continue to support water quality in the metro. If the state legislatures predicted budget cut of 14.5% goes through, staffing of conservation districts will be reduced. This will mean that more than 20 conservation districts across Oklahoma will have no staff. I rely on my conservation district to provide information and technical assistance that allows me to be a better steward of our water, land, and air. That is why I am asking the Oklahoma state legislature and specifically, Representative Lewis Moore and Senator Ron Sharp to support funding for conservation districts.

Sincerely,
Phil Campbell
Oklahoma County Conservation District Director

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