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Letter: Nassau County Needs Its Soil & Water Conservation District

The Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District has long provided cost- effective, efficient, and valuable services to all of the people of Nassau County. Since the district opened in 1977 it has been serving residents, businesses, nonprofits, agencies, schools and municipalities with environmental expertise and assistance. Like all conservation districts throughout New York State and the nation, it is a proven public-private partnership that leverages local taxpayer dollars by bringing in funding from grants, state matching funds and other sources. Yet, Nassau County may soon become the only county in the state without a Soil and Water Conservation District. The steady decline in funding over the last four years has depleted the district’s small reserves and it is in danger of closing.

Soil and Water Conservation districts are unique in their ability to work with all groups and provide service that local governments cannot provide on their own. The Nassau County SWCD enhances the local mandated stormwater program and brings innovation that government cannot provide alone; provides mandated NY State Department of Environmental Conservation-certified sediment and erosion control training for contractors and municipal officials so that our waterways are protected from stormwater runoff; designs and helps build rain gardens, which conserve freshwater and help reduce runoff; replants dunes and wetlands with appropriate plants to reduce erosion and provide habitat for birds, fish, and other animals; helps manage the farmland purchased by the county under the county environmental bond acts so that they can be preserved as the voters requested; educates school children and the general public in environmental practices; leads the way in Nassau County in the promotion of green infrastructure techniques.

Unless the county restores a sustainable funding level in the next budget, the district will be forced to close. The financial impact would be immediate. The district would be compelled to refuse a $75,000 grant and will lose out on up to $60,000 matching funds provided through the NYS Environmental Protection Fund—an outcome that makes no financial or environmental sense. Soil and Water Conservation districts are recognized as a valuable tool throughout NY State and the nation. Nassau County needs to keep this valuable resource funded.

Brian Zimmerman
District Manager
Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District