The elimination of federal funding three years ago for the nearly 275 resource conservation and development councils in place at the time and the failure to secure adequate alternative sources of funding have forced the Glacierland council into a decision to downscale its operations and to restructure itself as a three-member board working with an independent administrator.
That decision was made at the spring quarterly meeting of the council following a recommendation by its executive board. Glacierland consisted of nine counties in east central Wisconsin and the Oneida Nation. Council members included county supervisors and citizen appointees. Counties were paying $75 per year as a membership fee.
Before Congress stopped funding the program, which was administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, Glacierland and the other councils across the country were receiving about $130,000 each per year. For Glacierland, this included rental for an office space in Green Bay.
Council President Chuck Wagner of Kewaunee County told members the latest financial projection for Glacierland indicated an operating deficit of $19,145 by January of 2015. It was also noted that a line of credit was needed to meet the summer office payroll.
The executive board considered three proposals by Don Peterson of Crystal Falls, MI, a consultant and grant application writer who was affiliated with Glacierland for 12 of its more than 20 years in operation. Peterson, who specializes in forestry consulting projects, owns Renewable Resource Solutions and since 2005 has been the director of the 501(c) 3 nonprofit Sustainable Resources Institute, which already has been serving other nonprofit groups.
Two of the proposals Peterson presented would have dissolved Glacierland as an entity. The one the executive board and council members chose would keep Glacierland operating as a subsidiary of Peterson's organizations, thereby retaining its name, logo and nonprofit status while being overseen by a three-member board to be selected by the executive board in July and requiring a revision of its bylaws. Qualities sought in those board members will be leadership, decision-making skills and the ability to present ideas.
Wagner pointed out that the change will enable the organization to more easily expand its services well beyond the nine-county area. In the past, Glacierland has been involved with projects as far away as Montana.
The tentative timetable for the internal change is August 1. This will mean Glacierland will no longer have an office in Green Bay but it will retain a phone number and post office box, and its programs that are funded by grants will continue until their scheduled termination.
Eleven of those programs will expire at various times in 2014. They include projects for controlling aquatic invasive species in Sheboygan and Fond du Lac counties and for research on renewable utilities, on firewood safety, grazing and clean boats. Two grants that run until September 30, 2016, and that account for more than $29,000 of the nearly $44,000 yet to be expended from the grant funding are one for gypsum use as a soil amendment and another for grass-based farming (see separate story).
"We'll get through this process," Glacierland Executive Director Greg Hines assured the members who were attending their final council meeting. He had previously been a long-term conservation program specialist with the NRCS.
Wagner praised Outagamie County member Ed Miller for his many years of extensive services on behalf of the resource conservation and development program within the council and on state, regional and national levels. Miller pointed out that the program is still a line item in the federal budget — just one that has not been funded for the past three years.
The discussion accompanying the decision to revamp Glacierland's makeup involved the status of other similar councils in Wisconsin. It was noted that one of them was definitely dormant while at least four others have been able to procure enough assets and funding to remain active.