Mancos and High Desert Conservation Districts Leveraging Local Partnership to Increase Capacity and Impact
It’s a common story in rural communities that resources are stretched thin and the same ten people often show up to engage. Solutions, therefore, often involve creativity and partnership–and that’s just what we’re seeing in Montezuma County.
Two conservation districts and the Town of Mancos are leveraging their common goals to expand their water and soil health improvements while offering competitive local positions in a saturated job market.
First, what is a conservation district?
Soil conservation districts (a.k.a. conservation districts) were first formed in the aftermath of the 1930s Dust Bowl, a period when soil erosion wreaked havoc in the country’s breadbasket. Today, there are over three thousand conservation districts across the country. Read more about their history here. This is different than the Southwestern Water Conservation District, which was formed by the State of Colorado in 1941 to address water-specific goals.
MCD’s Partnership with the Town of Mancos: Watershed Coordinator Sensa Wolcott
Several needs identified by MCD’s Mancos Watershed Stream Management Plan caught the attention of the Town of Mancos: public engagement, watershed and wildfire risk assessment, and the development of an urban water conservation program.
To address these needs, MCD partnered with the Town of Mancos to create a new position: Watershed Coordinator. Sensa Wolcott brings previous experience as a high school science teacher and Future Farmers of America adviser. She is currently pursuing a master’s in biology through Miami University’s Global Field Program. In this new role, Sensa is leading the effort to develop an Urban Water Conservation Plan on behalf of the Town of Mancos and the Mancos Conservation District.
The other half of her job includes continued water quality sampling on the Mancos River, grant writing and coordinating the second phase of Mancos’s Stream Management Plan, which includes data collection and implementation, project prioritization and landowner outreach.
MCD’s Partnership with High Desert Conservation District: District Manager Neva Connolly
After going through several staff transitions recently, not uncommon during the pandemic, the High Desert Conservation District saw a clear need to offer competitive wages, benefits and therefore a full- time position. That’s where the new synergy emerged with MCD, which also needed additional capacity fast.
The two Districts partnered to hire District Manager Neva Connolly to support their soil conversation programs, provide constituent support and administrative services. She brings experience with conservation planning in Tucson, AZ and local planning with the City of Cortez to both districts. Neva, along with several technicians, supports district collaboration on the Mancos Conservation District’s new Star-Plus Soil Health Program which provides participant producers financial incentives to try new soil health management techniques and the High Desert Conservation District’s Master Land Steward Program, a nine-week course about land management and soil health for small acreage landowners. Together, these programs have over 30 current participants.
To learn more about the High Desert and Mancos Conservation District, visit: https://montezumacountyconservationdistricts.org/
Just to Name a Few
While this brief piece highlights these new partnerships, the Conservation Districts have long-standing cooperation with Colorado State University Extension, Montezuma County, and the Dolores Watershed Resilient Forest Collaborative, to name a few. Both Districts are also valued partners of the Water Information Program.