2013 Award Winners

Kurt Atkinson, Assistant Director, Oklahoma Forestry Services

Through Kurt’s leadership and partnering efforts, NRCS forestry activities in Oklahoma have rapidly accelerated in recent years. Kurt promoted a closer working relationship between the Oklahoma Forestry Services and NRCS, and encouraged NRCS to expand their forestry related activities in southeastern Oklahoma.

Kurt was heavily involved in the formation of an Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) Local Emphasis Area in southeastern Oklahoma. He encouraged close working relationships between Oklahoma Forestry Services foresters and local NRCS District Conservationists to promote sound conservation planning with forest landowners including financial assistance to implement the plans. To date, $1.9 million in EQIP financial assistance has been targeted to forest landowners as a result of this partnership. Kurt’s efforts have had a noticeable impact on the extent and quality of forest landowner technical assistance provided in the state.

Denise Coleman, State Conservationist, NRCS Pennsylvania State Office

Denise is a collaborative leader who promotes strong working partnerships with local, state and regional agencies, universities, and conservation groups, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, to address a diverse array of natural resource issues. Denise spearheaded the $2.2 million Golden-winged Warbler project in Pennsylvania that is restoring key habitat for the declining species. Denise also partnered with Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry leadership to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and guidance document to streamline private forest landowner technical assistance. Through a MOU, local Bureau personnel provide technical assistance to landowners using NRCS EQIP funds. In 2013, there were 100 EQIP forest management plans and 73 EQIP contracts totaling $1.3 million to implement forestry practices on private land. In 2014, there were 103 forest management plan applications and 203 EQIP forestry contract applications totaling $1.6 million.

Lewis and Clark Fuel Break Partnership

Mindy Gauthier, NRCS Montana State Office; Diane Fitzgerald, NRCS Montana State Office; Jim Williams, NRCS Montana State Office; Chris Evans, Lewis and Clark
Conservation District; Montana Department of Natural Resources Forestry Division – Central Land Office and Clearwater Land Office

After the 2006 pine beetle infestation, the Lewis and Clark Fuel Break Partnership (the Partnership) formed to address fire risk and potential post-fire issues on private lands. Partners worked together on a fuel break initiative to assist private landowners and protect public resources. They collaborated with private landowners to target fuel breaks near structures and critical roads. Landowners in target areas received NRCS funds to implement fuel breaks. The Partnership received a Chiefs’ Joint Landscape Restoration Partnership Award to implement 675 acres of fuel break in the Ten Mile watershed that includes the City of Helena’s water supply.

Since its inception, the Partnership has implemented fuel breaks on 950 acres, with another 700 acres planned. Forest stand improvements have taken place on 1,400 acres throughout Lewis and Clark County. These efforts resulted in substantially different fire behavior; the treated areas often force fire out of tree crowns and to the ground, where it can be controlled by fire crews.

Weston and Crook Counties Mountain Pine Beetle Initiative

Jennifer Hinkhouse, Weston County Resource District; Sarah Mason, Crook County Resource District; Hale Reddning, Weston County Weed and Pest; Bob Gilbert, Crook County Weed and Pest; Craig Bobcien, USDA Forest Service; Rich Miller, Bureau of Land Management; Bill Kohlbrand, Wyoming State Forestry; Kara Dunlop, USDA Forest Service;
Keela Deaton, NRCS Wyoming State Office; Paul Eitel,NRCS Wyoming State Office; Randy Wiggins, NRCS Wyoming State Office

A “super partnership” including Resource Districts, County Weed and Pest, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Wyoming State Forestry, NRCS Wyoming State Office, the Nationa l Wild Turkey Federation, and local landowners used a proactive approach to address a Mountain Pine Beetle infestation before it became too large to overcome. Conservation Districts led landowner education workshops on beetle identification and treatment methods.

Wyoming State Forestry flew over the area to identify treatment areas. NRCS created a Geospatial Information System layer, which correlated data with aerial images to create a baseline inventory. The information was used for resource planning and to track beetle movements. Partners funded a forester to help identify infected trees, develop forest management plans, and implement management practices on private forests utilizing EQIP funds.

The “super partnership” works collectively to find the best management practices for each specific location. To date, financial support in the amount of $472,021 has been provided to 925 landowner agreements, which include over 1,369 acres (an additional 1,867 acres are planned).

Florida Land Stewards

Chris Demers, University of Florida School of Forest Resources and Conservation; Anthony Grossman, Florida Forest Service; Joe Prenger, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; Michael Bush, NRCS Florida State Office

This coalition created a first-of-its-kind, one-stop private forest landowner center to enhance natural resource management capabilities. The center utilizes multiple communication tools to deliver information and technical assistance to landowners, including a website, email listserv, Facebook page, and blog, to distribute land stewardship information and publicize upcoming events. Outreach program s organized and coordinated by Florida Land Stewards partners are attended by diverse audiences. The partners also created multi-agency teams to develop whole­ property management plans and provide technical assistance to landowners.

This program serves as a timely centralized source of partners’ information on forestry, agriculture, and natural resource management. Outreach efforts allow attendees to receive information and services in a unified package, which helps prevent duplication of effort, contradictory messages, or missed opportunities. Partners’ outreach efforts resulted in 38,800 website hits in 2013, email updates sent to 1,500 landowners and professionals, and over 7,000 calendars distributed annually.

Pike County Woodland Owner Outreach

Rick Merritt, Missouri Tree Farm Committee; Zach Rasche, Pike County Soil and Water Conservation District; David Vance,Missouri Department of Conservation; and Keith Jackson, USDA NRCS

Pike County Soil and Water Conservation District, Missouri Department of Conservation, and the NRCS Missouri State Office, in cooperation with the American Tree Farm System, used innovative approaches to reach landowners. Partners compared plat book landowner information to aerial photography to create a database of landowners with at least 40 contiguous forested acres. Landowners in the target areas received multiple mailings promoting two woodland management workshops. Articles and advertisements were placed in local newspapers and in Soil and Water Conservation District and Farm Service Agency newsletters. Seventy landowners attended workshops in 2012 and one hundred landowners attended in 2013.

Remaining funds were used to rent billboard s along a major highway in the target areas. The billboard s promoted sound private forest land management. Partners’ outreach and education efforts will result in increased forest management and improved forest health in Pike County.

White Mountain Soil-Site-Vegetation Project

Robert Long, USDA NRCS; Jessica Phillipe, USDA NRCS; Roger Deckett, USDA NRCS; Martha Stuart, USDANRCS; Mark Duey, University of New Hampshire; Thomas Lee, University of New Hampshire; Michael Palace, University of New Hampshire; Scott Bailey, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station; Gregory Nowacki, USDA Forest Service, Region 9; Robert Colter, USDA Forest Service, White Mountain National Forest; Erica Roberts, USDA Forest Service, White Mountain National Forest.

The team established a partnership in 2011 to increase the understanding of soil-site-vegetation relationships on the White Mountain National Forest with a collective goal of producing Terrestrial Ecological Units (TEU) and Ecological Site Descriptions (ESD). The project created a new tool using high-resolution Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) images and utilized the application of NRCS’ Soil Inference Engine to map a 20,000-acre watershed. This watershed covers almost the full range of soil parent material, elevation, and nutrient gradients of the Forest. Samples taken from approximately 200 soil-site-vegetation plots are being used to test the new tools’ results.

The partners collaborated in providing training and professional development for soil scientists, ecologists, and other research scientists. This collaboration has laid the groundwork for future TEU/ESD projects across the country and created stepwise procedures to facilitate future collaboration.