Brown County voters to decide if conservation districts merge

Brown County is only of the only counties in South Dakota that has two conservation districts.
Published: Oct. 31, 2022 at 5:16 PM CDT
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ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - In Brown County, 124th Street serves as the dividing line between the Brown-Marshall Conservation District and the South Brown Conservation District jurisdictions, but that could change on November 8th.

Conservation districts are non-profit resources that promote conservation stewardship through education and services, such as tree planting. There are 69 conservation districts in South Dakota, and each are governed by a five-member board elected by the public.

Brown County is only of the only counties in South Dakota that has two conservation districts. With two conservation districts in one county, it has become hard for both Brown-Marshall and South Brown Conservation Districts to find seasonal employees.

Brown-Marshall Conservation District is based in Hecla, which has a population of less than 200. That makes finding seasonal employees even harder.

”We just don’t have nearly the people here. We don’t have a school anymore, so you don’t have that pool to pull from for employees and workers,” said Brown-Marshall Conservation District Manager Judy Skoglund.

The lack of employees is why both conservation district boards in Brown County unanimously approved a merger to combine staff and resources, but the ultimate decision is left up to Brown County voters.

”Financially, for both districts and for the producers, it should be a good move. Logistically, it just makes sense to have it all in one location,” said Skoglund.

The decision wasn’t easy for the Brown-Marshall Conservation District, which was the first conservation district ever established in South Dakota back in 1937.

”It is bittersweet. I’m sure for some of the people here in Hecla it will be too because it’s another business that we lose, but the history is still here,” said Skoglund.

If the merger of the two conservation districts is approved by Brown County voters on November 8th, the Brown County Conservation District will be based out of the current South Brown Conservation District office in Aberdeen.