Polk Conservation District Still Organizing; Funding Uncertain

The newly revived Polk Soil and Water Conservation District is still getting organized, but the County Commission has already jumped in and told the agency not to expect any financial support from them.

The decision was led by Commissioner George Lindsey, chairman of the Polk Regional Water Cooperative’s board, who last month asked for the topic to be brought to Friday’s agenda study session.

Polk commissioners in recent years have been trying to cut back on funding requests from outside agencies.

The district hasn’t asked the commission for money, but did tell a county official it was hoping to use some space at the Polk County Extension Office for an office and some secretarial support, but that request hasn’t come to the commission.

It seems the entire discussion is premature until the district board decides what its role will be.

According to The Ledger, commissioners wondered whether the agency would add anything to existing efforts by the Southwest Florida Water Management District and other public and private groups.

In neighboring Hillsborough County, which has an active conservation district with a $486,000 budget and an executive director, the mission includes environmental education, litter cleanup and other projects. Its income comes from state funding and fees for services. Under state law, the districts have no taxing power and board members receive no pay.

I was looking for more information, but as luck would have it, the Hillsborough district is in between websites.

I have talked to members of soil and water conservation boards elsewhere in Florida and learned the board can launch any conservation program that they think will interest the public. Running for the board is also a cheap way to get into politics as a stepping stone for higher office.

It seems like another voice to promote conservation in Polk County would be welcome.

The board’s next meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation District office, 1700 U.S. 17 South, Bartow.

Posted in Group Conservation Issues.