When I interviewed with the Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission last month, someone on the panel equated the conservation partnership in the recent past between local, state, and federal agencies to a three-legged stool: each leg of the stool is equally important to anyone planning on sitting down.
If you know anything about me, you know I’m big on locally led decision-making AND equally big on coordinating policy and projects between all levels of government. In order to do good things for the land you not only need willing landowners, you need strong conservation partners. Strong partners make for solid seating.
[California's unwillingness or inability to sustainably fund local on-the-ground efforts has been an insurmountable problem and will likely be for some time: the legs of the stool are there, though just barely. Conservation efforts in Idaho benefit from annual general fund allocations (to the Soil and Water Conservation Commission, the largest portion of which is rolled directly down to local districts), special conservation account funds, contributions from federal and other state agencies, and matching funds from counties.]
While the fellow at my interview said use of the three-legged stool analogy is not so common any more, we’re working to bring it back. Compared to what I’ve seen in other states (not naming names, just sayin’…), Idaho doesn’t have so far to go.
One of the best things about working here is the opportunity to showcase locally-led, voluntary conservation projects being accomplished by farmers, ranchers, and community members. We’ve taken more than our share of hits because we don’t buy the schtick that conservation is primarily about creating and protecting wilderness and wildlife corridors. Balderdash. Conservation includes those things, but it’s also about good stewardship of the land, courtesy of ordinary private landowners like you and me. And courtesy of strong agency partnerships: three-legged stools.
Here’s an Idaho Farm Bureau video from 2009 about an award winning project. I’m not sure which agencies were involved, but it was likely a result of a three-legged stool: a nonregulatory local soil and water conservation district, assisted by a nonregulatory Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission (providing science-based technical ‘assistance and loan funding for irrigation systems and more), with additional assistance from a nonregulatory NRCS.
It’s what nonregulatory, incentive-based conservation success can look like. Some of the best conservation rests on three- legged stools. Enjoy!