by Troy Bishopp
SYRACUSE, NY — Rachel Carson used to say; “Conservation is a cause that has no end. There is no point at which we will say our work is finished.” For local NYS conservation districts and their employees; helping farmers, landowners and communities do this important “on the ground” work has been a passion for decades with the creed: “Providing Today…Protecting Tomorrow.”
Every year the New York State Conservation District Employees’ Association, Inc. (NYS CDEA) and their 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. New York State Agriculture and Markets Commissioner, Richard Ball often remarks, “Your local soil and water conservation district staff are the “Roots of Conservation”.
This delivery of conservation requires ongoing adaptive training and learning from others what works on the land. Each year the association holds a Water Quality 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, Vice President of the NYS CDEA and Franklin County SWCD District Manager.
The four day meeting was attended by 360 professionals and featured 42 classes from first aid in the field, Ag waste management systems and sizing culverts to climate resiliency plans, GIS mapping, soil health and promoting districts in the media taught by over 75 instructors. In addition, a resource fair featuring 28 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 heralded two longtime leaders in conservation by awarding 30-year veteran, Corey Nellis, District Manager of the Montgomery County SWCD with the distinguished Willard F. Croney Award and the President’s Award for 50 years of district service to Robert Berkemeier of the Genesee County SWCD.
Division Merit Awards were awarded to Mark Seider of Niagara County SWCD, Ron Thorn of Wayne County SWCD, Joe Chairvolotti of Oswego County SWCD, Peggy Pilch of Delaware County SWCD, Lenny Croote of Hamilton County SWCD, Julicia Godbout of Montgomery County SWCD and Erin Sommerville of Dutchess County SWCD. The Partnership Appreciation Award was bestowed on Beth Gillis from the Lake Champlain-Lake George Regional Planning Board. The Special Project Award for recycling, literally, tons of electric devices went to the Chemung County SWCD. The District Director Award honored Ken Livermore of Ontario County SWCD. The Heroic Award went to Mark Burger of Onondaga County SWCD for his reaction to a manure spill and development of an emergency response protocol.
To learn more about your local NYS CDEA staff visit: