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.

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