National Association of Conservation Districts honors national award winners

On Feb. 9 the National Association of Conservation Districts recognized winners of its national service awards at the organization’s virtual 2021 Annual Meeting.

“NACD is pleased to join with our partners to honor the individuals and conservation districts who have made outstanding contributions to the locally-led conservation movement,” NACD President Tim Palmer said.

Palmer and USDA Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Kevin Norton presented the National Conservation Planning Partnership’s Hugh Hammond Bennett Awards for Conservation Excellence. Sylvia Hickenlooper of Longmont, Colo., received the award for conservation planning in honor of her more than 18 years of service as a soil conservationist for NRCS. She has been a certified conservation planner since 2006, and her passion for whole systems analysis and resource management system planning has led to over 120 completed contracts, covering more than 170,000 acres between the Brighton, Fort Collins and Longmont Field Offices.

Richard and Sara Grim of Grim Ranch in Bonesteel, South Dakota, received the award for producers in recognition of their innovative conservation efforts on their family ranch. The Grims are both leaders in their community and are helping producers in their region better understand how to safely use burning as a conservation tool.

The staff of the Boulder Valley, Longmont and Gregory County Conservation Districts and their NRCS field offices will also receive recognition for exceptional service in conservation planning as exemplified by Sylvia, Richard and Sara’s stewardship.

Under Secretary Norton also presented the NACD/NRCS Olin Sims Conservation Leadership Award to Jamie Johnson of Frankfort, South Dakota, for her meticulous work to preserve the 2,300 acres of crop and grassland she farms with her husband, Brian. Both are NACD Soil Health Champions and employ the five principles of soil health on their operation, including implementing cover crops and practicing no-till. Jamie is a leader in her community as the Spink County Conservation District supervisor, as well as director of the South Dakota Soybean Association.

President Palmer presented Cheryl, Hal, Clay and Paula Brady of Foster Brady Farm in Monroe, Ga., with the 2020 NACD Friend of Conservation Award for their contributions to conserving the nation’s natural resources. For more than 50 years, the Bradys have partnered with the Walton County Conservation District and Monroe NRCS office to help promote conservation in their community.

The 2020 NACD Distinguished Service Award recipient, Joe Gumm of Elkins, West Virginia, has dedicated over 35 years of service to the West Virginia Association of Conservation Districts and NACD, serving as a leader at both state and national levels. As a conservation district supervisor, he has worked to ensure that conservationists and conservation districts have the tools needed to deliver conservation on the ground across the state. Joe is committed to teaching youth about the importance of conservation. He helped establish the first West Virginia Envirothon competition and has served on the Envirothon Committee for 24 years, as well as chairman of the finance committee.

During the awards ceremony, President Palmer also recognized the National Conservation District Employees Association 2020 Outstanding Conservation District Employee, Meleiah Tyus of the DeSoto County Soil and Water Conservation District in Mississippi.

Earlier that day, Under Secretary Norton presented the Cass and Crow Wing County Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the NRCS Baxter Field Office in Minnesota with the 2020 NACD/NRCS Earth Team Award.

“Their demonstrated shared leadership among district officials, NRCS employees and Earth Team volunteers proves how partnering together can help us effectively and efficiently continue to impact our natural resources across the landscape,” Norton said.

For more information on NACD’s annual awards, visit the NACD Awards webpage.