Let’s Talk About File Types

In all the activities that administrators do, we create a lot of files, and we use many different programs to create those files, which means that on a daily basis we create a myriad of different file types—often without knowing we have done so.

But not all file types are created equal, so I thought it would be useful to spend some time talking about the different types of files you’re likely to encounter, and the pros and cons of each, so that when you hit save, you can choose the settings that will keep your hard work in the best possible format.

Document Files (Letters, etc)

File Types-01 File Types-02

Database-Style Files

File Types-03 File Types-04

Image Files

File Types-05 File Types-06 File Types-07 File Types-08File Types-09

Publication Files

File Types-10 File Types-11


I hope that this has cleared up some confusion for you, and will point you in the direction of the best file type for your needs. I have also created an image with all of the document types described here if you want to download it and print it out. Download it here.


all file types-01

Area II Administrators

Renee Nelson sent this photo of the Area 2 administrators at the Area meeting in late September. Left to right are: Liz Riter, Powder River CD; Renee Nelson, Wibaux CD; Carol Watts, Custer Co CD; Nikki Wesolek, Dawson Co CD; Stephanie Carroll, Carter CD; Kodie Olsen, Little Beaver CD; and Julie Goss, Richland CD. The only administrator missing was Sandra Brown of Prairie County CD.


Make your pictures the best they can be!

Greetings, administrators!

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Social Media Fridays post. Today I wanted to share a free online tool that will help those of you who have websites or use Facebook, and even those that put together printed newsletters.

We all know that it’s important to have great images to accompany your written text. Images catch readers’ attention, and can break up big sections of text. And on Facebook, images generate a whopping 53% more likes and 104% more comments* than regular posts! *according to this post

But your camera doesn’t always produce the greatest pictures on its own. Sometimes the light is bad. Sometimes the background is distracting. Sometimes it just doesn’t POP.

Enter online photo editors. We’ve all seen before and afters of what a little Photoshop can do. But we can’t all afford Photoshop. Luckily, there are lots of great FREE online photo editors that can help you spiff up your images so they really shine.

Here are a couple that are great:

I most often use Pixlr, simply because I’m used to it. Even though I have Photoshop, I find that sometimes it’s just easier! So to demonstrate just what you can do with Pixlr, I put together a couple of before and after photos.

Let’s start with this one, of some burrowing owls. Sunni Heikes-Knapton sent it to me to fix, because she wants to frame it and give it to a retiring supervisor (the photo was taken on his property, and as she said, “He really loves these little fluff balls”). The photo was taken by Ennis photographer Jayre Leech.

IMG_0033It needs some help, don’t you think?

So I went to Pixlr.com and opened up Pixlr Express. Because it’s easy. And fast.

First item on the list, and this is something I always do, is to go to Adjustments, and click Auto Fix. Which right away made an improvement.Screenshot 2015-09-10 16.25.06

BIG improvement. But I felt like it still needed some POP to really make those owls stand out. So I added a Vibrance Adjustment, and moved that up a little. I did the same thing for a Contrast Adjustment.

Then I used a little trick to really center the viewer’s attention on the owls, and not all that distracting grass.

I added a Focal Adjustment, which blurs out and desaturates the edges of the photo, so that the center stands out the most with the most detail. It mimics the effect that a good photographer could create by changing the settings on their fancy camera.

Screenshot 2015-09-10 16.29.04


I still wanted a little more warmth in the photo, so I added an Effect. I chose Subtle, and Ian, and toned it down to about 51. I also added an Overlay Vignette (I chose “bubble”) and toned that down to 34 to subtly darken the corners of the photo, once again adding focus on the owls in the center.

Here’s the final:



Now if I wanted to make this all the way fancy, I could add a heavier effect, and some text. This would be great for putting on Facebook and such.


Let’s recap how much better these barn owls look after a little editing:

owl collage


And all of that was done in about under ten minutes! Pretty sweet, right? Just think how much better EVERYTHING will look once you get the hang of it. I bet you could make your workshop photos look a little bit more like Beyonce’s Instagrams if you tried. (That’s a good thing).

How else could you use this tool? What if you put together a quick little advertisement to remind people that you have a Soil Health Workshop coming up! This would be perfect to post on Facebook or in your newsletters to catch people’s attention.

img w txt


UPDATE: 10/22/2015

After I posted this post, Ginger Kauffman (Flathead CD) emailed me say that she used Pixlr to edit some 310 photos that a supervisor brought in that were too dark. She said, “we can now see what is in the photos!  Thanks for the great tip!”.

Sunni Heikes-Knapton (Madison CD) also emailed to say that she has been “using the heck out of Fotor” and loves it. She also said that she would add one tip:

I would add one thing to your great advice- and that’s for people to remember to give credit to the photog that took the image. Of course, a real professional has their name on the image already, but it can be a nice gesture and a way to build a relationship with a community member when credit is given to non-professional photogs.

Thanks for the feedback, ladies!


How is my Conservation District Funded?

Harold Blattie, from the Montana Association of Counties, recently pointed out that our website had incorrect information about the way districts were funded. We had previously stated that CDs could levy up to 1.5 mills. However, as Harold pointed out, that limit was changed to floating mills in 2001.

Here is Harold’s explanation of how district funding is calculated now:

“Prior to 2001, Conservation Districts were limited to levying 1.5 mills on the taxable value of the real property within the district. The 2001 Legislature removed that specific mill limit and made the conservation district levy ”subject to 15-10-420” which allows the number of mills to float so that the district receives the same dollar amount as the prior year, plus a modest amount of allowed growth, plus the revenue generated by newly taxable value. The Department of Revenue annually certifies the taxable value of the district as well as the value of new property. If you do not receive it directly from DOR, contact your local Clerk and Recorder. Those amounts are critical in determining the allowable levy each year. A spreadsheet has been developed to assist in that calculation and is available on the MACo website at: http://www.mtcounties.org/sites/default/files/forms-downloads/resources/fiscal-information-forms/mill-levy-computation-form.xls

To begin the calculation for any given year, you need to know the maximum allowed in the prior year. That dollar amount is entered into Line 1 of the form. Next the certified taxable value is entered into line (5). Finally, the value of newly taxable property is entered into Line (5)(c) as a negative number.

The form will then tell you the maximum amount that can be levied that year in Line (7) in mills and in Line (8) as dollars.

The supervisors then need to determine whether to levy the maximum allowed or a lesser amount. If the decision is to levy a lesser amount, that authority carries forward to the following year and beyond.”

Hope that helps, and thank you to Harold for correcting us!

New Administrator Handbooks

The Employees organization has recently produced an update to our Administrator’s Handbook. Hard copies were handed out at the statewide training in June, and you can request that one be mailed to you if you didn’t pick one up at the training. Or download here!

This is a great resource for new administrators that discusses the history of Conservation Districts and advice on planning, finances, outreach and more for districts.

Tab 1 Dividers | History of Montana Conservation Districts

Tab 2 Dividers | Agencies and Organizations Assisting the Districts

Tab 3 Dividers | Personel


Tab 5 Dividers | Daily Operations


Tab 7 Dividers | Grants

Tab 8 Dividers | Supervisors

Tab 9 Dividers | 310

Tab 10 Dividers | Water Reservations

Tab 11 Dividers | Public Relations and Outreach

Tab 12 Dividers | Index

Quickbooks Files from 2015 EO Training

Greetings Administrators!

As requested, here are the files from the Quickbooks training at the 2015 EO Conference.

I hope you find these useful. If you have any questions, I welcome you to post them in the Finances forum. I’ll also post these files on our Resources page, so that you can find them again in the future.



Quickbooks Account List

Quickbooks Training Presentations & Materials

Here are the training materials from the 2015 EO Training Quickbooks Presentation.

This file includes all of the power point presentations that the presenter used. It’s a very big file, so be patient downloading. Once it’s finished downloading, you’ll need to double click on the folder and extract the files.

Quickbooks Sample File & Chart of Accounts

Here is the sample Quickbooks file and a sample chart of accounts from the 2015 EO Training Quickbooks presentation. It’s a compressed folder, so after you download you’ll need to double click on the folder and extract the files.