Partner Profile: Resource Conservation Districts

CARCD’s annual conference—“Urban and Rural: Tying the Partnership Together”— is November 16-19, 2016 in Ontario, CA. More information and registration is available here.

Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) are special districts throughout California established to work at the local level to conserve natural resources, including agriculture. RCDs work directly with landowners whom voluntarily seek their assistance for a multitude of projects, ranging from water conservation, erosion control, grazing management and nutrient management on their properties, to name a few. Assistance can come in many forms, such as education through workshops, hands-on training, and technical support for projects, including planning and design services, site assessments to discuss issue areas and solutions, construction oversight and monitoring. In some cases, RCDs can provide financial support to landowners through grants, permits, or partnering with USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Services programs.

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Conservation planning (Source: NRCS)

The California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD), a long-time partner of CalCAN, serves a vital role in agricultural conservation and subsequent climate change mitigation in the state. With 97 locally-governed RCDs throughout the state, the CARCD, serves as an important coordinating body for RCD efforts, as well as working to ensure continued assistance (e.g., funding) to RCDs, while also representing them to state and federal agencies and on policy issues.

RCDs Crucial for Success of State ‘Climate-Smart’ Ag Programs

In the past two to three years, California has launched several cap-and-trade funded ‘climate-smart’ agriculture programs, including the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP), Sustainable Agricultural Land Conservation (SALC) Program, and the recently funded Healthy Soils Initiative. With many of these programs providing funding directly to farmers, there is an increasing need to ensure growers are both aware of these valuable resources and also receiving appropriate technical assistance to implement practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon.

RCDs, which have built years of trust and relationships with their local growers, are well positioned to provide this outreach and hands-on technical assistance.

In fact, many RCDs have already started to make the connection between the conservation work they do with landowners, specifically farmers and ranchers, and climate change. For example, San Mateo County RCD has a whole suite of “Climate Projects”, including a new Carbon Farming initiative “to work with individual farms to increase their capacity to capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it in soil organic matter and vegetation.” Similarly, their Good Earth demonstration project teaches ranchers, in part, how to build healthy soil as a way to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Also, a group of North Coast RCDs in Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino are collaborating on implementing “carbon farm plans” to increase carbon storage using soil building, conservation plantings and other techniques.

With the almost 100 RCDs across California, the CARCD plays an important role of sharing information, coordinating efforts, and leveraging funding to support all RCDs, ensuring the tens of thousands of agricultural landowners up and down the state have equal opportunities to mitigate for and adapt to climate change. RCDs have adapted to landowner and environmental needs for decades (some dating back to the 1930s), and are now poised—with the support of the CARCD—to play a crucial role in the success of California agriculture’s constructive response to climate change.

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