Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD's) are political subdivisions of the State. Supervisors serve four year staggered terms; generally, two or three of an SWCD's five supervisors are up for election every two years. These positions have been local elected officials since SWCDs began to be formed in 1937. Since 1971 the offices have appeared in the November ballot as a nonpartisan office.
SWCDs are local units of government that manage and direct natural resource management programs at the local level. Districts work in both urban and rural settings, with landowners and with other units of government, to carry out a program for the conservation, use, and development of soil, water, and related resources.
One crucial niche districts fill is that of providing soil and water conservation services to owners of private lands. Privately owned lands make up 78 percent of the land surface in Minnesota. Managing these private lands, whether agriculture, forest, lakes, or urban, is key to Minnesota's quality of life.
Minnesotans trust SWCDs to provide needed technology, funding and educational services because they are established in each community, governed by local leaders and focused on conservation of local soil and water resources.
Soil and Water Conservation Districts are funded through a variety of sources. Many of their program administration dollars and funding for landowner projects are state dollars allocated by the legislature and passed-through the State Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR). General operating funds are obtained from BWSR, counties, fees for service and grants or partnership agreements with the federal government or other conservation organizations.
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As a soil and water conservation district supervisor, you have been entrusted with some of Minnesota’s most precious assets: our natural resources. Your primary responsibility is to ensure that your community uses its natural resources wisely, with an eye toward the future.
To do this, you must seek and achieve a delicate balance between people and the land we inhabit. The future of Minnesota’s environment rests on your ability to maintain this balance and garner your neighbors’ support for an active and protective natural resources program.
In order to be an effective board member and feel a sense of accomplishment for the people you serve, you must have a good working knowledge of your responsibilities as (1) an SWCD board member, (2) an elected official, and (3) a community leader.
There are three key aspects to the role of a supervisor as an SWCD board member: policy development, annual and long-range plans and budgets, and working with the district staff.