Voters will decide on conservation district renewal and mileage increase

MANISTEE COUNTY – Conserving an area’s natural resources is an ongoing commitment, and for the past seven decades, the Manistee Conservation District has sought to do just that.

The district’s mission, according to its strategic plan, is to “implement programs and provide services, including technical assistance, that promote appreciation of the beauty and quality of the western natural resources and of Northwest Michigan and promote positive stewardship of land, water, soil and wildlife and serve the communities that depend on these natural resources.

Manistee County voters will be asked to continue supporting their conservation district in the August 2 primary election, through a mileage renewal proposal that was previously approved in 2018, as well as an increase for help fund its continued operations in the county.

The proposed wording calls for an addition of 0.125 mill for two years to coincide with the current mileage, then to renew the current mileage and addition for nine years for a total of 0.225 mill.

The mileage increase will be applied to raise funds, including matching grants, infrastructure improvements for district property and to retain and support its full-time staff, according to the ballot proposal.

Conservation District officials who spoke to the Ways and Means Committee on February 2 said they had decided to put both the addition and the renewal on the same ballot because they felt that a request depended on the other.

Executive Director Renee Mallison said Tuesday during a meeting with the Manistee County Board of Commissioners that the Conservation District is having a rare economic impact in Manistee County.

“Conservation districts are one of the few units of local government that can actually provide funding,” she said.

The Manistee County Board of Commissioners voted on Tuesday to approve ballot wording, which will place renewal and mileage adjustment on the August primary ballot.

The language of the ballot for renewal is as follows:

“The tax rate limitation on ad valorem general taxes in Manistce County, imposed under Article IX Sec. 6 of the Michigan Constitution, and shall the county be permitted to:

“a.) Addition of 0125 of one (1) mill ($0.125 per $1,000 of taxable value) to the current levy of 0.1 of one (1) mill ($0.10 per $1,000 of taxable value) taxable) for a total of 0.225 of one (1) mill ($0.225 per $1,000 of taxable value) for a period of two (2) years, from 2022 to 2023 inclusive, and

“b.) Renew .225 of one (1) mill ($0.225 per $1,000 of assessed value) for a period of nine (9) years, from 2024 to 2032 inclusive. If approved and levied in total, adding 0.125 mils, for a total of 0.225 mils, is estimated to raise $274,195 for Manistee Conservation District programs in the first calendar year of the levy, based on the 2021 county assessed value.

“Part of the mileage may be subject to capture by authorities funding tax increases.”

In addition to the county mile, the Conservation District is funded by state and federal grants, proceeds from its sales of native trees, shrubs, and plants, and private donations, in accordance with its strategic plan.

In 2021, the Conservation District received $166,223 in state and federal grant revenue, according to its Winter 2022 newsletter. The district also sold nearly 26,000 trees during its annual tree sale. .

A conservation district is a local unit of government that “uses state, federal, and private sector resources to solve today’s conservation challenges,” according to the Association of Conservation Districts website. from Michigan.

“Because conservation best practices vary widely depending on the region where they are practiced, conservation districts have been formed so that decisions on conservation issues can be made at the local level, by local people, with technical assistance supplement provided by government-affiliated organizations,” the website reads.

Mallison said many of the state’s 75 conservation districts differ due to the different needs and challenges present in their individual regions.

“I’m always surprised how different each conservation district is,” Mallison said. “The personnel we provide, the purposes they have, we (are) very different from Midland County and what they need, just based on all of our shorelines they don’t have.”

Conservation District staff provide “forest and wildlife habitat management; surface and groundwater resources; invasive species management; the implementation of the federal cost-shared program; and educational programs on natural resource topics,” according to documents provided by the county.

The Manistee Conservation District is located at 8840 Chippewa Hwy. at Bear Lake. The office can be reached at 231-889-9666, and on Facebook at /Manisteecon.