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Alaska State Technical Committee Meeting Notes May 2012

Alaska State Technical Committee Meeting Notes

May 31, 2012

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
State Technical Committee Meeting

Welcome and Introduction: Helen Denniston, State Resource Conservationist

  • Self-introductions around the table

Opening Remarks: Bob Jones, State Conservationist

  • Recognized first time attendees

  • Announcements/Awards:

o   Stoney Wright recognized: working at Plant Materials Center for 33 years

Received award for work w/vegetation        

Authored 139 tech documents

Long relationship w/PMC 

o   Mark Clark recognized: achievement award recipient from Agency for Soil Scientists

  • Angela Sandstol mentioned:

o   Notification Secretary’s Office as one of 11 people nationwide on Council for Native American Farming/Ranch – only one from Alaska

o   Working to identify barriers for Alaska natives to participate in USDA program  

o   Need funding to Alaska          

  • Agency standpoints: Theme is CHANGE

o   Recognizing that the last couple of years of financial problems in US

o   Administration and Congress

o   Downsizing of  Federal Government agencies

o   Reductions in spending

o   De-funding of programs by Congress-Examples given: Water shed program and RC&D program

o   Goal is to be efficient as possible w/funding we do have

o   Consolidation of Soils staffing; closing 229 offices nationwide; Alaska offices consolidated w/Portland; to be implemented by Oct 1.

o   10 percent of staff within state has retired

o   By end of 2013 we will have 30 percent of Alaska workforce retiring=opportunities for folks in the NRCS workforce; keeping in mind how to work within our agency and with our partners  

o   Agency is going through  a lot of changes and we expect it to continue

will keep you abreast of those changes and the impact they will have in providing assistance and access to programs

o   There are currently 9 TCD’s existing or in progress

Overview of NRCS: Helen Denniston

  • NRCS started as the Soil Erosion Service in 1930’s

  • Changed named to Natural Resources Conversation Services in the early 1990’s

  • Had been focused on soil as a resource

  •  Had already been doing water quality/conservation, nutrient management

  • Have now moved into biological fields with:

o   Energy initiative

o   Air quality issue

o   Introduced Brett for the Energy Resource Concerns

 Energy as a Resource Concern: Brett Nelson, State Engineer (oral presentation) 

  • Added Energy as a resource concern and approved about a  year ago;  

o   This will be a pretty substantial addition to NRCS operations due to extreme energy costs in the state compared to the lower 48 states

o   We anticipate a large interest in this program

o   NRCS is NOT involved in energy production at this point in time

o   Where does that leave us for now?  The bulk of the work, in the first year (2012), is energy audits.  All of the current audits are in the Delta Junction area

o   11 audits for FY 12; anticipate that number to jump in FY 13

  • Two types:

o   Conservation of Energy

o   Renewable Energy 

o   Services are provided by TSP’s (technical service providers). NRCS is not allowed to perform audits ourselves.  There are only 3 available companies from out of state: travel costs will be involved.  Last week of June there will be audits conducted in Delta this year.  There is a need to get folks trained for data collectors through SWCD’s.  Then send information to Colorado–.companies for assessments.   NRCS isn’t involved in the transaction between these parties.

o   Results:  performed by ASABE society; used to set a baseline as to what needs to be produced for the audit.  Looking at:  lighting improvement; ventilation; building envelope         

o   NRCS will furnish the client with a list of TSP’s.  It is the clients’ responsibility to contact the TSP. (In response to Bill Woods’ question)   

o   Once the audit is back:  look at list of items to improve; can come back to NRCS to receive cost share for these practices

o   Looking forward to the Village Council being part of the energy audit/upgrades.

o   Residents are specifically NOT allowed as part of the energy audit/improvements, including office space.  

o   Fish camps may be considered a temporary residence.

  • We hope to expand to renewable energy production: fossil fuel conservation/air quality/wind generation/solar panels. These could be coming in   the future.

Bob Jones: There is potential for training in June�how to disseminate information for that training.  Brett Nelson will contact each CD’s to see who would be interested in attending the training.  Specifics will be given at that point.  We would like to see as many as possible-although there will be a cut off number. We are hoping for 8-10 in this first training.

William Beans: south central TCD’s who’s involved: Athan/Tyonek/Knik–.

William Beans: Do you really understand our village and what’s going on there? 

Brett Nelson: We have been in many villages not Mt. Village, but others.  We do know that there are huge energy costs for diesel, etc.  We want to make sure that there isn’t just talk and have nothing happen.

Karen Linnell: Is there someone to help us with forming a questionnaire?

Bill Woods: work with Kristi Harper to do that

Brett Nelson: Christy Cincotta could also be involved in that

Molly Voeller: any TCD’s attending June training?

Brett Nelson: haven’t contacted any as of yet

Participant?: is the training free?

Brett Nelson: yes; no registration fee; Salaries/travel will need to be paid by the district.

Bob Jones: will you been accepting applications from individuals?

Brett Nelson: if we get 8-10 interested from the district, we will be branching out and looking for more participants.

2012 Farm Bill Presentation: Helen Denniston

Farm Bill is up for renewal and would like to make you aware of the upcoming trends.

See Powerpoint/Handout

William Beans: concerns on by-catch; resource-fish; for coastal areas. 

Bill Woods: one area we aren’t involved in is the marine resources; have not had an opportunity to work in that area of resource concern

Helen Denniston: we can assist you thru WHIP, EQIP; we are able to work in a village or tribal lands; example of Fish passage; those are the kinds of things that we can do to assist you as a land owner. 

Back to presentation–

Jack Alcorn: does agency have statistics on Ag production? 

Helen Denniston: National Agricultural Statistics Service has that info online.

Back to presentation:–

Angela Sandstol: any update on mapping? There was a station in Washington state that did remote mapping? 

Bob Jones: yes, that’s the NRI

Back to presentation:–.

Discussion on high tunnels explained to first time attendees.  Kwethluk was given as an example of village high tunnels that are in effect.

Working Lands 4 Wildlife was briefly discussed/explained in lieu of WHIP funding at this point in time.


Tribal Conservation Districts: Helen Denniston gave updates on each TCD in place of Kristi Harper who has been ill and not able to attend.  See handout from Kristi Harper

Angela Sandstol:  Tribal Conservation Alliance received NRCS funding targeted to tribes in ALASKA and how to access these funds. There will be a symposium @ Diamond Hotel Aug. 21-22.  Angela also works on the national alliance.  

Working Lands for Wildlife: Bill Wood, State Biologist -Species Selections for Alaska

See PowerPoint/Handout

Natural Resources Inventory (NRI): Ted Cox, State NRI/GIS Specialist

See PowerPoint/Handout

Karen Linnell: Was really glad that she came. It was good to see that the funding structure has changed to see where pockets of are funding are available for their needs.  It’s been good to know that they can help by contacting their Congressmen; to show that we are a much different state than those in the lower 48.   She would like to be on the proactive side to keep our resources strong as opposed to other states that are reactive

Helen Denniston: We don’t want to leave anyone out.   98 percent of ALASKA is native owned; you are our clients.  The forming of the TCD’s and the work they are doing is tremendous.  Bob Jones has struggled with making sure that our travel funds aren’t cut.  The concept of the way of life in Alaska is not the same as the lower 48.  Very encouraged with the alliances that have been formed

Bob Jones: Thank you to everyone for taking the time to come

Adjourned 12:20


In Attendance:

Angela Sandstol, Alaska Tribal Conservation Alliance
Jack Alcorn, Alaska Farmland Trust
Karen Linnell, Copper River Athna InterTribal Resource Conservation District
William Beans, Mountain Village Tribal Conservation District
Gloria Stickwan, Ahtna, Inc.
Patty Heyano, Bristol Bay Native Association
Christy Cincotta, Tyonek Tribal Conservation District

NRCS Staff:

Bob Jones, State Conservationist
Helen Denniston, State Resource Conservationist
Al White, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs
Molly Voeller, State Public Affairs Specialist
Brett Nelson, State Engineer
Mark Clark, State Soil Scientist
Bill Wood, State Biologist
Craig Smith, State Agronomist
Ted Cox, State NRI/GIS Specialist
Nikki Moffat, Programs Support Assistant


Call-In Attendance:

Scott Crockett, Resource Conservationist