Make a plan for communications

As part of a six-month series on district operations, the Did You Know? monthly feature in eResource will highlight chapters of the NACD District Outlook Task Force report: “Blueprint for Locally-Led Conservation – A Strategy for District Success and Sustainability” (available here on our website). This month’s chapter tackles communications.

For most conservation districts, many of their residents, landowners, and local and state government officials, have little or no knowledge of what a district is, much less what a district can or is currently doing to conserve their community’s valuable natural resources.

Conservation districts can’t afford to be a ‘best kept secret’ any longer.

Each district’s survival depends on having a good communications plan that reaches out to all the constituents in their district. This plan should be comprehensive but also feasible given the resources available (e.g. personnel, training, finances, etc.).

In implementing this plan, districts can draw on resources provided by their traditional partners – state/territory associations, state/territory agencies, NACD, and NRCS – and illicit help from other partners in accomplishing their outreach goals.  Conservation districts are where the work ultimately gets done, but districts need to work with and through partners to accomplish their missions.

The survival of conservation districts depends on having a clear identity as a local entity as well as being part of a state and national conservation network and partnership. Conservation districts need to ensure that public officials and community groups recognize them as the “go to” organization leader for working with natural resource conservation issues. Together, we are stronger as part of a local/state/federal partnership network than as individual conservation districts.

The manner in which the public receives information has evolved and requires timely and concise communications. No longer is a quarterly newsletter or occasional article in the newspaper adequate. Successful conservation districts have harnessed the power of email, the internet, and social media to spread the word about their activities and create dialogue with customers. This requires a coordinated effort and planning by the district board and staff.

Every effort should be part of an overall communications plan which links to community needs, values, and concerns. Districts need to be aware of state and federal laws governing the public’s right to access government data, their obligation to produce such data and data privacy laws. Understanding the various data practices and laws can be complex when state and federal laws conflict. Conservation districts will have to be conscientious of data practice laws while communicating the public value of their efforts, including conservation results and outcomes.


Conservation districts need to develop and implement a communications plan that clearly articulates their identity and message consistently across all media while maximizing contacts for the district, its partners, the public, and government leaders. A successful communication plan includes these characteristics:

  • Clearly identifies activities and projects, goals, budget, time frames, and district board and staff responsibilities
    • Board members are invested in the communications plan and participate as well as staff.
    • District officials and staff are trained in all types of media.
    • Every communications activity reinforces the “District Brand,” the district’s identity, and includes your logo as well as the logo of NACD in joint communication with other partners.
  • Defines audiences and message
    • Recognizes the many audiences that the district addresses.
    • Focuses on building relationships with, or collaborating with audience groups.
    • Shows how your conservation district is relevant in addressing natural resource concerns.
  • Outlines the types of media to be used
    • Successful, progressive conservation districts utilize all types of media, not just newsletters, newspaper and broadcast media, but also websites, social media, and opportunities through conservation partnership communications.
    • Communications plan should provide a protocol for two-way communications, including a standard for answering inquires in a timely fashion
  • Provides ways to evaluate progress
    •  The communications plan should explain how effectiveness is measured.
    • Conservation districts should review their communication plan at least once quarterly to determine where changes need to be made.

The Montana Conservationist February 1

In what may come as no surprise, politics dominate this week’s edition of The Montana Conservationist. We take a look at how the national stage may affect our local efforts:

  • Who is Sonny Perdue? Northern Ag introduces us to the former Georgia governor who is the President’s pick to lead the USDA
  • Montana NRCS has announced conservation initiatives for 2017, and it’s a broad list.
  • gives us yet another reason to build soil organic matter: it can *literally* make it rain.
  • The rusty patch bumblebee is the first in the continental US to receive ESA listing, following 7 flying species listed in Hawaii
  • Montana is searching for an Ag Education Specialist to work at OPI, and apparently that’s a hard person to find (know anyone?)
  • In a deep cut from Ag Research Magazine, scientists discover a surprising source of deep soil carbon.
  • Montana’s Ryan Zinke is one step closer to confirmation as the next Secretary of the Interior
  • Meanwhile, Steve Daines is set to chair the National Parks Subcommittee, meaning we have two contacts working in the Nat’l Park arena
  • And a new Executive Order meant to reduce regulation may actually slow down the delisting of Grizzly bears from the ESA
  • Plus, we introduce you to Ian Cavigli, the new Big Sky Watershed Corps Member in the SWCDM office.

All of that, plus more workshops than your wildest dreams (what’s that? You don’t dream about attending workshops? Just me then…). It’s The Montana Conservationist for the first day of February: TMC 2017-02-01

2017 MACD Scholarship Application Now Available

Two $500 Scholarships are available for Montana students—high school seniors or students who are attending an accredited post secondary institution in Montana may apply.

Eligibility requirements include:

  • US citizenship,
  • Montana residency,
  • minimum grade point average of 3.0, and
  • enrollment or plans to enroll in a course of study that allows students to explore natural resource issues. Appropriate courses of study include agriculture, agribusiness, animal science, range science, forestry, environmental science, land resource science, plant science, etc.

Students may receive a scholarship both as a high school senior and once during post secondary career.

Application deadline is February 24, 2017.


Photos from the Area 2 meeting


2338  Attendance at the Area II meeting was good with 60 participants at the meeting that was held in Wibaux MT

img_23422342  Retiring supervisor and treasurer Wayne Mangold from Little Beaver Conservation District and Emcee for the meeting, Bob Petermann from Wibaux Conservation District

img_23632363  Administrators from Area II:  from Left to right, Stephanie Carroll, Carter County CD; Sarafina Claeys, Little Beaver Conservation District;  Sandra Brown, Prairie County CD;  Julie Goss,  Richland County CD; Nikki Wesolek, Dawson County CD; Carol Watts, Custer Co CD; Liz Riter, Powder River CD; Renee Nelson, Wibaux CD.


DRAFT Spring Board Meeting Minutes

The MACDEO Spring Meeting was held on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at the Montana Historical Society and Museum in Helena. The meeting began at 11:09am.

Bobbi welcomed everyone to the meeting and introductions were made.

In attendance—Conservation Districts: Bobbi Vannattan (Rosebud), Julie Ralston (Bitterroot), Gail Cicon (Liberty), Denise Thompson (Broadwater), Tenlee Atchison (Cascade), Julie Goss (Richland) and  Mary Hendrix (McCone).

DNRC: Laurie Zeller and Dave Martin

Those on the call—Conservation Districts: Tanya Lester (Stillwater) and Monica Perez-Watkins (Missoula)

Read more at …

MACDEO Spring Meeting

MACDEO Spring Meeting 6/15/16 Helena

The MACDEO is planning our spring(summer)board meeting in Helena next week on Wednesday June 15th and we would like to invite you all to attend, in person or via conference! All Officers will have travel and board paid, and area reps will receive travel reimbursement for attending. We have also made the meeting available through phone conference, to encourage as many administrators as we can to attend the meeting. We initially planned the meeting for 1pm at the Montana DNRC building, however that is not going to work as planned. We have changed the meeting to the Montana Historical Society from 11-1 as a working lunch. We have asked MACD to include us in their partner meeting at 1pm at the capitol and there will be someone to represent the EO at most of the MACD Spring meetings throughout the 3 days.
Attached please find the agenda for the EO meeting, call in information, and the minutes from the March quarterly conference call meeting and the June 7th conference call.
The Administrator of the Year & Supervisor of the Year information is also attached along with a form for every administrator in the state to fill out and return to Carie Hess, for an Administrator recognition project for the convention in Sidney, I am assuming it should include all conservation district employees as some cd’s have more than one employee
If you are not able to attend the meeting in either aspect and you have information to share please send your cd report to your area representative or myself. It’s a great time so brag yourself up, share upcoming events, and get the word out about your cd. If you have any thoughts, comments, concerns, or questions that you would like addressed please get ahold of your area representative or myself.
Bobbi L Vannattan
MACDEO President6-15-16 EO Spring Meeting

Supervisor of the Year & Administrator of the Year Awards

Here is your chance for you to nominate a conservation district administrator or employee that you feel has gone above and beyond this year.

As District Administrators/Employees we all have a variety of projects and activities to complete. Some show team work by going above and beyond their district duties to help other districts or agencies. This is an opportunity for our organization to recognize all of the hard work the administrators do.

If you feel that a fellow Administrator has really shined this year and gone out of their way to mentor a new administrator, plan events, help other administrators, or is just plain AWESOME please fill out the “Administrator of the Year” nomination.

This is also a time that a SUPERVISOR can be recognized for their time and dedication to district duties. Some supervisors go above and beyond by attending meetings outside district board meetings, helping with education projects, assisting with grant writing, implementation of projects, and give other agencies support for projects other than county district projects or is just plain AWESOME.

If you feel you know such a supervisor, please fill out the “Supervisor of the Year” nomination. This is MACDEO’s way to recognize both an Administrator and Supervisor that goes above and beyond the call of duty to make Montana Conservation Districts shine. We appreciate any and all submissions.

These applications are due by August 15th, 2016. The ranking committee will have their
recommendations back to the EO by September 15th and the awards will be given out at the Awards Banquet at the State Convention.

Nomination Form: Admin_Super_of_year_award_2016

Please mail nominations to:
Department of Natural Resources
ATTN: Laurie Zeller
1625 Eleventh Avenue, PO Box 201601
Helena MT 59620-1601

MACDEO Awards Committee