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NR 2001-03
January 26, 2001

Contact: Carol Dahmen
Mark Oldfield
Don Drysdale
Ed Wilson
(916) 323-1886

DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION AWARDS $2 MILLION
TO RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICTS AROUND THE STATE

Fallbrook-based Mission RCD receives $83,300

SACRAMENTO -- The California Department of Conservation today announced that it has awarded $2 million in grants that will allow Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) around the state to kick-start efforts that ultimately can lead to cleaner water, scenic preservation and improved natural wildlife habitat.

The pilot grant program will enable 26 RCDs, including the Fallbrook-based Mission RCD, to hire watershed coordinators. Generally, watershed coordinators help assess local watersheds -- the area drained by a river or river system -- and help bring together local government, landowners and community groups in order to improve the health of the watersheds.

The Mission RCD received a grant of $83,300 to fund a coordinator for the San Luis Rey Watershed Council. The coordinator's duties will include providing technical, administrative and grant-writing support to the council and improving coordination between county agencies and the council.

"There's a real need throughout the state for the coordination of efforts at the local level to improve and protect our watersheds," Department of Conservation Director Darryl Young said. "Everyone lives in a watershed, and the health and vitality of each one is an important measure of the quality of life in California."

Resource Conservation Districts are locally governed agencies set up as special districts under California law with their own locally appointed or elected boards of directors. There are 103 RCDs in the state. In addition to watershed planning and management, RCDs are authorized to undertake projects such as agricultural land conservation, recreational land restoration, irrigation management, forest stewardship, wildlife habitat enhancement and conservation education.

"Resource Conservation Districts play an important role in the state's overall land and water conservation efforts at the grass-roots level,'' Young said. "RCDs do a tremendous amount of beneficial work that those of us concerned with conservation appreciate."

DOC's Division of Land Resource Protection received 78 applications requesting more than $5 million in funding. A committee comprised of representatives of state and federal agencies as well as a working watershed organization reviewed the applications. Tom Wehri, executive director of the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, was pleased at the response to the pilot program.

"From our perspective, it's very encouraging to see that so many of our RCDs applied," he said. "It means that they're willing to put in the effort, that they have good ideas and a strong desire to make changes for the better in their local watersheds."

The RCDs that received grants must expend the money by June 30, 2002. Each RCD was required to develop measurements of its performance as part of the application process and must report its findings to the Department of Conservation. How well the RCDs meet their goals will play a role in determining future funding.

In addition to the watershed coordinator grants, DOC's Division of Land Resource Protection annually makes grants totaling $120,000 for a wide variety of RCD projects. This year's grants will be announced in March.

Aside from working with RCDs and administering agricultural and open-space land conservation programs, the Department of Conservation ensures the reclamation of land used for mining; promotes beverage container recycling; regulates oil, gas and geothermal wells; and studies and maps earthquakes and other geologic phenomena.

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