Conservation professionals increase knowledge to support client needsby Troy Bishopp

CORTLAND NY — As the autumnal equinox is ushered in, so too is the annual conservation skills training regime for conservation professional partners. Whether environmental stewardship is agriculture, rural, municipal or urban related, the folks on the front line of service seek ongoing training to help clients reach their water quality goals throughout the state.

The weeklong indoor and out-in-the-field workshops were sponsored by the NYS Conservation District Employee’s Association, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the NYS Soil and Water Conservation Committee. Seasoned practitioners and leaders in their respective fields teach the theories, designs, techniques and tools for getting thoughtful, effective conservation on the ground.

Newly hired local professionals worked through the NRCS / AEM planning process starting with an introduction to the core planning components and headed to the field to do on-farm assessments and learn the fundamentals of planning key farm land uses such as farmsteads, cropland, and pasture.

Statewide employees honed their skills in surveying, wetland delineation and the basics of GPS data collection for inventory and evaluation as well as conservation practice implementation and project oversight. They gained knowledge in the fundamentals of prescribed grazing planning and management, treating cropland erosion issues and using a suite of practices to improve soil infiltration capabilities and also forest conservation planning and practices associated with landings, skid trails, forest roads, stream crossings, sensitive areas for setbacks/buffers and post-harvest restoration.

Featured speakers from several local Soil & Water Conservation Districts described their individual Rural Roads Active Management Programs and how each district interacts with their municipalities and landowners when managing rural roads for water quality. Classes also addressed assisting municipalities with developing and implementing an effective pollution prevention and good housekeeping program.

The weeklong mentorship also prepared staff with the New York State Erosion & Sediment Control Implementation Course and administered the certification test which implements the state’s water quality objectives for construction sites.

“A trained professional is a valuable asset to our local community,” said Conservation Skills Workshop Coordinator, Stacy Russell. “The week gives us an opportunity to acquire new skills, determine what is working in the field and network across all conservation disciplines to support our customers better and improve our environmental footprint.”

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