Name as it appears on the ballot: Alex Baldwin
Party affiliation: Independent
Campaign website: www.BaldwinforWake.com
Occupation & employer: Sr. Environmental Scientist – Restoration Systems, LLC
1. Why are you running for the position of Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor? In your answer, please explain your understanding of the role and why it is important.
Currently there is not a soil scientist on the Soil and Water Conservation District Board as a North Carolina Licensed Soil Scientist I want to provide that option to the Wake County voters. Moreover, I am a soil scientist who professionally implements soil and water best management practices through riparian buffer, stream, and wetland restoration projects. I work with farmers and landowners to identify conservation measures that benefit the resources being conserved, the adjacent land uses, and the surrounding community. I want to bring my experience and knowledge as a soil scientist to the Wake County SWCD to prioritize sustainable conservation projects that benefit Wake County citizens’ current and future generations.
After spending nearly 20 years practicing soil science in Wake County and throughout North Carolina, I have learned a lot about soil and water best management practices and how to implement sustainable projects efficiently and successfully in real-world settings. Furthermore, during my career I have gained significant experience in the arenas that the Soil and Water Conservation District Board engages with including partnering with local, state and federal agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations for technical and financial assistance.
2. What are the three most pressing natural resources issues in the county? How do you plan to address these issues? Please be specific.
a. Stormwater runoff – Educate all Wake County citizens through public outreach, social media, and demonstrations about resources available from SWCD as well as other funding and technical assistance available from local municipalities that will reduce and provide diffuse flow of stormwater runoff.
b. Excess nutrient and sediment loading of surface waters – Compile a comprehensive list of all Wake County owned properties and prioritize them based on ability to incorporate soil and water conservation measures. This would include evaluating the condition of surface waters and wetlands, assessing existing versus historic vegetative communities, and assessing existing landscape management plans. Applying soil and water conservation measures to Wake County properties will provide uplift in the overall watershed health and provide real life examples to facilitate education of Wake County citizens.
c. Spread of non-native and invasive vegetation – Provide visual online resources to help Wake County citizens identify these species and include information as to why the presence of these types of vegetation hinder soil and water conservation measures. Available resources would also include information on how to remove non-native and invasive vegetation safely and effectively from their property.
3. Identify examples of how the district can best balance agricultural/rural and urban interests in regards to soil and water conservation.
As Wake County continues to grow, residential and commercial developments encroach upon and often replace existing agricultural/rural lands. As this happens, the dynamic of the watershed shifts as vegetation is replaced with impervious surfaces resulting in increased stormwater runoff rates and volumes. Implementing soil and water conservation practices in the planning and construction phases of development projects will provide long-term sustainable benefits for the watershed and the adjacent farms alike. As development continues to advance into rural/agricultural areas there are also opportunities to collaborate between developers and farmers to seek larger conservation projects that span across multiple properties. As larger conservation projects are incorporated into the landscape, the net benefit will be realized for everyone as these projects are more resilient and provide a greater functional uplift for the local and expanded watersheds.
4. What funding issues are facing the Soil and Water Conservation District? How would you ensure the district receives full funding? Are there alternative funding sources the district could explore? If so, what are they?
The SWCD has done an excellent job in building political relationships at multiple levels to ensure funding allocated for SWCD remains in place. In addition, the SWCD has successfully sourced additional funding by identifying grants and cost share programs to increase the number of projects constructed. I will continue supporting the established progress of the SWCD by seeking additional local, state, federal, and private grants. In addition, I will continue collaborating with municipalities, educational institutions, and non-profits to identify funding opportunities.
5. Many residents don’t know what the Soil and Water Conservation District actually does. In what ways would you reach out to residents to educate them?
I think education starts with our children, teaching them about soil and water conservation at an early age will instill the importance of these practices and how it affects our surrounding environment. For several years I’ve volunteered with the mobile soils classroom component of the Soil and Water Conservation booth at the NC State Fair. This opportunity allows me to share my experiences as a soil scientist and give a brief overview of soil science to children and adults. I believe public outreach events like this are a great way for the public to meet people associated with the SWCD and learn more about the natural environment. Another great way to educate and engage the public is by completing conservation projects at county parks and adding illustrative signage that shows what was completed and the benefits provided to the watershed.
6. What is the district’s role in making sure residents’ water–including those people who use wells―is safe to drink? What role, if any, should the district play in safeguarding the local water supply from emerging contaminants?
Again, here, education is key for the public to understand how well water and local water supplies are regulated to ensure there is safe drinking water. Currently the SWCD and associated board does not have a role in creating or enforcing water supply regulations. That said the more soil and water conservation projects that are in place will ultimately benefit the local watersheds and provide functional uplift to the receiving surface waters. Therefore, the SWCD role of prioritizing soil and water conservation projects and educating citizens will support the collective effort to safeguard wells and local water supplies.
7. Are there any other issues you would like to address that have not been covered by this questionnaire?
While soil and water conservation districts were initially formed out of concern following conservation problems related to early agricultural practices, I believe the matters affecting soil and water health have expanded to include the rapid development of urban and suburban areas as we are experiencing here in Wake County. It is important that the SWCD continues to evolve with the county and prioritize projects that will address current soil and water health concerns as well as potential issues yet to come.
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