As a new Soil and Water Conservation District Technician, I often wonder, who practices what we preach?
That is to say, which of the many people we come into contact with everyday are able to assimilate the information we provide them into something useful in their lives?
A typical day on the job goes something like this: A person contacts us with a problem, we ask for general background information, then some specifics, and set up a site visit if necessary.
Once their situation is properly assessed we will make recommendations on how to proceed based on our Best Management Practices (BMP’s).
Best Management Practices are our tools and strategies for achieving certain manageable goals. Most of our BMP’s are designed to alleviate and prevent resource concerns related to water and soil quality.
For instance water bars installed on the reclaimed skid road of a logging operation serve to reduce erosion, while buffer strips and setbacks reduce nutrient loading of streams close to crop lands.
In some instances a single BMP may resolve an issue but typically the use of several BMP’s custom planned per site allows for tremendous impact on the immediate resource concerns. Additionally BMP utilization can potentially cause a ripple effect on the site thus addressing other issues in a sort of chain reaction.
Many times improving one aspect of a scenario can lead to improvements in other areas as well. Those same water bars on the skid road may allow for future establishment of high value lumber species enabled by reduced erosion. While the nutrient capture ability that the buffers provide may reduce the amount of commercial fertilizer required to maintain soil productivity.
Often with BMP’s we have options. There may be several options to utilize in any one situation.
In an imperfect world a patchwork of practices may need to be used to achieve a desired goal. BMP’s are just that; practices based on the BEST case scenario. Certainly being proactive to any degree in addressing resource concerns will be more beneficial than taking no action.
In this aspect I see my job as a technician to educate clients as to what options are available to them and what potential benefits each may yield. During the course of our dialogue then, the semantics of cost and benefit come into play which ultimately should result in the client making an informed decision that enables them to get the most bang for their buck.
So often when discussing BMP options with individuals I hear the comment “I never thought of it like that.”
That to me is the ultimate indication that my job holds real world significance. Not to say that I have all the answers to everyone’s problems or that conservation is a foreign language to most people. But if I can supply information that gets the ball rolling for thought processes from a broader more encompassing viewpoint I believe I’ll help set people up for greater future success.
So who should practice what we preach?
Whether it be agricultural, silvicultural, or urban issues my belief is that Best Management Practices can be beneficial.
Firstly by conserving our existing resources. Secondly by building our future resource reserves. And finally by saving us money over the long term by reducing unnecessary input costs.