A conservation district is a legal subdivision of state government, responsible under state law for conservation work within its boundaries. Conservation districts exist in every county of Pennsylvania except Philadelphia. On February 14, 1947, Carbon County was declared a Conservation District by the County Commissioners. Carbon County was the tenth county to declare a Conservation District in the State of Pennsylvania. The District began operation in May of 1947.
Conservation district history is rooted in solving the soil erosion crisis of the Dust Bowl days. Pennsylvania first authorized the establishment of conservation districts in 1945 under Act 217. Today, conservation districts continue the "cooperative" approach in dealing with natural resource problems. Districts are experts at channeling resources from government agencies, conservation groups, and civic organizations and putting those resources into action at the local level. The two closest partner agencies in these efforts are the DEP Bureau of Watershed Management and the U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service).
Programs vary widely throughout Conservation Districts in Pennsylvania since each district develops its own programs to best suit the environmental needs of the county. Common concerns and activities that our district is involved with are: Erosion and Sedimentation Control, Environmental, Wetlands Protection, Forest Resource Management, Rural and Residential Development, Mine Land Reclamation, and other Environmental Concerns.
Each conservation district is governed by a board of volunteer directors who, by state law, consist of both farmer and non-farmer or "public" members. The guiding philosophy of all conservation districts is that decisions about conservation issues should be made at the local level by citizens who understand the local environment. It is the district directors' responsibility to plan and direct the district program, guide the district's professional staff, coordinate the help of government agencies, and serve as a community clearinghouse for information services and environmental program assistance.
The District Board Members are volunteers that set the goals and priorities of the District. Our Board is comprised of seven (7) members - three (3) farmers, three (3) public, and one (1) county Commissioner member. These seven members are: Roger Shoenberger, Chairman; Merle Hunsicker, Vice Chairman; Robin Cressley, Secretary/Treasurer; Scott Mosier, Josiah W.H. Behrens III,
Dr. Justin Cunfer and Wayne Nothstein, County Commissioner.
Today the District is a full time operation. Six (6) full time employees work for the Carbon District in different capacities. Chris Storm, District Manager; Luke Graver, District Technician; and Brenda Drew, District Secretary are located at the Conservation District Office in Lehighton. Susan Gallagher is the Chief Naturalist that heads the Carbon County Environmental Education Center, located near Mauch Chunk Lake Park on East White Bear Drive in Summit Hill. Regina (Jeannie) Carl is the Naturalist and Franklin Klock is the Program Assistant. We also have several part-time employees and numerous volunteers that help keep our animals fed and well cared for, and assist with school and public programs.
Approximately 40% of the district's operating funds are obtained from the county with about 25% from the State of Pennsylvania. The balance of the funding is generated by fees and fund raising activities.