Cynthia Warnock of the Wallowa Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) is the local lead person in an effort to bring a Resource Conservation and Development area designation to Wallowa, Union and Baker counties.
Started in 1964, over 90 percent of the United States is included in one RC & D or another, and the largest contiguous section not covered in the continental U.S. includes these three counties, plus Harney and Malheur counties to the south.
In May the five counties began meeting to form an area, but have since broken off into two entities.
An RC & D is a federally funded nonprofit program designed to help communities strive for conservation and grant funding in such areas as noxious weed prevention, safety and equipment for public schools, children's recreation, agriculture marketing and business recruitment. The overall areas of concern are natural resources and economic development.
Warnock says that the RC & D will not take the place of existing programs, but instead help with programs that already exist.
Warnock and what is now an eight person steering committee of herself and representatives from Union and Baker Counties are actively working on an application for funding from the U.S. Congress. They are working toward an Oct. 1 deadline for the application.
Created under the financial wing of the United States Department of Agriculture and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Warnock says the goal is to hire 1 1/2 persons. Added to that would be office space and one vehicle. No provision has been made yet as to where the office space would be situated.
The steering committee Warnock is now on has been formed to create the RC & D, but will not be the governing body of the entity. She says that monetary sponsors such as the three counties, the SWCD and other agencies will provide volunteers to form a board of directors which will give guidance to the employees of the RC & D.
Like the other 364 RC & D councils across the nation, the local one will have by-laws, a mission statement and annual meetings.
Warnock says that just forming the program will open doors to additional grant funding.