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News Release

Northern Arizona Archaeological Group Wins Multi-State Award

Six Earth Team Volunteers Awarded


Dave Bancroft, Darlene Brinkerhoff and Ralf Kurzhals enjoy their meal at the December employee awards ceremony.PHOENIX, Feb. 16, 2011— Six Arizona volunteers are being recognized as winners of the NRCS Earth Team West Region Group Volunteer Award for 2011. David Bancroft, Darlene Brinkerhoff, Gloria Kurzhals, Ralf Kurzhals, Michael Overstreet and Dan Tobin all from Northern Arizona, are being recognized for their volunteer work with Archaeologist Miles Gilbert, of the St. Michaels Field Office, conducting archaeological surveys of 17,371 acres of Arizona pastureland.

David lives in Flagstaff and is retired from the Arizona and Utah Game and Fish Department and his own business as a Private Investigator. Darlene retired from Joseph City Cholla Power Plant in Holbrook. Gloria lives in Snowflake/Taylor and is a retired detention officer from Maricopa jail system. Ralf, also from Snowflake/Taylor, is a retired smokejumper from BLM in Alaska and Arizona Highway Surveyor for I-40 and is currently a self employed property manager. Michael lives in Show Low and is a retired cattleman from Kansas, where he worked with NRCS on range restoration in Flint Hills. Dan is a self employed heavy equipment operator in Parks. Along with their many career successes, these individuals have gone above and beyond by serving as volunteers for the NRCS Earth Team.

“This work is not easy,” said Arizona State Conservationist David McKay, “but it is critically important. Their cultural inventories allow for the removal of brushy juniper. This plant depletes the water supply for vegetation useful to livestock and other animals and getting rid of it increases wildlife habitat, especially for antelope. On one ranch the antelope kid crop almost doubled after juniper was removed.”

McKay praised the group for the exceptional level of skill they demonstrated recognizing and identifying the many varieties of cultural resources spanning at least 12,000 years of human activity in Arizona. “There is a bewildering array of ceramic types to identify. They reveal trade routes, clan locations and periods of occupation,” said McKay. “For example, pottery from the vicinity of El Paso, Texas, was found southwest of Winslow.”

McKay said the group donated 784 hours of service in oftentimes uncomfortable hot and cold weather and on the unkind terrain of northern Arizona. “In some cases they were gone a week at a time assisting us in very remote locations. There were harsh winds, difficult footing, prickly vegetation and long drives to gain access to the survey areas,” said McKay. “They did it all without complaint.”

Sherry Ellicott, NRCS Earth Team Volunteer Coordinator for Arizona, nominated the six for the NRCS Earth Team West Region Group Volunteer Award for 2011. Archaeologist Miles Gilbert, of the St. Michaels Field Office nominated the group for the Arizona State Earth Team Volunteer of the Year award. He says the involvement and accomplishments of the Earth Team volunteers are getting considerable interest from Arizona Archaeological Society members. When told about the work of the six, Gilbert says many members want to join Earth Team and help with work near their homes. The volunteers were awarded the Arizona State Earth Team Volunteer of the Year award on December 1, 2010, at the all employees award ceremony.
The Earth Team is the official volunteer arm of NRCS. It is a program which partners volunteers with NRCS employees to help conserve, maintain and improve natural resources and the environment.

The NRCS Earth Team West Region Group Volunteer Award is a yearly competition which represents the best volunteer group in the 13 western states and the Pacific basin.  Nationally, in 2010, Earth Team volunteers donated 641,549 hours of service to NRCS worth $13.4 million. Since being formed in 1985, over a half-million Earth Team volunteers have donated $327 million worth of time, in 2010 dollars, to help NRCS with its conservation mission.

NRCS provides technical assistance to landowners, farmers, ranchers and others to reduce soil erosion, enhance water supplies, improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat, and reduce damages caused by floods and other natural disasters.  Additional information on the Earth Team Volunteer Program is available online at or by calling (toll-free) 888-526-3227.