The National Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils (NARC&DC) began its kickoff of the 50th Anniversary Celebration of service to America with a proclamation by USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack. His proclamation commenced a year-long series of events highlighting the contributions of hundreds of volunteer-run RC&D Councils across the United States.
The unique nature of these volunteer-operated nonprofit, non-governmental agency RC&D Councils is their ability to identify potential challenges in their localities and create solutions that are tailored to those communities and their local needs. For 50 years RC&D Councils have quietly and successfully partnered with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, its Natural Resources Conservation Service, other Federal and State agencies, local organizations, nonprofits, corporations and citizens to better the lives of often underserved citizens in rural America. Sec. Vilsack’s proclamation celebrates this continuing service.
The RC&D movement was first envisioned during the Administration of President John F. Kennedy through the leadership of then-Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman. The goal of the program is to assist localities conserve natural resources while enhancing the social and economic well-being of rural communities through volunteer-driven RC&D Councils. In the half-century since the program’s creation, this movement has grown to include more than 20,000 volunteers who serve 2,693 counties in all 50 states, the Caribbean and the Pacific Basin.
Bitter Root RC&D Executive Director Becki Koon said, “The Bitter Root RC&D is honoring this proclamation with its own 47th Anniversary celebration on November 3. The First Annual Bitter Root RC&D Gala ‘Light Up the Night’ will be an evening of music, good food, silent and live auctions and awards. The many projects that are housed under our 501(c)(3) status will be showcased, and several key partners will be honored that evening, including the National Award-winning Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (MT DNRC).
“We will also be celebrating the fact that the Bitter Root RC&D itself was named the Outstanding Council of the Year for 2011,” said Koon.
While smoke from fires is still lingering, the Bitter Root RC&D Hazardous Fuels Reduction Cost-Share Program is in full swing and continues to be a funding source of paramount importance to reducing fire-hazard risks on private lands in the wildland urban interface.
“The success of this program cannot be overstated and would not be possible without the competitive grant availability from MT DNRC,” said Byron Bonney, RC&D Community Forester who has been actively engaged in the Cost-Share Program as well as serving in fire camps throughout Montana and Idaho, seeing first-hand the effectiveness of some hazardous fuels reduction projects. Koon continued, “Hazardous fuels reduction work is being performed in Ravalli, Missoula and Mineral Counties in close working relationship with DNRC, and we are happy to honor them that night.”
But that’s not all. For the Gala, Trapper Creek Job Corps culinary students will be participating in a work-based learning opportunity, working side-by-side with local caterer River Song Gourmet.
“Trapper Creek Job Corps has been a community resource working to support our area through student-driven activities,” said Koon, “and through the years they have worked closely with the Bitter Root RC&D on such projects as fire rehabilitation, food for events, and FireSmart Wagon support.”
“We appreciate the thousands of hours and hundreds of community projects that Trapper Creek has given to the Bitterroot Valley,” said Koon. “Their commitment and contributions are impressive and parallel those of the Bitter Root RC&D.”
For more information about the projects and services that Bitter Root Resource Conservation and Development offers, or to get information and tickets to the Gala on November 3, contact Becki Koon, Executive Director, at the Bitter Root RC&D office by visiting 1709 North First Street in Hamilton, or calling 363-5450.