Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs), once known as Soil Conservation Districts, are "special districts" of the state of California, set up under California law to be locally governed agencies with their own locally appointed, independent boards of directors. Although RCDs are established locally by the rules of a county's Local Agency Formation Committee (LAFCO), and they often have close ties to county government, they are not county government entities.
There are numerous types of special districts throughout the state set up to administer needs of local people for pest control, fire fighting, water distribution, and a host of other services. Some special districts are "enterprise" districts and deliver services or products, such as water, to local customers on a fee basis. Other districts, "non-enterprise" districts, deliver services, such as fire or police protection, to all local residents. These are usually supported on a taxation basis. RCDs have characteristics of both enterprise and non-enterprise districts.
Under Division 9 of the California Public Resources Code, RCDs are permitted to function to a certain degree as enterprise districts because they are empowered to charge reasonable fees for services rendered to individuals. At the same time, certain rules permit RCDs to draw on local taxes for revenues, though the passage of Proposition 13 in 1977 has made it much more difficult for RCDs to function in this way.
Though not governed directly by the state, special districts, among them RCDs, are subject to state law concerning elections, responsibilities, legal meetings, and much more. RCDs, however, are given their primary authority to implement local conservation measures by Division 9.
"The Nation that destroys its soil destroys itself" was the warning issued in 1937 by
President Roosevelt when he signed legislation authorizing the creation of Soil and Water
Conservation Districts. At that time, the nation was facing a monumental task of protecting
our soil and water from the ravages of improper use that resulted in the "Dust Bowl" era. The
Federal Government realized it could only solve the problem through strong local involvement
and participation. Local people had to be a major part of the solution, which is why Soil and
Water Conservation Districts were formed.
Today, our nation is facing another monumental task: Controlling "polluted runoff", otherwise
known as Non-Point Source Pollution. As it was in the 1930’s, the solution is local involvement.
Districts are subdivisions of state government run by locally elected and appointed volunteers
who work to solve local natural resource problems. It is community involvement and the voluntary
approach that makes Soil and Water Conservation Districts so effective. Working in a unique
cooperative partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources
Conservation Service, which provides strong technical expertise, and state and local partners,
Soil and Water Conservation Districts reach out to all local stakeholders in the community to
determine priorities and set a course of action to solve natural resource problems. Districts
provide local conservation leadership, teach the value of natural resources, encourage
conservation efforts and help plan and implement voluntary programs. Each District program is
different and unique to the area that it serves, because the programs are developed by local
people to solve local problems.
Benefits of District Programs
- Help solve statewide problems by providing local solutions to many local natural resource problems (one size does not fit all)
- Develop local leadership
- Provide local hands-on training on natural resource issues
- Teach the value of natural resources directly to local people
- Provide voluntary technical assistance to landusers
- Technical assistance and education help prevent and reduce polluted runoff (non-point source pollution)
- Technical assistance helps protect drinking water supplies
- Technical assistance helps landowners to better manage their forests
- Programs bring in outside money (federal) that is spent locally
- Technical assistance and education helps keep the rural character of Maine (maintain farm and open space)