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UCCE leads formation of Tuolumne County Resource Conservation District

The Issue

Without a local Resource Conservation District (RCD), residents of Tuolumne County lacked access to many natural resources, agricultural and conservation programs offered by state and federal agencies. Many pressing natural resources issues in Tuolumne County, including fire fuel management, water quality, and noxious weed invasion, can be addressed by the RCD. An example is the Cooperative Soil Survey. RCDs cooperate with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) scientists to conduct soil surveys. Tuolumne County does not have a soil survey, which is often crucial to effective natural-resource planning and management.

What Has ANR Done?

UCCE county director and ag/natural resources advisor Jay Norton identified formation of an RCD as important to improve education and management of forest and range resources early in 2003. Local landowners who approached him said that past efforts had failed, in part, due to lack of support from a farm advisor. Norton used his position as UCCE county director to build support within county government and the general public. Starting in late 2003, he organized monthly meetings to begin the administrative and educational effort required to form the RCD. Norton also presented many local civic, conservation and agricultural groups with information on RCDs. He led a study session for the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors, which was covered by local cable television and the Sonora newspaper.

After approval by the board of supervisors and the Sonora City Council, formation of a Tuolumne County RCD was placed on the November 2005 ballot and approved by voters. After the RCD formation, UCCE County Director Norton provided the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors with guidelines for appointing the nine RCD directors.

The Payoff

New Tuolumne County RCD sets priorities and five-year plan

At their second meeting, in March 2006, the Tuolumne County RCD decided their educational, fund-raising and on-the-ground conservation efforts will focus on six local issues: water resources, fuel reduction, weed control, grazing management, forest management and soil quality. Since inception of the RCD, NRCS has begun the first soil survey in Tuolumne County and is establishing a local conservation office to partner with the RCD.

Improved access to NRCS technical and financial assistance programs, like the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), is already resulting in more conservation. The RCD assures that these existing tax-supported programs, along with others from state, federal and private agencies that target RCDs, invest in local projects that protect natural resources for all residents. EQIP and other grant funds usually pass through RCDs or private landowners to local firms that implement conservation practices such as cross fencing, brush control, forest thinning, and many others.

Clientele Testimonial

Kirk Ford, the RCD's first chair, said, “The UCCE office’s direct involvement with outreach efforts throughout the county helped provide valuable education to citizens as to what the local benefits of an RCD could be."


Supporting Unit: Tuolumne County

Jay Norton, jbnorton@ucdavis.edu, 209-533-5686