By Jon King /

State grant funding will help local efforts to encourage land and water conservation.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (MDARD) Environmental Stewardship Division awarded 169 grants totaling an estimated $9.7 million to 75 Michigan Conservation Districts for implementation of voluntary conservation practices on private lands and privately-held forests.

Among those receiving a grant was the Livingston Conservation District, which got $40,000. Conservation districts are local government entities working to enhance and conserve soil, water, wildlife, and other natural resources in their local communities.

State officials say this year marks a historic investment of $3 million for district operations, the highest funding levels since 2008. Gary McDowell, MDARD Director, said the grants will allow districts to “identify and prioritize the most pressing needs in their communities and ensure landowners have access to technical assistance for their farms,” adding that they partner with conservation districts “because they provide trusted expertise and assistance to farmers and landowners” which is “critical for adopting voluntary conservation that protects soil, crops, forests, waterways, and wildlife.” For