Why we serve our entire conservation community
I’ve been in several roles within our conservation community over the past 29 years. At several points during that time, it seemed clear that the Washington Association of Conservation Districts functioned as an association of conservation district supervisors. Conservation district staff were not warmly welcomed.
Is this accurate today? Does WACD only work with conservation district supervisors? No. We work with everyone in our Washington State conservation district community and your Association is built to do exactly this.
WACD’s specific purposes
Our specific purposes are described in Article II of the Articles of Incorporation:
- Section 1. Exchange information with member conservation districts relating to the fulfillment of the purpose and role of member conservation districts as set forth under Chapter 89.08 RCW;
- Section 2. Deliver such services, programs and assistance as directed by member conservation districts and supported by available resources;
- Section 3. Maintain and improve association communication and operating policies and procedures as required to render effective service to member conservation districts;
- Section 4. Promote and facilitate cooperation and communication among member conservation districts;
- Section 5. Inspire and educate member conservation district supervisors to a full understanding and acceptance of their responsibilities for leadership and local governance;
- Section 6. Promote the technical competency of member conservation district staff who provide conservation assistance to land user and owners.
WACD represents member conservation districts
Part III of the Bylaws says “Every conservation district whose dues are fully-paid for the current fiscal year at the commencement of the WACD Annual Meeting shall be deemed to be a member of this Association…”
Conservation districts are members. Not board supervisors. Not employees. Whole, entire districts. People are important, of course, because they comprise the body of individuals who effectively deliver local conservation by governing and leading the district, managing staff and programs, and implementing programs and services. Without those people, we would simply not have effective conservation districts.
WACD is a business league
WACD is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit corporation, a business league like a chamber of conference. “A business league is an association of persons having some common business interest, the purpose of which is to promote such common interest,” says the IRS. “Trade associations and professional associations are business leagues.”
What is our common interest? Strong, effective conservation districts delivering conservation programs and services in the communities they serve!
Purposes, representation, and structure
In summary, WACD strives to:
- exchange information with member conservation districts;
- deliver services, programs, and assistance as directed by member conservation districts;
- maintain and improve communication, including promoting and facilitating communication between districts;
- inspire and educate conservation district supervisors; and
- promote the technical competence of conservation district staff.
These things are done in the context of being a business league built of conservation districts with a common purpose: delivering conservation programs and services.
WACD serves entire conservation districts
While there are differences in the level of control of WACD between conservation board supervisors (who vote) and conservation district staff (who cannot vote), it is apparent that WACD’s overarching interest is in supporting and enhancing conservation district success. Entire conservation districts are members of WACD. WACD’s Articles of Incorporation make it clear that WACD is interested in the proficiency of board supervisors and district employees. The work we do is designed to support all of a conservation district’s people. We want our member conservation districts to thrive!
But what if we only worked with one group?
Let’s say that WACD only worked with conservation district supervisors. Would that be sufficient to build the capacity and effectiveness of local conservation districts? No, because much of the work is done by another group of people: conservation district employees. While we’re at it, let’s not leave out our local, state, federal, and tribal partners. Those groups also contribute greatly to conservation district success.
I can’t imagine a highly successful conservation district where the board of supervisors does not depend on great management and highly proficient staff to implement their programs and services. I cannot imagine a great district where the employees don’t have a board able to envision a positive future and to lead their district toward effective outcomes.
We are only as strong as the weakest link. If we ignore the needs of a group of people in our community, we create a weakness in the system. That’s where success is most likely to break. This is why WACD supports whole, entire conservation districts. When all parties in a conservation district are functioning well, working toward common goals, and supporting each other while respecting and honoring the different roles they fill, they can only succeed.
The whole district view is the only viable option
In the traditional view, WACD works only with conservation district supervisors. In the whole district model, WACD works with everyone who governs or works for a conservation district.
I’ve known several leaders over the years who subscribed to the traditional view. That’s not me. Over the years, I’ve observed that working with only one group while excluding the other just doesn’t produce the results our community wants to see. My perspective has been informed by the various roles I’ve filled while supporting conservation districts: I’ve been a conservation district technician; a district manager (twice); a state employee providing guidance and assistance to conservation districts; president of the Washington Association of District Employees; and a board member of two state associations of conservation districts.
I cannot conceive of any other way to fulfill WACD’s purposes other than to support entire conservation districts. If we did not do this, we would put our member districts at risk by allowing weak links to create vulnerabilities. We work toward conservation districts that succeed in their locally-led missions, and those missions are met by each local team working as one toward achieving those missions.
We are “all in” for conservation districts
WACD exists because of conservation districts. (WACD is four years older than NACD!) All of us in various organizations who work toward strong, effective conservation districts are in our circle of support. And when it comes to conservation districts, we are “all in” for their success.