National Conservation Foundation: Supporting the Next Generation of Conservation Leaders
Dear Fellow Leaders,
As many of you know, the National Conservation Foundation (NCF) alongside the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) launched the Next Generation Leadership Campaign in October. This campaign continues to see success, but there is still work to be done. I encourage my fellow conservationists to invest in the future of the conservation industry by supporting NCF and NACD in their efforts to cultivate the next generation of conservation leaders.
After returning home from the U.S. Air Force after Vietnam, I had the opportunity to purchase the ranch I was born and raised on. From working the ranch to being involved in 4-H and FFA, agriculture has always been an important part of my life. I was born during the Dust Bowl, which instilled in me the value of taking care of the land from an early age. My father was a firm believer in the conservation mission, which inspired me to get involved with my local conservation district board and state association. Through state gatherings and annual meetings, I was connected with other like-minded people to share success stories and best practices. Unfortunately, NACD is becoming an older generation, and the further away we get from those who remember the devastation of the Dust Bowl years, the less it resonates with them. That’s why cultivating new leaders is truly imperative—we cannot delay.
In order for the conservation legacy to live on, we need more young people to get involved in agriculture and conservation advocacy at the state, local and even federal level. That interest comes from exposure and access, which is why we have a responsibility to create opportunities for new leaders to gain that access—whether it be providing testimony, meeting with public officials or hosting briefings. Often times, older farmers are more available to take time away from their farms—unlike our younger folks. It’s understandable. The younger group has less outside help, are raising families and paying for equipment to keep their operations running.
We’re going to continue to have older people in our leadership roles if we don’t invest in the next generation. I challenge my fellow friends and colleagues to think about what investing in our next generation truly means. It requires us to think critically and figure out a way to help these young people get involved without breaking their banks. Getting folks involved in conservation starts through groups like FFA and 4-H, which are huge assets to our organization. But we have to take that one step further and keep them involved after college. We can’t afford to lose our best leaders to other careers and organizations.
Tomorrow’s sustainability starts today, but time is running out. Invest in a better, more innovative future by supporting this program. As the year quickly comes to a close, please donate to the Next Generation Leadership Campaign to have your donation matched dollar for dollar and support the future of conservation.
NACD Board Member – Colorado