by Troy Bishopp

“Local Soil and Water Conservation Districts are the backbone of natural resource conservation in every county in New York State,” said Vice-President of the Otsego County Farm Bureau, Darin Hickling.

Every year the New York State Conservation District Employees’ Association, Inc. (NYS CDEA) and their 58 respective districts from every county and borough in New York State carry out initiatives and projects that conserve, protect and enhance New York’s soil, water and related natural resources by providing technical assistance and diverse programs to farmers, landowners, units of government and communities. This large workload takes training, practical solutions and mentorship to get conservation on the ground.

To facilitate this advanced learning, the NYS CDEA holds an intense four-day New York State Water Quality Symposium for District Employees, USDA/NRCS Employees, WQCC Representatives, and all Conservation Partners who seek effective professional development experiences. This delivery of conservation requires ongoing adaptive training and learning from others about what works on the land.

Each year the association holds the Symposium in an effort to train staff, provide networking opportunities while recognizing the accomplishments and leadership of members and partners for their comprehensive work. “It’s an opportunity for professionals to learn what’s going on at the state and federal levels. It’s really a family atmosphere,” said Chastity Miller, newly elected President of the NYS CDEA and Franklin County SWCD District Manager.

The four-day meeting was attended by 300 professionals and featured 34 classes from first aid training, storm-water management practices and sizing culverts to climate resiliency plans, GIS mapping, harmful algae blooms, forest planning and promoting districts in the media taught by over 60 instructors. In addition, a resource fair featuring vendors and businesses provided a networking forum to learn about different strategies, equipment and products that help staff provide affordable, quality conservation practices to customers.

The association also takes the time to honor employees, conservation partners and special projects with an awards banquet. This year’s event led by NYS CDEA President, Steve Lorraine, heralded two longtime leaders in conservation by awarding the passionate, north country conservation veteran, Jim Lieberum, District Manager of the Warren County SWCD with the distinguished Willard F. Croney Award and the President’s Award for environmental service to districts by honoring Karl Czymmek, Senior Extension Associate at Cornell University.

Division Merit Awards were awarded to Corrina Aldrich of Washington County SWCD, Tucker Kautz of Ontario County SWCD, Lydia Brinkley of Tioga County SWCD, Kristin Ballou of Franklin County SWCD, Tonnie Sauca Jr. of Dutchess County SWCD, Troy Bishopp of Madison County SWCD and Cassandra Pinkoski of Chautauqua County SWCD. The Partnership Appreciation Award was bestowed on Brian Steinmuller, Assistant Director of NYS SWCC. The Special Project Award for fish passage projects went to the Chautauqua County SWCD. The District Director Award honored Robert Carpenter of Suffolk County SWCD. The Community Service Award went to Michael Clifford of Niagara County SWCD.

To learn more about your local NYS CDEA staff visit: