Fayette Conservation District does vital work in rural and urban areas | Opinion

·3 min read

An opinion piece was recently published featuring a former supervisor’s take on the Fayette County Conservation District (FCCD) after serving six weeks of a four-year term on our little-known board. As chair, I want to respond to this criticism so that locals may be better informed of our programs and operations. Public transparency is paramount to creating cohesion, and I want to offer a few points of support for the vital work being done by the FCCD board, our staff, and our constituency.

Conservation Districts were created in the 1940s as an urgent response to mitigate soil erosion during a time when Kentucky had a much more agrarian base. While FCCD has historically focused on the needs of the rural community as its creators intended, it has recently shifted to have a more impactful role in our uniquely rural and urban county. However, FCCD is governed by state statutes that need to be critically updated to accommodate the modern realities in which we all find ourselves. The systemic, slow progression of government can be frustrating. Enacting meaningful change on a government board requires patience, understanding, and tolerance.

FCCD is doing more for the urban environment than ever in its history. We now offer programs specifically tailored to provide conservation assistance for local urban areas, like the Backyard Conservation Program, which allows applicants to receive financial support for implementing conservation practices in their living spaces. This includes but is not limited to pollinator gardens, raised beds, and much more. Since 2019, Backyard Conservation has been the most consistently budgeted and utilized program, reaching the most individuals/households and receiving FCCD’s largest allotment of local tax funding. Our Annual Tree Giveaway, Conservation and Education Mini-Grant, and Soil Sample Voucher Program have all been widely utilized inside the Urban Services Boundary.

We also stay true to our agricultural roots by offering rural land users programs to reduce erosion, reimbursement for proper disposal of livestock, and funding to plant winter cover crops. It’s true that conservation doesn’t have an urban-rural divide. Whether it’s through the reduction of erosion, the removal of water-polluting animal carcasses, or education on best farm practices — all areas of our county are beneficiaries. As an entity that reimburses more than 75% of our budgeted funds to local taxpayers, our board has developed high-functioning operations as good stewards of tax dollars.

An elected board, by definition, cannot be insular. Public voters decide who serves on this board, and once elected, we have the authority to approve vacancy petitions, which are open to any Fayette County resident. FCCD is a subdivision of state government and has a history of being a board of farmers for farmers; therefore, it has yet to receive the degree of integration we desire with Urban County Government, but we are making strides in that direction. While our mission remains to protect, conserve, and augment the natural resources of Fayette County, we also know that we must do the same regarding our relationships with other entities and the community we serve.

No matter our impact as an entity, we know there are ways to improve continually, and we welcome public suggestions and constructive dissent of our actions. We are actively pursuing integration with local government, our statutes revisions, and our financial output maintenance to local conservationists. Our goal as a board is to develop a consensus because we know that we are not only recognized for the results we attain but also for how we attain them. I hope these opinion pieces will spur you to engage with us in a productive and meaningful way so that together we may work to perpetuate our natural resources for future generations. Program applications, newsletters, annual reports, long range plans, and contact information can all be found on our website, www.kyfccd.com.

John Wright has a background in agriculture and is currently chairman of the Fayette County Conservation District.