National Association of Conservation Districts
By Steve Robinson, President
Dear fellow conservationists,
Greetings on behalf of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) and our member conservation districts! NACD is the nonprofit organization that represents America’s 3,000 conservation districts and the 17,000 men and women who serve on their governing boards. Conservation districts are local units of government established under state law to carry out natural resource management programs at the local level. Districts work with millions of landowners and operators to help them manage and protect land and water resources on all private lands and many public lands in the United States.
Conservation districts have been involved in delivering locally-driven conservation across America for more than 70 years. No other conservation or environmental group in the country implements more conservation practices on the ground. The beauty of conservation districts is that they exist in virtually every county and community in the nation, where they work on meaningful, landscape-scale projects that produce verifiable improvements in environmental quality. Conservation districts’ work results in clean air, clean water, healthy habitat and productive soil.
As you well know, it’s an exciting time for conservation in this country. Projects abound, and there is significant commitment from individual landowners, communities, lawmakers and funders to make improvements to our natural resources. We still have our challenges, but the time is right to make significant progress as stewards of the land.
While continuing to fill many of our traditional roles, NACD and our member conservation districts are also exploring new opportunities and addressing new challenges. Earlier this year, I appointed a task force to study the issue of herbicide resistant weeds and the potential impact on conservation.
The task force is made up of representatives from conservation districts, academia, federal agencies and related industry. They began by studying how the weeds developed a resistance to herbicides. Next, they began determining the impacts of herbicide resistance on soil and water conservation and assessing the potential impact on conservation tillage practices, especially no till crop production.
Herbicide resistance is a good example of survival of the fittest. Producers essentially selected for weeds that were naturally resistant or showed some tolerance for the chemical. When producers allowed “stray” weeds to grow in the fields after chemical treatment, the resistant weeds were allowed to go to seed and thus produced the next generation of resistant weeds.
The task force determined that the need to control herbicide resistant weeds is, in fact, having an impact on conservation practices. In areas where the problems are most severe, producers have been forced to return to more conventional tillage practices to control the weeds, resulting in problems with conservation compliance for producers. Tillage is also being recommended as a way to clean up a field once it has been infested with resistant weeds. Either way, a plow is running across the ground.
The group is now in the third phase and is working to identify potential solutions to the herbicide resistance problem, including specific actions and recommendations to address the issue. Unfortunately, it is a complex problem, and there is no single simple solution.
One of the biggest hurdles in addressing this situation will be producer education, both with regard to clean up of already infested areas and prevention methods to avoid new infestations.
NACD’s task force is now looking for ways to develop state-specific weed management plans that are tailored to the area’s needs. The group is also identifying the role that conservation districts can plan in developing and implementing the weed management plans, and in producer education. Finally, the group plans to develop a white paper that specifically includes best management practices for weed management.
Herbicide resistance is one of many, many issues that our member conservation districts are addressing. We will need to continue to rely heavily on partners, industry, technology and ingenuity in order to stay ahead of the curve.
NACD has strong ties to the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC). We are aware that CTIC and its members have a vested interest in the herbicide resistance issue, as well as an interest in being part of the solution. We look forward to working with you and others to identify and implement the steps needed to address the issue.