Get ready to vote in the Soil and Water Conservation District election

All Collier County voters have the opportunity to choose between incumbent James M. Lang and challenger Robert ‘Rob’ Griffin for the Group 4 seat on the Collier Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) Board.

Group 2’s Incumbent, Nancy J. Ritchie, who was appointed to the Board in February due to a vacancy, is unopposed and will be automatically elected.

Some background

Soil and water conservation first became a national policy and priority in 1935 in response to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, to encourage the active support of landowners on the local level. Today, there are over 3,000 soil and water conservation districts throughout the country essentially sharing a single mission: to coordinate assistance from all available sources—public and private, local, state, and federal—to develop locally-driven solutions to natural resources concerns.

The Florida Legislature passed its Soil and Water Conservation Law (Chapter 582 of Florida Statutes) in 1937. There are 58 such Districts in Florida today (list); the Collier County District was established in 1984. Its website is at

The Collier SWCD administers two Mobile Irrigation Labs (MILs), both for the purpose of promoting water conservation. The Urban MIL serves Collier County; the Agricultural MIL serves Collier, Lee, Hendry, Glades and Charlotte counties.

The MILs provide irrigation system evaluations and conduct conservation education and outreach programs in cooperation with the Big Cypress Basin of the South Florida Water Management District, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and/or the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The Collier SWCD has been advised by the Collier County Comprehensive Planning Department that it may also enter into negotiations with landowners interested in obtaining certain Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) credits, perform various types of land assessments and evaluations necessary under a Restoration and Management Plan (RMP), and execute approved RMPs.

In Florida, Soil and Water Conservation District governing bodies are made up of five Supervisors elected in nonpartisan, district-wide elections to staggered four-year terms. Supervisors are volunteers, serving without pay.

The Collier District’s current year budget is $195,000. Its funding comes almost entirely from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the South Florida Water Management District.

On this year’s ballot: Supervisor, Seat 4

James M. Lang – incumbent

James M. Lang

James Lang, a former customer service manager with the City of Marco Island Water Department, has served on the SWCD Board for ten years. He told me when he was running two years ago, and again this year, that he believes protecting our water resources is extremely important and he worries what might happen if he didn’t run. His challenger two years ago had been endorsed by the Libertarian Party of Collier County and local conservative talk radio host Joe Whitehead, and noted on his campaign Facebook Page at the time that he wanted to dissolve “this unnecessary board.

Robert ‘Rob’ Griffin

Rob Griffin is challenging incumbent Lang, but I was unable to find any information about him online.

Neither candidate has filed any campaign finance reports for this election.

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