Pacific Director Blog

My Comments to the Oregon Soil and Water Conservation Commission

The Oregon Soil and Water Conservation Commission is composed of soil and water conservation district board directors.  Sharing information about the National Conservation District Employees Association looked like a good way to create more awareness of NCDEA.

A few weeks earlier, I presented much the same information to the Washington State Conservation Commission.

Please contact me if you’d like me to talk with your conservation people.

From my notes:


Good afternoon.

Some of you already know me. For those who don’t, my name is Tom Salzer. I’ve been in the conservation district family in the Pacific Northwest for 25 years. I managed a very rural district in Washington for five years, then worked for the Washington State Conservation Commission for 13 years, and have worked for the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District for seven years as their General Manager.

Today I come to you wearing a different hat. For many years Carolyn Kelly of Skagit Conservation District in Washington served as the Pacific Region representative for the National Conservation District Employees Association, or NCDEA. She has retired from her district, and in May I was appointed to fill that vacant spot. Vicki Carter of the Spokane Conservation District has agreed to serve as the alternate representative to NCDEA, and this means that Oregon and Washington are well represented on this national body.

The one take home point to remember from my testimony is that NCDEA is about improving the conservation delivery system. You’ll hear this come up a couple of times in my remarks.

The Pacific Region

The Pacific Region is very large, with a wide range in the capacity of conservation districts. Included in the Pacific Region are, in alphabetical order:

  • Alaska
  • American Samoa
  • California
  • Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Guam
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Oregon
  • Republic of Palau
  • Washington

Because NCDEA has no representative at this time for the Southwest Region (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico) I am also temporarily representing those states.

Employee associations

In the Pacific Region, Oregon and Washington appear have the most employees and the best-organized employee associations. Many other areas either have few employees or have no active employee association.

The diversity in district capacity across this vast geography is a real challenge when it comes to improving the conservation delivery system in the region.

From my point of view, Oregon and Washington are leaders in the Pacific Region. I don’t think we’re really aware that what we do can provide models of behavior and accomplishment for others to learn from.


NCDEA’s mission is: “To strengthen conservation district employee professional capacity and influence national conservation policy by providing leadership and proficiency.”

That sounds pretty lofty. Maybe this comment that goes back to when NCDEA was first thought of in 1984 is more to the point: “District employees are very valuable tools…to implement conservation programs and assist district officials serving at the national level.” Conservation district employees are on the front lines in getting conservation on the ground. Delivering conservation locally depends upon the active and proficient work by district officials at all levels in the Conservation Partnership.

NCDEA supports a variety of training and capacity-building initiatives. NCDEA works in close partnership with NACD, NASCA, NARCDC, and NRCS. NCDEA representatives sit on many task forces and resource policy groups, helping to inform policy making at the national level. These activities are aimed at improving the conservation delivery system.

I hope that gives you a clearer picture of NCDEA. It is not a union. It’s about increasing capacity and effectiveness. If you work for a conservation district, you are a member of NCDEA.

Your continued support of the Oregon Association of Conservation Districts (OACD), Oregon Conservation Education and Assistance Network (OCEAN), and local soil and water conservation districts is critical in maintaining a strong and vibrant conservation delivery system. On behalf of NCDEA, I thank you for keeping the entire Conservation Partnership in mind as you deliberate issues and set policy.

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