Skeptic now conservation evangelist

Butte County native Terrell Storm is a board member for the Butte County Resource Conservation District. A Chico State alumnus, he raises rice, walnuts and cattle in the Biggs area.

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“Over my dead body!” For years, that’s what I would say to anyone who started talking about creating a local resource-conservation district in Butte County.

As a farmer, landowner and former president of the Butte County Cattlemen’s Association, I feared the formation of a local RCD would do two things: 1) create yet another bureaucracy to regulate my farming operations and 2) infringe on my private-property rights through enforcement of involuntary conservation programs.

My fears were allayed, however, after years of vigorous dialogue with various stakeholders. Ultimately, concerns held by many in the agricultural community were actively addressed, and, in 2002, Butte County voters passed Measure C and created the Butte County Resource Conservation District.

Today, I proudly serve as a director on the RCD’s board and wholeheartedly support protecting this vital local conservation resource.

Butte County’s RCD serves as the critical link between farmers, landowners and the federal government on conservation-related programs and issues.

Prior to the RCD’s formation, Butte County was not getting its fair share of available U.S. Farm Bill funding for local voluntary conservation projects. In fact, millions of dollars for voluntary conservation projects were being directed to Tehama, Glenn, Colusa, Plumas, Yuba and Sutter counties. Without local program direction, Butte County received only a small percentage.

Since 2002, more than $24 million in grant funding has been invested in Butte County to conserve air, water, soils and other natural resources. Nearly $5 million in technical assistance from National Resource Conservation Service staff has been invested in Butte County’s private lands.

We’re making a big impact, but this money would not have been invested in Butte County if the local RCD did not exist.

RCDs have been assisting rural areas throughout California and the nation with conservation practices since the Dust Bowl Era in the 1930s. In fact, nearly every county in the United States has a conservation district. Their programs are all voluntary.

Butte County’s RCD is now strongly supported by the agricultural community and serves as a leader in finding local solutions to local challenges. Let’s work together to keep this vital conservation resource local.