Limestone Valley Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The focus of Limestone Valley is on conservation, water quality improvement, natural resource education, sustainable agriculture, and improving the communities within its eleven county area in Northwest Georgia. The organization was formerly federally funded (along with all RC&D Councils) under the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), yet due to recent budget cuts is now a stand-alone non-profit group.
Despite these recent changes, Limestone Valley has a few strong programs that are likely to stay around for a long time. First, the organization has a long-standing Clean Water Act Section 319 grant management program that is known to be one of the best in the State of Georgia. With several current Clean Water Act Section 319 nonpoint source pollution reduction grants through Georgia Environmental Protection Division, Limestone Valley is always working on building effective partnerships, conducting extensive water quality sampling and occasional fish and macroinvertebrate sampling, putting water quality improvement projects “on-the-ground”, and educating the public on watershed science and the importance of water quality. Significant partners on these grants include the Natural Resource Conservation Service and Georgia Department of Environmental Health as well as others. Volunteer outreach events that accompany implementation of these watershed improvement projects include stream clean-ups, tree planting events, training Adopt-A-Stream groups to sample water quality, rain barrel construction workshops to improve stormwater capacity, and canoe clean-ups and stream sampling trips.
In addition to the 319 program, Limestone Valley has a long-standing no-till drill rental program open to the public to encourage conservation tillage in much of the eleven county area. The program is managed more locally through our partners, the Soil and Water Conservation Districts in our area. Utilizing no-till methods generally reduces carbon emissions through reduced machine time, increases water infiltration and storage, reduces soil compaction as well as erosion, and improves nitrogen and carbon storage in the soil. Ultimately, it’s a more sustainable farming practice for the farmer and the rest of the population.
Limestone Valley has recently led a number of other projects as well. A grant from the NRCS recently led to Limestone Valley producing “Georgia Agricultural Landowner’s Guide”, a bilingual document that showcases all of the state and federal programs available to assist farm and timber landowners in Georgia. Limestone Valley also recently partnered with several other RC&D Councils on another NRCS grant to guide landowners in developing agricultural best management practices (BMPs) on their properties. Limestone Valley also led a local effort to plant a great number of trees as part of the “Trees for America Program”.
Other projects partnered-on in recent years have included two wetland restoration projects (Varnell Springs and Colvard Springs) using Five Star Grant funding. Other partnerships have Limestone Valley assisting with energy audits for poultry houses. These audits allow farmers to see what improvements are essential to their operations due to significant savings on their electricity and gas bills. Showing how these changes will improve a farmer’s bottom line can lead to improvements in air quality and reduce electricity and gas consumption as well as carbon emissions.