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News Release

Volunteer Helps Reduce Soil Erosion on Cropland, Wins National Award

Indianapolis, IN, January 27, 2014 - It was a huge workload for any field office – over three hundred requests for highly erodible determinations in three months. The 1985 Farm Bill requires farmers with highly erodible land (HEL) who utilize certain United State Department of Agriculture benefits to be in compliance by reducing soil erosion on cropland and reducing sedimentation to improve water quality. 

“While the legislation has been amended several times over the years, the requirement for timely determinations remains the same,” said District Conservationist Ruth Hackman in the Salem Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Field Office. “NRCS has fourteen days to make the determination and notify landowners.” 

Because of the heavy current office workload, Hackman was concerned about meeting the deadlines. So she turned to Earth Team Volunteer Levi Shelton for assistance. 

Levi became an Earth Team Volunteer in 2013 to learn about NRCS and its services and programs. Ruth and other NRCS staff trained him to set up customer files in the agency’s on-line tracking system, completed HEL determination forms, and prepared correspondence to landowners. 

During a two-month period, Levi donated over 281 hours of volunteer time saving the NRCS staff valuable time to focus their attention on priority field work and helping NRCS meet the HEL determination deadlines. 

To put a value on the importance of Levi’s work, on average, soil loss on a field before implementing an alternative conservation system would be greater than ten tons per acre per year. After applying an alternative conservation system soil loss would be reduced to at least six tons per acre. Using an average of ten acres per HEL determination on 270 tracts with a reduction in soil loss of four tons per acre by applying an approved alternative conservation system, the soil loss savings is greater than 10,800 tons per year.

According to Jane Hardisty, NRCS State Conservationist in Indiana, that’s a lot of sediment not making its way to our streams and rivers. “Reducing soil erosion on a HEL field can have huge and positive impacts on the environment and our water quality, not only for Washington County but in major watersheds such as the Ohio River and the Mississippi River Basin,” said Hardisty. 

Levi’s volunteer efforts did not go unnoticed. The Salem Field Office was recently awarded the National NRCS Earth Team Volunteer Chief’s Field Award. This award recognizes one volunteer effort located at the field level in each region. Levi’s efforts won over fifteen other states in the central region. 

Are you interested in making a difference in the environment where you live? NRCS has a number of jobs for volunteers. For more information about NRCS’ Earth Team Volunteer Program, visit the Indiana NRCS Earth Team Volunteer website at: To learn about volunteer opportunities in your area, contact your local service center: 


Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist, 317-295-5801 
Kris Vance, State Earth Team Volunteer Coordinator, 317-295-5822
Rebecca Fletcher, State Public Affairs Specialist, 317-295-5825