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NRCS Recognizes Earth Team for Volunteer Work

Kansas Earth Team Volunteers Earn Two National Awards

"As part of National Volunteer Week, we want to take this time to publicly thank Earth Team (ET) volunteers across the state for their dedication to natural resources conservation," said Astor F. Boozer, Acting State Conservationist, NRCS, Salina. NRCS is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"In 2007, 1,223 ET volunteers contributed over 52,700 hours of time helping the NRCS and partners conserve and protect our natural resources in Kansas," said Boozer.

In 1985, the National Volunteer Program became the Earth Team - the volunteer arm of NRCS. The purpose of the ET is to expand NRCS services by using volunteer time, talent, and energy to help meet agency needs. When the 1985 Farm Bill increased the agency's workload, leadership encouraged all states to begin using the volunteers to help achieve the agency's mission.

Since the organization of local conservation districts in the 1930s, people have volunteered their time and talent to assist the NRCS in getting conservation on the land. Through the decades, volunteering has remained an important part of America's conservation movement. Expanding the volunteer concept, Congress passed legislation in 1981 that provided authority for NRCS to use volunteers.

"In 2007, two Kansas Earth Team groups were selected to receive national awards for their volunteer work," said Jan Klaus, State ET Coordinator, Hays. The groups are:

W.A.C.K.Y. Day Group

Wildlife, Agriculture, Conservation Knowledge for Youth (W.A.C.K.Y) Day--The volunteers involved in planning and organizing this event work all year to make this day a successful learning experience for the 6th graders in Norton, Phillips, Smith, Osborne, Rooks, and Graham counties in northwest Kansas. Because of the hard work and dedication of the many volunteers that take part in this event, W.A.C.K.Y. Day has become an amazing success and has grown from "we will try it and see what happens" to a long standing and much anticipated tradition among the students and teachers. Of the $18,687 total budget for W.A.C.K.Y. Day, $11,882 of that amount is time donated by volunteers.

Jean Stapel and Tonya Bonjorno accepting National Earth Team Volunteer Group Award
Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D)/NRCS--Sunflower RC&D Council

Within 24 hours after the E-F5 tornado ripped through the town of Greensburg, Kansas, the Sunflower RC&D Area, Inc., in cooperation with Kansas conservation partners, coordinated their efforts and support to collect needed Items and charitable donations for tornado survivors. The RC&D council worked with the local conservation districts (CD) and others to receive donated items and then shuttle them to the relief area for distribution. Additionally, tax deductible donations were collected for the Greensburg Area Relief Fund and within a week of the tornado, the council had launched the call for help through the RC&D network at the national level. They also worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and emergency personnel to work out distribution logistics. This project helped the council build and expand working relationship/partnerships with other RC&Ds, local CDs, and several corporations. The Sunflower RC&D Council signed up 143 volunteers, including council members, who volunteered 1,336 hours.

Bob Mosier accepting National RC&D/NRCS Earth Team Volunteer Award

Receiving state recognition as ET volunteers were the following:

Individual--Edgar Hicks

Edgar is the President of the Kansas Black Farmers Association (KBFA) and has been a very active ET volunteer sponsoring several resource conservation and development (RC&D) projects in northwest Kansas through the six-county Solomon Valley RC&D area. The six counties are Norton, Phillips, Smith, Graham, Rooks, and Osborne. Edgar is currently working with the RC&D to develop a long-range strategic plan for the KBFA. In Fiscal Year 2007, Hicks logged nearly 100 ET hours.

NRCS Employee--Charles Atkinson

Charles provided leadership to Area 3 NRCS field offices (FO) as well as program support and assistance with the Earth Team Volunteer Program in his role as the area coordinator. His goal was to maintain quality volunteers to assist the FOs to accomplish office goals and projects. Charles has served as the Area 3 ET Coordinator for a total of 12 years.

Volunteer Coordinator--Lonnie Miller

Lonnie served as the State ET Volunteer Coordinator for 10 years and was responsible for the management of the Earth Team Volunteer Program in Kansas. He also served on the National Work Plan Committee to develop a three-year work plan for the National Earth Team Volunteer Program. Additionally, he was a member of the national Mentoring Committee and also the Apprentice Committee.

Field Office Chief's Recognition Award--Hays Field Office (FO)

The Hays FO staff used the volunteer program in their office to the fullest extent. In Fiscal Year 2007, they experienced having an apprentice in the FO for the first time. All staff members trained and worked with the volunteers on specific tasks in their area of expertise. They also assessed their needs for ET volunteers in order to prioritize tasks to be completed by volunteers.

National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD)/NRCS--Haskell County Conservation District (CD)

The Haskell County CD in Sublette has been conducting an annual tour to educate approximately 80 fifth grade students about conservation. The tour teaches the students about the daily operations of a feedlot and a dairy. The CD board of supervisors volunteer as tour guides for various stops on the tour. They also have the very important role as cooks for the lunch prepared for the teachers, students, and speakers. In 2007, eight volunteers contributed 72 hours of volunteer time to the tour.

Conservation District Manager--Jane Zook

Jane is the district manager for the Pawnee County Conservation District at the Larned Field Office. She is very involved with conservation education and especially enjoys working with children. Jane has worked with staff and students at the Larned Alternative Learning Center and has found it to be a wonderful and very rewarding experience. She has shown great patience and adaptability in her class instruction. Jane has volunteered her time to work with these students in learning about conservation through the annual poster contest, World Water Monitoring Day, and educating the students in reading legal land descriptions and how to locate a piece of ground, as well as discussing the different soils in Pawnee County. She loves the enthusiastic response the kids express about learning something new and their eagerness to learn about natural resources.

"Every volunteer from the office worker to those working on the land is important in their efforts to conserve and protect our natural resources," said Klaus. "The Earth Team always has room for more volunteers."

Contact your local NRCS field office to learn how you can become an ET member.

More information is available about the ET on the Kansas NRCS Web site. Also more information is available on the National ET Web site. The Kansas ET coordinator Jan Klaus can be reached by emailing jan.klaus@ks.usda.gov.

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