RCD Spotlight: Alameda County RCD
Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) are often referred to as “the best kept secret” in conservation. Though said as a compliment, this highlights one of the biggest issues for RCDs: a lack of visibility, which contributes to lost opportunities for partnerships as well as fewer funds to implement conservation projects. As a result, a significant focus of CARCD and the RCDs over the past few years has been to elevate the visibility of RCDs at local, regional, and statewide scales.
Alameda County RCD’s recent “Day in the District” shared the same focus. They invited senior leadership from local, county, and state agencies and departments to hear about the broad scope of the RCD’s work so they would walk away understanding that — be it wildfire, soil health, youth education, or habitat restoration — RCDs can be their partners in addressing those challenges.
Adequately covering the full range of diverse programming that ACRCD offers to its constituents required a full agenda. CARCD’s Executive Director, Karen Buhr, provided an overview of the importance of the RCD network from a statewide perspective. Alameda County RCD’s CEO, Katherine Boxer, talked about the RCD’s on-the-ground work and impact, and Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kehan voiced her support for the RCD’s work and mission. By the end, the 85 attendees had heard about ACRCD’s urban agriculture program in partnership with NRCS, wildfire planning, livestock pond restoration program, and much more.
Some attendees came from organizations that had partnered with RCDs before, but there were many others who had been otherwise unfamiliar with the RCD network. To make the Day in the District as impactiful as it could be, ACRCD invited city, county, and state leadership, city planners, public works officials, the CEO of their Chamber of Commerce, representatives of major organizations that they work with, private companies like PG&E, as well as leadership from the California Department of Transportation, the California Department of Conservation, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, among others. One of the most rewarding connections that ACRCD made was with Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kehan of the 16th District.
ACRCD had learned that Assemblymember Bauer-Kehan was newly elected, and contacted her staff. From there Katherine wrote her a detailed letter included a draft agenda for the Day in the District, and asked if she could attend. The letter initiated a series of conversations with Rebecca and her staff, who wanted to learn more about the RCDs and agreed to speak in support of them. It is ACRCD’s hope that as more legislators are aware of RCDs, they will see them as a resource when conservation issues are on the table, and will recognize the value of RCDs and fight for more funding for technical assistance, sustainable agriculture, and conservation programs.
Alameda County RCD invested significant resources in putting together a successful Day in the District, and could not have done it without funding and support by the California Department of Conservation. Hosting their first Day in the District enabled them to reach a wider audience and increase their visibility, which benefits the entire RCD network. From ACRCD’s perspective, if farmers and ranchers, community members, government agencies, and conservation partners are more aware of RCDs and their work, RCDs can install more fish passages, implement more irrigation evaluations, plant more trees, and ultimately be more valuable to their communities.