Pacific Director Blog

My Comments at the NACD Pacific Region Meeting

On Wednesday, September 13, 2017, I provided an NCDEA report to attendees at the NACD Pacific Region meeting in Tucson, Arizona.  For those who could not attend, the presentation I prepared is shared below.

Presentation to NACD Pacific Region


Good morning.  My name is Tom Salzer. I’ve been in the conservation district family for 25 years so I’m not new to this dance. I manage the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District in Oregon where we have 15 employees serving 400,000 urban and rural customers.

Today I stand before you as the NCDEA representative for the Pacific Region.

NCDEA is the National Conservation District Employees Association. To many people, that sounds like a union…but it isn’t.  The way I usually describe it is perhaps clearer than the name implies: NCDEA is conservation district employees working to improve the conservation delivery system by focusing on the skills needed by your front-line conservation implementers.

Hold that thought because I’m going to circle back to NCDEA in a few moments.

Heard at this meeting

I want to share some of the really great thoughts I heard here in Tucson, including:

  • We connect land with human hearts
  • We look at land as a living system
  • Working together is the right thing to do
  • Conservation is easier said than done
  • We want to help those who need the help and want the help

Those are some powerful thoughts, grounded in deep truths. I’ve heard similar thoughts expressed in other parts of the country.

We’re different but the same

As I listened to your conversations over the past couple of days, I’m reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies: I’m unique, you’re unique, so we’re the same!

Each state or territory is unique. Every conservation district is unique. Each district board member, each district employee, each customer, each partner, and each vendor is unique.

But no matter what conservation district you are in, this strong sense of individuality and finding local solutions to issues is exactly the same.

So we’re all different, and yet we are all the same.

This means there is deep knowledge and experience present among the nation’s 3,000 conservation districts. That great idea you want to try? Somewhere out there a district has probably already tried it.

Unfortunately, that knowledge is not available to you unless we can do a better job of communicating with each other.

Listen and share

This is my take home message for you today: listen to what others have tried and then share what you know. When we do that we honor others, we learn from their experiences, and we become more effective at putting conservation on the ground.

We absolutely need our conservation district community to be strong and vibrant. No district can be as effective operating alone as they can be when they learn from other districts and become resources for others. Strong districts make the best conservation partners.

Good communication required

That requires good communication, and good communication takes work. It means reading newsletters, asking questions, attending meetings, and working with positive outcomes in mind…just like you are doing at this meeting. It means listening to others even when you may not agree with them. Maybe especially when you don’t agree with them! It means sharing what you learn with others in our conservation community.


OK, back to NCDEA.

NCDEA has goals just like yours: to serve customers and to get conservation on the ground.

Some recent activities will give you a better idea of what NCDEA actually does. Let me share three examples:

  1. NCDEA has over 80 conservation district employees serving on NACD committees, task forces, and resource policy groups, as well as on our own committees and working groups. These are front-line conservation implementers who provide advice as decision makers consider changes to programs and policies.
  2. On the NRCS National Employee Development Board, NCDEA is representing Conservation Partnership employees (the National Association of Conservation Districts, the National Conservation District Employees Association, the National Association of State Conservation Agencies, and the National Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils).
  3. The National Conservation Planning Partnership is a major effort by all five conservation partners, including NCDEA. It has really ramped up since it was launched. We have several Board members and conservation district employees engaged in the NCPP work. Boot Camp has already had 112 conservation district employees go through it, and there will be many other opportunities for districts to participate and benefit in the future.

NCDEA in the Pacific Region

In the Pacific Region, I’m the new person, serving as the Pacific Region representative since May. I’ve been busy trying to improve communication within the region.

I’ve been working on establishing contacts with employee associations and representatives.

I’ve established a website, Facebook page, and Twitter account to make communication easier.

News items about conservation districts in the Pacific Region are being collected in a Flipboard magazine. This is a great resource to learn what other districts in the region are doing.

I’ve attended conservation commission meetings in two states to re-introduce NCDEA to these important partners.

I need your help

Today I have a favor to ask you.

Not all states have employee associations. By employee association, I mean a statewide group of conservation district employees that seeks to improve the ability to put conservation on the ground.

The lack of a statewide group makes it difficult to provide training resources to district employees. It’s hard to know what is needed when a central organization of employees doesn’t exist.

Please help me improve communication in the region. If you can provide me with one or two employee contacts in your state, it will be very helpful. Even if your state doesn’t have a formal employees association there are still things we can share with your existing employees to help them perform better in their jobs.

Thank you for your assistance.


Photos from the trip are at

It was smoky in Tucson from forest fires on the west coast.  We saw some fires burning on the return flight.  The last photo is of Willamette Falls which had very little water flowing over it as we flew by.

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