When the old system of conservation practices that offered cost-sharing through the Federal Service Agency expired in the mid-90s, Indiana was getting about $3 million per year for conservation work. That's the word from Jane Hardisty, state soil conservationist. Today, that number is much higher.
"I'm proud of what we've done here for soil and water conservation," she says. "It goes back to the efforts of those who were working on it long before I took this position. We should all be happy about the progress we've made."
When she visits other parts of the country, Hardisty says Indiana is often brought up as an example. "Other states can't seem to figure out how we have federal, state and even local employees working together in the field together on conservation projects.
The state employees come from the Division of Soil Conservation, a state agency under the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. A good portion of the Division's funds still comes from the cigarette tax.
Many districts hire local staff to either work in education, often presenting programs to schools, or actually doing on-the- ground conservation. How many employees a local district has are often based upon how much the district has educated local commissioners and council members about the value of soil conservation. Most local funds comes form local county sources. Some of it comes from the Environmental Protection Agency through money that passes from EPA to districts through the state in the form of 319 grants. They typically involve watershed wide projects that may target one or more streams.
"What other state leasers can't understand is how we have federal, state and local level people working side by side in the field,' she adds. "That's not normal for most parts of the U.S. Hardisty helped organize district work teams that include all three levels of employees, and that work on projects across an area instead of just a couple of people working on different projects at a time.
While the Division of Soil Conservation doesn't have as many employees in the field today as it once did, due to budget cutbacks, Joe Kelsay, director Of IDSDA, says there are still about 22 full-time positions actually working out within the state. The rest of the Division of Soil Conservation workforce works out of offices in Indianapolis.