Arizona's Conservation Districts Newsletter

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Sponsored by Arizona Association of Conservation Districts

Conserving Arizona Since 1944

September 2021 - Summer Meeting Edition

Conservation Districts Spotlight

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Last month Arizona’s Conservation Districts gathered and successfully held their Annual Summer Conference, hosted by AACD. Over three days, District Supervisors and representatives met and discussed important topics like water conservation, soil health, conservation easements, and more. They also received training on the steps taken for the development of District Conservation Action Plans and the ConserveAZ Portal (a mapping and data portal that will aid Districts in identifying resource concerns and planning conservation across Arizona). Day two of the conference was the crowd favorite, however, with over 20 speakers from diverse environmental and conservation organizations and government entities and over 200 attendees! 

Over the course of the day, three discussion sessions and two educational sessions covered topics ranging from surface and groundwater issues in Arizona to market diversification for agricultural producers. The first three sessions of the day featured speakers from distinctly different backgrounds and sparked informative debate amongst participants and the audience, achieving the day’s goal of fostering discussion between different groups in conservation.  

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Session 1, “Surface and Groundwater Issues in Arizona”, was a huge success! Its goal was to discuss and dispute common public opinion that producers in Arizona aren’t using the most water efficient practices and that farmers grow crops purely for profit. Attendees learned about the water situation in Arizona, how water is used, how agriculture contributes to water conservation through efficient conservation practices, and how Arizonans will be negatively impacted if farmers must fallow their fields due to enforced reduction of water use. 

Session 2, “Best Management Practices for Sustainable Agriculture”, aimed to discuss and dispute common public opinion that agricultural producers are inefficient and damage the environment through the way they manage the land, the types of chemicals used (e.g., GMOs), etc. From this arises the perception that “big ag” (i.e., operations that grow large amounts of crops or raise large numbers of livestock) is “bad” and “small ag” (i.e., small farms that take up less land and promote only organic) is “good”.  However, it was the session’s goal to educate how through the use of best management practices and technology, producers are able to grow enough healthy food to feed our growing world population. Agricultural producers at any scale must wisely use available natural resources in order to remain sustainable and be responsible land stewards. 

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“Controversy in Conservation: Examining Differing Perspectives”, Session 3, was the final discussion session. Many natural resource conservation and environmental groups seem to have the same goals, yet there is often opposition between them. The session’s purpose was to explore these differing perspectives of hot topic issues we face in Arizona today and how to find commonalities. Topics included climate change and water conservation; wildlife and T&E species conservation; urban sprawl and working lands; sustainable agriculture; “big ag” vs. “small ag” and what that means; and more. 

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During the lunch break, conference goers had the exciting and unique experience of hearing from the conference key note speaker, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Protection & Conservation, Ms. Gloria Montaño Greene.  

As the Farm Protection & Conservation Deputy Undersecretary appointed by President Biden, Ms. Montaño Greene leads agencies that deliver programs and services to farmers, ranchers, and agricultural producers including farm loans, conservation practices, disaster assistance, crop insurance, and price support.

Originally from rural Arizona and a graduate of the University of Arizona, Ms. Montaño Greene is a former State Executive Director for the Farm Service Agency in Arizona from 2014–2017, when she led the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill programs across the state. In the past, Ms. Montaño Greene also served as Deputy Director for Chispa Arizona, a program of the League of Conservation Voters focused on the empowerment of Latino voices in Arizona on issues including energy, public lands, and democracy access. We were very lucky to have her all the way from Washington D.C. and back in her home state! 


The final two sessions of the day focused more on education topics, rather than debate. “Conservation Programs to Help Sustain Agriculture and Conserve Natural Resources” focused on the various programs and projects that can help promote sustainable agriculture while conserving natural resources. The fifth and final session, “Market Diversification and Programs for Agricultural Producers”, discussed the programs available to producers that can diversify their operations. Topics included tax benefit programs for donating food to local food banks/fair market value (subsidized) for selling to food banks; the importance of buying local and the Arizona-grown market.  

The Districts and the AACD want to extend a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who participated in the sessions – the first ever held! We look forward to working together to conserve AZ now and well into the future! 

Meet Your Local Conservationists: This Year's State Award Winners

At every Summer Conference, local conservationists are recognized for their exceptional hard work and dedication to their Districts, agricultural lands, and local communities. Watch for the next issue of the ConserveAZ magazine coming this winter for an in depth look at this year's winners! For now, keep scrolling for an introduction to these exceptional conservationists.

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The Conservation Leadership Farmer Award went to Mike & Dawna Thompson (pictured with their family) of T&T Farms, Willcox-San Simon NRCD

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The Good Hand Award went to Linda Dee Diamantides, Agua Fria – New River NRCD

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The Outstanding Supervisor of 2021 Award went to Brent Mackelprang, Fredonia NRCD

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The Outstanding District Staff Award went to Patina Thompson, Willcox-San Simon NRCD

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The Teddy Roosevelt Award went to Bobbi McDermott, Yuma NRCD

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