In Clermont County, Ohio, a 2,160-acre reservoir serves as a drinking water and recreation source for about half of the county. Unfortunately, since around 2010, the reservoir began experiencing harmful algal blooms that threatened the health and safety of its water. To address the issue, partners within the area began to focus efforts in the upper East Fork Watershed to reduce nutrient loads in the river and, eventually, the lake.

Thankfully, the Clermont Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) received a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in 2011 for a project that aimed to integrate a best management practices-approach to reduce nutrient loads in the watershed.

“We were looking to try and find a project that dealt with our area,” said Jacob Hahn, Clermont SWCD technician. “We have a different geology than other places in Ohio – there’s not a whole lot of infiltration in our soils, and there’s hardly any tiles within the county. So, we really needed to capture that surface flow that was pulling those nutrients off the field.”

The project was deemed “cover and capture” and consists of two parts. The first part, “cover,” was a focused effort to get producers within the watershed to implement cover crops. Over three years, the SWCD worked with watershed landowners to plant nearly 200 additional? acres of cover crops within the 550-acre focus area.

Read the the full story on NACD's Blog.
The Oklahoma Conservation Commission’s (OCC)'s soil health coordinator Amy Seiger was chosen as the first recipient of the national Regenerative Agriculture Woman of the Year Award. High Plains Journal, in partnership with Soil Health U, recognized Seiger with the award during the Soil Health U Virtual Event on Jan. 21, 2021.

Nicol Ragland, REGENERATE OKLAHOMA Executive Director, said, “Amy is a driving force in the state of Oklahoma promoting soil health. Coming from a farming family herself, she realized the importance at a very early age and has devoted her life to the work ever since. Amy's outreach, as well as one-on-one consultations regarding conservation, have been unprecedented and worthy of both statewide and national recognition.”

In November 2020, Seiger became only the second recipient of a Natural Resources Award from the Chickasaw Nation Office of Natural Resources. The Chickasaw Nation honored partners in conservation at the Chickasaw Office of Natural Resources Awards Ceremony, held via Zoom, and Seiger received the “Eagle’s Flight, the Visionary Conservation Partnership Award.”

Jennifer Bryant, water resources manager with the Chickasaw Nation Office of Natural Resources, said, “Working with Amy Seiger is always such a pleasure. She’s been a huge help to our program this year. Amy’s played an integral role in the development of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Chickasaw Nation, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oka’ Institute and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to partner to support each other’s work in watersheds. In addition, she had taken the time to train our staff in soil sampling techniques to help our local producers. In everything Amy does, you can tell she truly has the local producer at heart, and for that we are truly glad to be able to work with her on so many projects.”

Read the full OCC press release here.
Saylor Elementary School has a secret! Few outsiders realize that at the center of the school there is a courtyard peppered with trees and plants that welcome birds, chipmunks and squirrels. More than just a wildlife habitat, the space has also become a respite for students.

“We use the courtyard to practice mindfulness with our students, and I also take an individual student out there if they are having a rough day, or simply to teach them how to relax outside. We feed birds and squirrels, and the students enjoy helping to fill all the feeders. They get to know the regular squirrels and birds, and this also teaches empathy,” explained Karen Kinsey, Saylor’s Home School Advisor. 

Recently the Porter County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) helped to enhance the area with the purchase of lavender plants and an assortment of pollinator loving perennial flowers through a grant the department received from the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund.

“I have been blessed to guide children and their teachers on outdoor hikes around their school yards for many years and have seen firsthand the calming effect nature has,” said Michelle Benson, SWCD Administrator & Educator. “Often the child with the most wiggles is the most focused outdoors.”

Kinsey echoes Benson’s sentiments and says that the quieting effect of the courtyard has been remarkable. She is especially pleased to receive the lavender plants as she uses the leaves as tool for the children to practice soothing peace breaths.

In addition to the plants donated to Saylor, the SWCD also is providing plants for beautification and wildlife habitat improvement to five additional Porter County elementary schools: Kouts Elementary School, Aylesworth Elementary School, Bailly Elementary School, Central Elementary School (Portage) and Nativity of Our Savior Catholic School.

Due to the success of the program, the district is considering committing additional funds from its budget for future plantings. Porter County schools are asked to e-mail Michelle Benson for more information on receiving plants for the school.

This press release was written by Michelle Benson and re-published with her permission.
As part of our 75th Anniversary celebration, NACD is proud to present our Presidents Association Video Series. In early 2020, we sat down with Presidents Association members, who reflected on their time with the national association, the importance of conservation districts and locally-led conservation, their vision of NACD's legacy and more.

This edition features Sam Casella of Canandaigua, New York. Casella is the president of the New York Association of Conservation Districts. Since 2007, he has been chairman of the Ontario County Soil and Water Conservation District.

"Conservation districts matter because there is so much at stake," Casella said. "Conservation matters a great deal because it's the future for all of us. I think our legacy will be how much they positively affect our environment."

"So many people really depend on their soil and water district, whether they know it or not," he said.

To watch Casella's interview, click the image above or watch it here. To view other videos in the series, visit NACD's YouTube channel.
Interested in submitting a story? We're still accepting stories for this special 75th Anniversary newsletter all year round!

You can submit stories as many times as you want. Please provide a short summary of what you are submitting, your contact information and your district/state association's information, and NACD will reach out to you for further information.

For questions, please reach out to nacdnews@nacdnet.org