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Southeast Michigan RC&D Council

Frequently Asked Questions

What is RC&D?

Map of U.S. RC&D AreasRC&D stands for Resource Conservation and Development.  It is a unique program that is led by local volunteer councils that help people care for and protect their natural resources in a way that improves the local economy, environment and living standards.  

Each RC&D council is organized and directed by local people to meet local needs by obtaining assistance from the private sector, corporations, foundations, and all levels of government.  RC&D is a way for people to work together to plan and carry out activities that will make their areas a better place to live.  

The average RC&D area covers seven counties.  Nationally, the RC&D program consists of 368 councils and activates community support for over 180 million people in 2,614 counties in all 50 states, the Caribbean and the Pacific Basin (see map).   

RC&D places heavy emphasis on natural resources, but many local individual projects can include training programs or historical preservation.

What is the purpose of RC&D?

The purpose of RC&D is to promote conservation, development, and utilization of natural resources; to improve the general level of economic activity; and to enhance the environmental and standard of living in all communities. The aim is to provide a system of development, encourage the wise use of natural resources, and improve the quality of life in America. RC&D enhances, and does not duplicate existing efforts. The RC&D program is based on the following concepts:

  1. The value of public/private partnerships in making the best use of limited resources;
  2. The value of grassroots involvement in making decisions about local areas; 
  3. Leveraging limited dollars from government sources with private funds to accomplish goals;
  4. Working toward the goal of community sustainability; and
  5. Achieving a balance between rural economic development and natural resources protection.

Why the emphasis on natural resources?

Utilization of the resources at hand, both natural and human, is central to the RC&D approach. Many resources are renewable – that is, they continue to replenish themselves if managed properly. Communities can acquire immediate benefits from developing such resources, and continue to have the same or greater benefits year after year by conserving the resources as they develop them.

Is RC&D a federal program or a local one?

RC&D was both local and federal when it was a federally funded program of the United States Department of Agriculture under a provision of the Food and Agriculture Act of 1962.  With the elimination of that funding, RC&D is now a local program.  Local decisions are made by the local RC&D council which may be made up of conservation districts, county governments, municipalities, state agencies, comprehensive planning agencies, and local, nonprofit organizations. 

The Sustainable Resources Alliance (SRA, formerly the Southeast Michigan RC&D Council), as a 501(c)(3) organization, operates with a non-profit type board of directors and does not have the sponsoring organizations noted above.  

RC&D is based on the assumption that local citizens, with help provided through the USDA, can develop and carry out an action-oriented plan for the social, economic and environmental enrichment of their communities.

How do citizens and communities participate in RC&D planning?

Two Special Committees were established by the SRA Board of Directors--the Supporting Organizations Advisory Committee and Citizen Advisory Group.  These committees will serve in an advisory capacity to the Board and will not be responsible for any governance or decision-making.

Supporting Organizations Advisory Committee: This committee will be made up of appointed representatives from partners and supporters of the SRA, such as cities, counties, other municipalities, conservation districts, watershed councils, SEMCOG, and others.

The committee will share information regarding changes, trends and developments in their areas that might affect work of, or be opportunities for the SRA to address; keep the SRA connected to the community; serve as a communication vehicle to their organizations about the SRA and its work; and give the SRA feedback about existing and proposed activities, plans, projects, etc.

Citizen Advisory Group: This committee will be made up of interested members of the community not directly associated with the groups and organizations noted in the Sponsoring Organizations Advisory Committee.

This group will be asked to give the SRA feedback about existing and proposed activities, plans, projects, etc; keep the SRA connected to the diverse communities of southeast Michigan; serve as a communication vehicle to the general public about the SRA and its work; and offer support for and participate in SRA projects, outreach and fundraising efforts.

What projects can be undertaken by an RC&D Council?

Just about anything. Some projects deal with problems most areas face.  Other projects reflect the character and needs of a specific area.  An RC&D council can even support the project of some other agency or group.  For example, if a county historical society wants to declare a location as a historical site, the RC&D council can adopt a resolution supporting the historical society's proposal.  Projects like these reflect the individual character of that area.  They also reflect participation of local leaders and citizens in RC&D planning.

Some examples of projects are:

  • Wetland & water management
  • Environmental education
  • Soil conservation
  • Community development
  • Energy conservation
  • Farmland & open space protection
  • Forest improvement & utilization
  • Fish & wildlife habitat protection
  • Recreation area improvement
  • Solid waste disposal & recycling
  • Urban reforestation
  • Stream bank stabilization
  • Pedestrian bridges

What agencies can provide technical assistance?

Any agency that can help.  At the federal level, USDA agencies such as the Economic Research Service, Forest Service, and Natural Resources Conservation Service can assist.  The Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, Geological Survey, Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, National Park Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Small Business Administration may also be to assist a council. 

At the state level, the Cooperative Extension Service and state departments dealing with agriculture, natural resources, commerce, planning, and transportation, can assist.  In addition, many RC&D areas have received technical assistance from universities, colleges, and corporations. 

Often, agencies assist by providing technical advisors to the council's resource committees. The usual procedure is for the RC&D council to ask all concerned agencies to attend a meeting where the council explains what it expects to accomplish through a project and asks agencies to serve as advisors, provide technical or in-kind support for the project.

What services does the Sustainable Resources Alliance provide?

The Sustainable Resources Alliance (SRA) provides a framework for partnerships between citizens, businesses and governments to solve resource concerns and th manage and utilize resources wisely.

Services provided by the SRA vary from time to time, based upon resource concerns and needs within southeast Michigan, and staff and financial resources available to the SRA.  Refer to the Projects section of this website for information about current projects underway, and recent projects completed by the SRA.