Friday, March 30, 2012

He Loved to Carry the Message: The Collected Writings of Douglas Helms

The writings of former Natural Resources Conservation Service historian and long-time SWCS member Douglas Helms have been edited by the current NRCS historian, Sam Stalcup, and recently published in a single volume, He Loved to Carry the Message: The Collected Writings of Douglas Helms

The writings, which date from 1967 to 2010, cover a range of conservation issues, including the work done in early soil surveys; the roles of Hugh Hammond Bennett and Walter Lowdermilk in the soil conservation movement; and ongoing concerns about wildlife, forest science, range management, water quality, and agriculture.

This new collection is an important addition to any conservationist's shelf.  Preview and order the book online here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

SWCS--They’ve “Got All the Grapes”

By Anita Nein, Northern Plains Regional Director

That’s the position Soil and Water Conservation Society members have. They’ve “got all the grapes.” For example, the scientific knowledge that we can access through SWCS technical workshops to solve conservation situations is huge. Why wouldn’t every professional conservationist participate? Yes, we learn technical aspects through our jobs, but networking with people from many organizations gives a much wider view and gives members the edge in their careers. The useful knowledge spread over large land areas gives overall understanding of conservation situations and multiple approaches to solutions. The technical information offered by the Society is useful and updated often to help any person make a difference in conservation.

What is SWCS doing to merit the dues paid by each member? This week I was helping judge the award applications for professional development with this given criteria:

1. Does the chapter consistently offer educational and professional development opportunities to its members or to nonmembers?
2. Does the chapter provide experience through strategy or curriculum that improves professionalism of those working in the conservation field?
3. Does the chapter provide professional development in a timely manner and/or use state of-the-art approach to conservation?

All the chapters with which I have been associated offer these qualities to members and nonmembers alike. Some chapters are more structured than others. Some offer more activities than others, but these are their shared goals. The conservation presentations are creative and range from showing how specific conservation issues can be solved in the field to formulating solutions on a broad scale and over time. A chapter’s offering of the above itemized steps alone would be worth the money for any member to belong.

A key word for the Society is sustainability. The insight into and improvement of soil health and carbon sequestering is paramount. Good water quality everywhere is a target we can hit with great effort. Feeding the world with higher production and increased efficiency is attainable only with the newest technology and applications that can be learned and applied through SWCS outreach. Often, there is a subtle infusion of sustainable ideas passed on to the agricultural chain of marketers, such as seed dealers, machinery salesmen, and chemical vendors, who reinforce sustainable practices to producers. Driving sustainability is a worthy SWCS endeavor.

Advocacy is another way to illuminate the importance of conservation for those who make conservation policy. Coordination with other groups is one way to grow the power in our voice. There is an article in the Conservation NewsBriefs e-mail from February 16, 2012, “Do the Farm Bill Now,” that lists SWCS and other organizations who are unified to encourage the passing of a new farm bill to keep conservation support strong. Advocacy is SWCS, in concert with other likeminded organizations, sticking up for conservation through letters and contacts to legislators that make their requests for conservation issues known. This resounding force is a value of SWCS that we cannot duplicate by ourselves.

What is exciting about a future with SWCS? We all want to make a difference. We all want to be confidently associated with an organization that is willing to lead based on scientific data. I remember those that stood at the 2011 SWCS International Conference in Washington, DC and told us how important it was that we took the lead enacting the policy statement on climate change and how our action enabled other organizations, including the USDA, to proceed with addressing conservation issues. Our SWCS leadership really matters.

Being a SWCS member truly means you’ve "got all the grapes” for the modern conservation game.

DISCLAIMER: Some ideas in this article came from the SWCS Board of Directors Outreach Committee Teleconferences held in February, 2012.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Oklahoma Chapter Workshop: Communicating with New Producers

The SWCS Oklahoma Chapter will be hosting a one-day workshop, Communicating with New Producers: How to Reach Them, How to Teach Them, next week, on March 20. The workshop will address ways for agricultural professionals to reach a broad range of producers. Read a description from the event website below:

Agricultural educators, public agencies, consultants, and extension agents are seeing a new type of producer. Many of these producers don’t have a traditional background in agriculture, requiring industry professionals to adapt their outreach and education methods. Who are these new producers? What works? How do you incorporate social media?

Get answers at a one-day workshop, hosted by the Oklahoma Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society. The workshop will be held on March 20, 2012, in Oklahoma City. For more information or to register, go to the event website or call 580.224.6292.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Precision Conservation Conference and Minnesota Chapter Annual Meeting

The Minnesota Chapter annual meeting will be held on March 29, 2012, in conjunction with the Freshwater Society’s day-long conference: “Precision Conservation: Technology Redefining Local Water Quality Practices.” 

Precision conservation effectively and efficiently targets scarce resources to the spots on the landscape where they will do the most good. Learn about the latest technologymuch of it based on LiDAR scanning that pinpoints “sweet spots” where runoff, erosion, and pollution are disproportionately severe and the potential for improvement is disproportionately great. 

Speakers include NRCS chief Dave White; Dr. David Mulla, university soil scientist and a pioneer in employing modern LiDAR- based technology in the service of conservation; Dr. Gerald Van Amburg, president of the Buffalo-Red River Watershed Board; and several other Minnesota expert conservationists sharing rural and urban examples. 

The event will be at Silverwood Park in St. Anthony, Minnesota. Visit the Freshwater Society Web site for a current agenda and registration information. 

The Chapter annual meeting will follow the conference.