Letter to the Editor

Protecting our lasting legacy

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

To the Editor:

The Indiana House of Representatives is signaling their intent to follow Governor Mitch Daniels' lead by making large cuts to state conservation funding by slashing the Clean Water Indiana (CWI) budget by $500,000 annually.

This literally doesn't make "cents" when you consider that Indiana's 92 Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) used Clean Water Indiana funds to match and generate $96.8 million in federal, state and local dollars for conservation in 2009. These matching funds are critical to Indiana's economy and, more importantly, help address our state's natural resource concerns.

Current CWI funding represents only 15 cents per acre to protect our natural heritage on land that means billions to our state. The governor's proposed cuts will impact water quality, soil productivity, forests and wildlife in every county of our state. On average, Soil and Water Conservation Districts were able to leverage and generate an incredible $29.90 in matching funds for conservation from every dollar of CWI funds provided by our state. It's time Governor Daniels and the House of Representatives realize there is no better return on their investment of taxpayer dollars than Clean Water Indiana funding.

Clean Water Indiana funds are vital to help Conservation Districts market, administer and implement complex conservation projects that may take years to complete. Survey and design work along with conservation planning foster participant enrollment. Cutting CWI funds greatly limits the ability of Soil and Water Conservation Districts to put conservation practices on the land.

Almost one third of Indiana land is urban. This land works for us every minute of every day in supporting our ability to create livable metropolitan areas where our air is cleaned, flooding is reduced, and our water is made safe when we allow healthy land to act as infrastructure for development. SWCDs depend on CWI funding to maintain clean water that is as important to encouraging economic development as good transportation and an educated workforce.

Agriculture provides our state with jobs, an agricultural trade surplus, and a dependable tax base for the people of Indiana. Clean Water Indiana funds ensure we can provide a sustainable soil resource and a safe and abundant water supply that allows our state's largest industry, agriculture, to produce an abundance of food, feed, fiber and energy for our growing population.

Today we invest billions of dollars in Homeland Security. Is our future truly secure if we do not protect and care for our Hoosier heartland? Providing a quality environment that enriches the lives of people in ways that can't be measured will insure our young people remain at home in the Hoosier state.

There are over 23 million acres of urban, agricultural and forestland in Indiana. Indiana law has mandated that the Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Indiana fulfill the role of protecting the health and integrity of Indiana's watersheds. Governor Daniels and some legislators want to cut back on our commitment to our state's natural resources that provide us with a healthy place to live and grow.

Today we are at the crossroads of our state's conservation legacy. May our elected leaders use foresight and wisdom in keeping our promise to future generations.

Ray McCormick

President, Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts