Newsletter Highlights:
  • Letter from Keisha Tatem, State Conservationist
  • Meet Sharma Torrens, AACD's Conservation Education Director
  • EPA Announces Environmental Education Grant Program Applications
  • Southwestern Grasslands Research & Management Workshop
  • Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program
Arizona Association of Conservation Districts
November 2019 Newsletter
Letter from your State Conservationist
Greetings and Happy New Fiscal Year. I’ve asked AACD if I could share information and updates with you in your monthly newsletter from time to time so I want to thank Frank and the team for their gracious accommodation. As we usher in FY-2020 as the federal government, I would like to thank you all for your local leadership to help get conservation on the ground in your local area this past fiscal year. Arizona NRCS had a record year in conservation implementation, and I look forward to sharing that information in the 2019 AZ NRCS Year-in-Review publication that will be out in January 2020. 

I also want to thank you for your efforts to renew your Conservation District Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). With the support of AACD and ASLD, you have been exceptional with completing the tasks needed to meet the NRCS agreement requirements. Unfortunately, we have received several versions of the templates from our national office that have caused me to put the process on hold here in Arizona. We are seeking clarity and once I am confident that we have a process that is clear and concise, we will reach out to you to continue the process.

Lastly, we have finally moved back into the state office. One of Secretary Perdue’s strategic goals includes the modernization of information technology infrastructure, facilities and support services to improve the customer experience. This includes optimizing our space resources. The state office remodel resulted in the reduction of a little over 12, 000 square feet, including a new conference space that we share with Farm Service Agency and Rural Development. The next time you are in Phoenix, please feel free to stop by and visit us.

Thank you for all you do and I look forward to keeping you updated on NRCS programs and services.

Yours in Conservation,
Keisha L. Tatem
State Conservationist
2019 AACD Winter Meeting
Meet Sharma Torrens
AACD's NEW Conservation Education Director
I am honored to be chosen as AACD's Conservation Education Director and I am excited to work with such a great team. Having this team together will permit the AACD, and the NRCDs, to do the following: (1) Obtain more and varied funding sources, with the goal to become self sustainable; (2) Establish and further enhance existing partnerships and collaborations; (3) Further all Strategic and Financial Plans; and (4) Meet all statutory obligations, among other things.
Many of you already know me as I was lucky enough to have worked with the NRCDs for the past seven years. Still, I would like to share a bit of background with you all.

I was born and raised in Phoenix, I lived away for ten years, including CA, DC, WY, GA, etc., but I have lived in this great state most of my life. What is most interesting about me is that I grew up very anti-agriculture in that I thought farmers and ranchers abused their animals, polluted the environment, and I did not even know where my food came from. I received my B.S. from ASU and worked as a wildlife biologist for about four years, surveying endangered/threatened species, etc. for various environmental groups/entities. 

Afterwards, I went to law school with the hope of becoming a nonprofit environmental attorney, and I did three law clerk internships with groups that might not necessarily appreciate agriculture. As luck would have it, I could not obtain a job with a nonprofit environmental organization, so I practiced law for seven years as a general civil litigation attorney (construction law, property law, bankruptcy, etc.). Then, because I was miserable, I looked to go back to my earlier conservation work and gave up practicing law altogether.

I found Arizona Land and Water Trust (ALWT), which is an organization that seeks to conserve agriculture and open space. To be honest, at the time I took the job, I did not understand why one would want to conserve agriculture, but I knew I had an open mind and decided to take the position. During those four years, I met Arizona’s farmers and ranchers and was educated about agriculture at the source. I learned that not only is agriculture vital because it provides our food, open space, and is a large contributor to the economy, but also farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of the land and the animals on it.
Throughout my four years at ALWT, I was fortunate enough to be a member of Class XXIII of Project CENTRL (Center for Rural Leadership) and received further education about how vital agriculture is to society. But, the pivotal point for me, the truly life changing moment, was really getting to learn about the NRCDs and meet the Supervisors.  

Farmers and ranchers volunteering their time to conserve agriculture AND natural resources completely contradicted all that I had believed growing up. I now had a very comprehensive and positive view about agriculture. As such, the NRCDs will always have a special place in my heart. It is because of you all that I am now one of the greatest proponents for agriculture, and for the NRCDs. I truly believe that if the public knew about NRCDs and the work you all do, it would have the same impact on them as it did me.

During my employment with ALWT I was able to gain experience seeking and obtaining large amounts of funding, developing large collaborations, engaging in education/outreach, and overall working to further the goals of this organization. The last three years working for the AZ Department of Agriculture has allowed me to further hone these skills; I also enhanced my existing relationships with local, state, federal, and Tribal entities as well as developed new key partnerships.

Please know that, along with this great AACD team, I intend to diligently advocate for the AACD and the NRCDs, further the goals of the AACD and NRCDs, expand the funding sources sought/obtained as well as strengthen existing partnerships while also establishing new ones. And I look forward to working with all of you.  

Thank you for this opportunity, and for making such a big difference in my life! 


Sharma Torrens

Conservation Education Director
(602) 540-5331
EPA Announces Requests for Applications for the 2020 Environmental Education Grants Program
EPA Announces Requests for Applications for the 2020 Environmental Education Grants Program

WASHINGTON   (October 24, 2019) — As authorized by the National Environmental Education Act of 1990, EPA is pleased to announce the availability of up to $3 million in funding for locally-focused environmental education projects under the 2020 Environmental Education Grant Program. EPA will award three to four grants in each of the agency’s 10 regions. Groups interested must submit their application by Jan. 6, 2020, to be considered. The Requests for Application (RFA) is posted on: .

“This funding will support projects aimed at educating and inspiring the next generation of Americans to tackle pressing environmental challenges like marine litter and food waste,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Through EPA’s Environmental Education Grant Program, we are able to bring more environmental education opportunities to local communities across the country.” 

In addition to other environmental topics, the 2020 Environmental Education Grants Program will fund education-based projects pertaining to marine debris mitigation, food waste and loss reduction, and recycling. Funded projects will both increase public awareness on various environmental matters and enhance participants’ abilities to make informed decisions on environmental issues prospectively. 

Additional Background on How to Apply

Determine Eligibility.

  • Applicants must represent one of the following types of organizations to be eligible for an environmental education grant:
  • local education agency
  • state education or environmental agency
  • college or university
  • non-profit organization as described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
  • noncommercial educational broadcasting entity
  • tribal education agency (which includes schools and community colleges controlled by an Indian tribe, band, or nation and which are recognized as eligible for special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians and which are not administered by the Bureau of Indian Education.)
  • Applicant organizations must be located in the United States or territories and the majority of the educational activities must take place in the United States; or in the United States and Canada or Mexico; or in the U.S. Territories.

Complete the Application and Budget Forms, according to the directions.

  • Each RFA contains complete instructions for submitting a proposal, including all required information and limitations on format. A summary of the required information is below. Read the RFA thoroughly for application procedures. All applications must be submitted through:
  • Find the forms on the "Application Forms" tab. Materials should be submitted in the following order:
  • Two Federal forms: Application for Federal Assistance (SF 424) and Budget (SF 424-A)
  • Work Plan (up to 8 pages):
  1. Project Summary (recommended 1 page)
  2. Detailed Project Description
  3. Project Evaluation Plan
  4. Detailed Budget Showing Match and Subawards (not included in the page limit)
  5. Appendices (not included in the page limit)
  • Timeline
  • Logic Model Showing Outputs and Outcomes
  • Programmatic Capabilities and Past Performance
  • Letters Stating Responsibilities of Partners, if applicable

Submit the Proposal Materials.

Southwestern Grasslands Research & Management Workshop
Save the Date!
Southwestern Grasslands Research & Management Workshop
Thursday, November 7, 2019 (all day)
University of Arizona (Tucson)
to receive workshop details and help prioritize grassland restoration workshop topics

Please participate in this important workshop to advance the success of grassland restoration and identify opportunities for collaboration to help scale-up grassland restoration in the Southwest. This workshop will result in increased communication among and between researchers and practitioners, and provide a forum to identify high-priority research needs and methods for increasing the scope and scale of grassland restoration. Please forward this invitation to your colleagues .

Workshop Organizers
This workshop is organized by the Arizona Cross-Watershed Network (AZ XWN), with support from the UofA Cooperative Extension, US Fish and Wildlife Service, AZ Department of Forestry and Fire Management, AZ Game and Fish Department, and Pima County.

The workshop will include:
  • Expert presentations on the “State of the Practice” of grassland restoration
  • Lightning talks by restoration practitioners, including nonprofit organizations, private landowners, and state and federal wildlife and land managers
  • Lightning talks by researchers on low cost emerging technologies for restoration
  • Break-out discussions to identify opportunities to address pressing grassland restoration challenges
  • Large-group discussions on emerging opportunities for scaling up grassland restoration in the Southwest
Environmental & Natural Resources 2 Building at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

A minimal registration fee will cover lunch and refreshments. Space will be limited! Please RSVP here   and help the organizers prioritize workshop topics! Additional information and registration link will be sent to those who RSVP.

Extend your stay to attend the annual SER Southwest Conference
The Southwestern Grasslands Research & Management Workshop will be held the day before the annual Southwest Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) conference . Note that abstract submissions are due on August 30th, and registration is now open.
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program
AACD Members

Sheryl Moss
(520) 384-4688

Lamar Smith
(830) 719-5978

Bill Dunn
(520) 384-4688

Daric Knight
(928) 521-9897
Arizona Association
of Conservation Districts
P.O. Box 50518
Phoenix, AZ 85076
Have a story you would like to share in our next newsletter?

Contact: Brooke Gladden
(520) 668-3348
"To support Conservation Districts in providing conservation leadership and education to address local conservation priorities in partnership with landowners, federal and state agencies, tribal & local governments and other partners"