Proposal to keep Conservation District at ‘home’ a good solution

Keep the farmers on the farmland.

That sounds like a very simplistic statement, but it is exactly what the Clinton County Conservation District board of directors wants in the face of county commissioners asking the agency to move into offices in downtown Lock Haven.

The agency’s board of directors has proposed buying the building nestled among rural homes and farmland along Route 64-Nittany Valley Drive in Porter Township for $200,000, and it appears the offer has been tentatively accepted.

Kudos for the agency’s board of directors for appointing a “Move Advisory Committee” to gain input and support.

The commissioners, meanwhile, appear willing to spread out payments for the building to allow the Conservation District time to gather/raise the funds.

Folks, the Conservation District is an important agency … emphasis on “Conservation.”

Essentially, the agency helps farmers, developers and most any property owner with best practices and issues such as nutrient (animal waste) management plans, watershed improvement and water quality, Chesapeake Bay management, dirt, gravel and low-volume roads, erosion control, and last but not least, agriculture preservation.

The county commissioners and agency board have entered into a memorandum of understanding directing that the Conservation District would be responsible for all maintenance and repairs in and around the building.

The two parties would continue to share phone and internet service as the agency is a vital part of county government’s network of services and overall mission.

The office building and 5-acre property afford the Conservation District space to hold education classes, demonstrations, meetings, tree, plant and shrub sales and more.

Perhaps the agency would even consider becoming a landlord to generate rental revenue to help sustain its services. We suspect the board is looking at long-range financial needs in light of becoming a property owner.

The agency is a subdivision of state government “created to administer conservation work within its boundaries.” It receiving funding from the county, Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission, state Departments of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, and Pennsylvania’s Unconventional Gas Fund.

Staff “provide technical, financial and educational resources to help county residents conserve soil, water and related natural resources. We can help guide county residents through environmental regulations and to help them properly manage their natural resources and their land,” according to its mission.

Clinton County is blessed with many waterways deemed “high quality.” Indeed, a majority of streams in the county are designated under Chapter 93 as either “high quality” or “exceptional value.”

“We are fortunate to have these superb resources within our boundaries and we must work diligently to protect and preserve them. Because of these classifications, activities in the watersheds are held to higher standards to minimize any potential impacts. Under the Chapter 105 delegation, the Conservation District reviews activities along streams and rivers and issues General Permits for those projects,” the agency education literature states.

We reached out to the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts, Inc. (PACD), which represents all 66 conservation districts across the Commonwealth. It’s based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capital city.

PACD officials said there already are models for what Clinton County is proposing to do with purchase of the building, and those models are working without negatively impacting the mission.

Here is what Brenda J. Shambaugh, PACD executive director, told us:

r PACD supports Clinton County Conservation District board’s decision to consider purchasing its current office building(s) from the county.

r It is my understanding … that they would like to remain at their current location to better serve local farmers, house their equipment, and to maintain the educational demonstration areas they have already established on the property.

r Each Conservation District has its own board of directors to determine their local needs and priorities. About half of Pennsylvania’s 66 conservation districts are housed independently from their county government.

The Express congratulates the Conservation District board of directors and its leadership for standing up for the agency’s needs while county government undergoes a significant relocation of offices after buying the Piper Blue Building at the William T. Piper Memorial Airport.