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Spring 2015: Quarterly Newsletter from Shannon L. Blankinship,
Duval Soil and Water Conservation District, Secretary, Florida
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Meet your Duval Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisors...
Chairman, Brian Allen
Term: 2013-2017
Project Priority for 2015: Work to better understand the taxing authority granted to the SWCD and ensure it is not used with a mere majority vote. 
Vice-Chairman,
Evelyn Coney

Term: 2013 - 2017
Project Priority for 2015: Work with public school system to showcase Who the DSWCD is, What We do, and the Careers available in the Environmental/Agricultural sector. 
Treasurer,
Patrick Bennett

Term: 2015 - 2019
Project Priority for 2015: Create board bylaws in order to assure uniform protocols and standards for attendance, use of board funds, duties and responsibilities. 
Secretary,
Shannon Blankinship

Term: 2015 - 2019
Project Priority for 2015: Provide more effective board communication for the community in order to open up dialogue, retain DSWCD accountability, and provide information through newsletters, social media, community events and informative monthly meetings. 
Public Relations Chair,
Dan Evans

Term: 2015 - 2019
Project Priority for 2015: Build and enhance the Envirothon, a problem-solving, natural resource education program for high school students.
Affiliate Board Members
Allen Moore, retired USDA District Conservationist, Soil Scientist with 43 years of agricultural experience. 
Ed Wright, former NRCS Employee and a current Earth Team volunteer.
Sebastian Alexander, former DSWCD board Chairman, 2013 - 2015.
Suggested Reading

Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss


By Craig Pittman and Matthew Waite, 2009

This book chronicles decades of Florida regulators, bureaucrats, politicians and and developers have altered the Florida Landscape. Watch how laws are made and wetlands are impacted. Learn about how Florida's remaining wetlands should be protected, and how vital wetlands are for soil quality and water health in our state. 

www.pavingparadise.org 
Learn about some of our partners.... 

Association of Florida Conservation Districts

Natural Resources Conservation Service (Florida)

Duval County Agricultural Extension Service

S
t. Johns Riverkeeper

10,000 Trees Jax

D
uval County Envirothon
Duval Soil and Water Conservation District
U.S. 301 North, #108 
Baldwin, Fl, 32234

Dear Neighbor, 

To celebrate Earth Day, April 22, 1970, think of ways to have a lasting impact on water health and soil quality at your home. Earth Day is a good reason to learn more about Duval Soil and Water Conservation!

During the 1930’s, the Dust Bowl days ravaged the Midwest after years of over-planting, poorly managed crops and severe drought conditions. During that massive storm, people were forced to crawl on hands and knees in search of shelter, literally unable to see their hands in front of their faces. Cars stalled and stopped in the choking dust. 

In response, Congress passed Public Law 74-46 April 27, 1935, and recognized that “the wastage of soil and moisture resources on farm, grazing, and forest lands… is a menace to the national welfare.” This law eventually created local Soil and Water Conservation districts to work with landowners in preventing soil loss and match funding sources with the need.

To celebrate Earth Day, consider taking one of these steps to prevent "the wastage of soil and moisture resources of farm, grazing and forest lands". 

  1. Use beds as buffers.  Create or expand beds using native or low maintenance plants next to water bodies, streets, driveways, and sidewalks. This will create buffers to help prevent runoff and keep fertilizers and chemicals on your property where you want them.
  2. Select plants right for your yard and the plant. (soil type, amount of sunlight, mature size of plant, etc.)  Utilize plants and turf grasses that can rely mostly on normal rainfall conditions. Native plants are often a good choice because they are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions and provide habitat for wildlife.  Try to avoid St. Augustine grass.  It generally requires more water, fertilizer, pesticides and maintenance than other drought-tolerant varieties like Bahia grass.
  3. Minimize soil disturbance. The soil’s natural biological cycles and soil structure can be disrupted through tillage, chemical disturbance or improper grazing. By reducing these activities, you can expect better plant growth, reduced soil erosion and better wildlife habitat.
  4. Energize with diversity. Biodiversity, growing more plants in rotation above ground improves diversity below ground, which provides an ideal habitat for the billions of micro-organisms that perform essential soil ecosystem functions like helping make nutrients available to plants.
Source: USDA, Earth Day: The Hope in Healthy Soil; St. Johns Riverkeeper: River Friendly Landscaping

2015 Board Priorities


When incoming Chairman, Brian Allen took office, he was clear about what he wanted to see: each supervisor and affiliate member "owning" a project or idea that can be completed in 2015. "Instead of going through a strategic planning process that would take most of the year to finish, I think we should start off by getting something done. If we can each accomplish a project in 2015 then I think we are on the right track." 

After the new supervisors were sworn in on January 6, 2015, the board set to work discussing 2015 plans. By mid February, each member had made a brief presentation or introduction to their "project", and in April, we are seeing the results! 

Supervisor Dan Evans, Public Relations Chair, immediately got working to promote the 2015 Envirothon, a problem-solving natural resource competition among high school teams through local media outlets. Coverage in the March issue of the Florida Star is the result. 

Supervisor Shannon Blankinship saw a need for more communication with the public about what the Duval Soil and Water Conservation District is doing, and where we need help. "While running for office, it was clear that people are willing to volunteer and help, if they knew what needed to be done. I think regular communication, through social media and email is a start". This newsletter, and our recently created Facebook page, should help with DSWCD accountability. "You should know what we are working on, and where we need you!"

Hear more about supervisor Bennett, Coney and Allen in the next quarterly newsletter. 
Quarterly Highlights

We have been busy working to promote, help coordinate, and provide funding for the following programs and activities: 

Fred B. Miller Regional Envirothon  More than 100 student formed 24 teams from Duval, Nassau, Clay and Baker County for the Envirothon, a problem-solving natural resources competition for high school students. The event was hosted at Diamond D Ranch on March 5. Leaders from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission helped with the Wildlife component; St. Johns Riverkeeper led the Aquatic Ecology portion; Duval Agricultural Extension Office led the "Environmental Issue" speaking challenge on the topic Urban Forestry; Florida Forest Service led the Forestry portion; and the Natural Resources Conservation Service led the Soils challenge.  In the end, Atlantic Coast High School took first place!  The team will now go on to the statewide competition, held on April 25, 2015 in Ocala, Florida. Thank you to the event sponsors, who helped us in funding this important event: Jim Love, State Farm agent; Firehouse Subs; Fred B. Miller; Florida Cattleman's Association; Florida Farm Bureau.  Check the Facebook page for the latest and see if students from Duval County get to move on to the North American Envirothon!


Speech Contest  Duval County students were asked to prepare a 6-8 minute speech on "HARDWORKING POLLINATORS – WHY ARE THEY LOCAL HEROES?" Cash prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners were awarded during the April 21st competition at City Hall in Jacksonville, and the 1st place winner was invited to attend the April 22nd regional competition in St. Johns County, where Alana Turner (Robert E. Lee High School) took 5th place.  Congrats!  

Land Judging  Land Judging is an exciting contest in which middle and high school students observe and interpret the soil. Assessing land conditions helps students to recommend wise agronomic and suburban land use decisions.Students can compete at the county, state, and national levels. Duval County sent a team of students from Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology to the regional Land Judging competition in Live Oak. They will also be going to the state competition later this year. 
Upcoming Events
 
The Association of Florida Conservation Districts is hosted its Area II meeting on April 22 in St. Johns County for collaboration between Duval, St. Johns, Volusia, Baker, Clay, Nassau, Putnam, Marion, Union, Bradford, Alachua, Taylor, Levy, Gilchrist, Dixie, Suwannee, Madison, Lafayette, Hamilton, and Santa Fe Counties.  The Annual AFCD meeting will be held on July 24 - 26 in Ocala, Florida. Find out more

The Duval Soil and Water Conservation District meets on the third Tuesday of each month at Jacksonville City Hall, downtown Jacksonville at 6:00 p.m. Join us in the Lynwood Roberts room at any upcoming meeting. May 19; June 16; July 21; August 18; September 15; October 20; November 17; December 15. 
We thank you for taking the time to learn more about us. While we are proud of the accomplishments made so far in 2015, it is also important to recognize our Challenges, with the knowledge that this volunteer board we will continue to work for healthier land and cleaner water in Duval County. 

Our CHALLENGES
  • There is No Website
  • We only meet once a month for less than 2 hours
  • Attendance is difficult. If you miss one meeting, then it can be 60 days until the next opportunity to work together
  • There is No budget
  • There is No administrative staff
  • Sunshine laws make communicating outside of the hourly mtg difficult
Our STRENGTHS
  • New and active participation from supervisors
  • Passionate Affiliate Members with tremendous experience
  • Participation from experts with Duval IFAS and regional National Resources Conservation Service
We have much more work to do.  While we continue to strive for better communication with the public over the next year, join our Facebook page in the meantime. Learn about the latest updates from the board, upcoming meetings, educational opportunities and how to get involved.  Thank you!
Join us on Facebook!
Copyright © 2015 Duval County Soil and Water Conservation District, All rights reserved.


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