Hobart represents county at D.C. conference
Friday, March 29, 2002
Piscataquis County Soil & Water Conservation District Chairman Stephen Hobart recently attended the NACD Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference gives representatives from conservation districts around the nation the opportunity to visit with legislators and their staff about funding and other local issues of concern. Sending a Piscataquis County representative was a first for the district, accomplished through funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Moosehead Manufacturing Company and Pride Manufacturing Company, LLC. The 2002 delegation was the largest the Maine Association of Conservation Districts (MACD) has ever sent forth to the nation's capitol.

During the three-day event, district representatives learned about the most effective ways to communicate with legislators, heard from national leaders in the various conservation departments and were given time to voice local concerns to legislative staff members.

"Overall, I think we definitely made an impression," Hobart told his board on March 20. "They know what we want. They want it, too, but they needed to hear it from us." Hobart praised Bill Michaud, an experienced member of MACD's Executive Committee, for his calm and eloquent communication skills. Hobart said that those questions not fielded by district representatives were handled well by NRCS State Conservationist Russ Collett and NRCS Public Affairs Specialist Elaine Tremble.

Conversations centered on the farm bill, which is extremely important this year because of the programs under its umbrella. Many of these programs would be beneficial to the northeast, especially those in the senate's version of the bill. The three items in the farm bill the Maine delegation focused on were CSP, CTAP and CFP. The Conservation Security Program (CFP) is a program which would reward farms for maintaining conservation practices. The Conservation Technical Assistance Program (CTAP) would allow for more technical assistance to local farmers, landowners and business people.

This is necessary for the county and state to implement the conservation practices needed in this area, which include the bond issues passed last fall by the voters of Maine.

Hobart spoke about the Cooperative Forestry Programs (CFP) segment of the bill, drafted in part by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. The CFP includes the Forest Stewardship Program to help non-industrial private forestland owners better manage and use their forest resources. It also includes the Cooperative Lands Forest Health Management Program, which provides technical assistance for insect and disease suppression initiatives. The Cooperative Lands Fire Management Program falls under CFP. This program helps ensure cost-effective fire protection. The Forestry Legacy Program, another aspect of CFP, helps protect environmentally important forests under threat of conversion to non-forest uses. CFP also embraces Economic Action Programs which help communities develop the business and economic knowledge needed to sustain locally driven natural-resource-based economics.

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