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GCD Celebrates 75 Years!

June 8, 2024, marks the 75th anniversary of the Gallatin Conservation District! Despite our long history, many people still aren’t familiar with what a conservation district is and what we do. So, what exactly is a conservation district?

A bit of history: The 1930s brought the ecological disaster known as the Dust Bowl, where huge black dust storms blotted out the sun and devastated the countryside. In response, the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) was established in the mid-1930s, thanks to the efforts of M.L. Wilson, Philip Glick, and Hugh Bennett, known as the “Father of Conservation.” On April 2, 1935, soil scientist Hugh Bennett dramatically revealed a dust-filled sky to Congress, prompting them to make soil and water conservation a national priority. With about three-fourths of U.S. land privately owned, Congress recognized the need for landowner support in conservation efforts, leading to the creation of soil and water conservation districts. President Roosevelt urged state governors to implement these districts, and Gallatin County joined in June 1949.

Today, over 3,000 Conservation Districts exist across the United States, each a political subdivision of state government created by the legislature. These districts have expanded their roles to include educating and assisting local citizens in conserving soil, water, forests, wildlife, and other natural resources.

The Gallatin Conservation District (GCD) operates as a state government subdivision, primarily funded through a county tax assessment on real property. For example, a property valued at $100,000 would incur approximately $1.00 per year in taxes to the GCD. An elected board of five supervisors and two appointed urban supervisors, along with Associate Supervisors who advise the board, governs the district. The GCD’s jurisdiction includes all parts of the county except the major areas of Belgrade and Bozeman.

Your local Conservation District administers the Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act for Montana, offers youth and adult education opportunities, sponsors grants, assists small acreage landowners, runs a cost-share program, sells various items, collaborates on natural resource projects, and actively participates in community programs and events.  Gallatin Conservation District also manages the Manhattan Farmers Market- which kicks off for the season on June 12, 2024 and runs every Wednesday through mid-September.  

The GCD conducts its business in monthly public meetings and encourages public attendance and involvement in community activities.

Many conservation districts share space with Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) offices. In 2011, Gallatin CD secured its own office space in Manhattan, MT.

In 2014, Gallatin CD established its Education and Outreach Center, also known as The Garden, making this year the 10th anniversary of this cherished space. The Garden is used for educational programs, features community gardens maintained by staff, includes pollinator and xeriscape garden plots, and is open to the public for enjoyment.

To celebrate these milestones, GCD is hosting a garden party on Thursday, June 6th, 2024, from 3 PM to 5 PM. Enjoy free food from Shane Edd’s BBQ, refreshing beverages, and live music by Joe Mann of Manhattan. We hope to see you in the garden!

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