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Kansas Civil Rights Achievement Award - 2013 Recipients

Kansas Civil Rights (CR) Achievement awards are designed to honor individuals and groups for outstanding achievements in the planning and execution of civil rights activities within the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) agency and the community. This year three awards were given.

Agency-Related Individual Award:

Bruce L. Yonke, District Conservationist (Retired), Holton, was selected for the agency-related individual award. Over the course of his career with NRCS, he developed a close relationship with the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe and has contributed greatly to their efforts to address natural resource concerns on tribally-owned and tribal trust properties. Bruce serves as an advisor on the Tribe’s Natural Resources Council and has helped the Tribe create a process to develop a conservation plan on all newly purchased properties. Bruce works closely with Chris DeCoteau, manager for the Division of Land Management, to develop a high quality and dynamic grazing management plan for the buffalo herd.

Agency-Related Group Award:

The staffs of the Hugoton Management Unit and the Stevens and Seward County Conservation Districts (CDs) were selected for the agency-related group award for their outreach efforts to their communities and underserved children within them. While continuously practicing outreach in their daily activities, the staffs have reached out to the Hispanic communities through the schools in Stevens, Seward, and Morton Counties. These counties have a significant (40-50 percent) number of Spanish-speaking adults and children. Their efforts have included three educational events, reaching out to over 300 local adults and children, using the new soil tunnel trailer. The soil tunnel trailer has captions in both English and Spanish, so it is a great outdoor classroom to teach soil health and its importance. They also held a Soil Health Day for 7th graders; Soil Superheroes for Preschool, kindergarten, and 1st graders; and Soil Basics for 3rd graders.

Community-Related Group Award

The Rush County CD was selected for the community-related group award. The CD, led by Stephanie Royer, District Manager, accepted a challenge to build a soil tunnel trailer for use in western Kansas. NRCS provided some funding for the project but the CD had to raise the rest. Over $90,000 in contributions (donations, grants, and in-kind support) came from 56 entities, 36 of which were conservation districts in Kansas, to make this project a success. This self-contained trailer brings the world of soil to life by giving the appearance of an underground tunnel. The trailer highlights Kansas soils, water quality issues, and critters that live underground through 3-D images. What makes this soil tunnel trailer special is the addition of captions in Spanish. With a vast population of Spanish-speaking people and communities that have settled in western Kansas, it was important to include Spanish in the educational information that was engraved on the trailer. Litza Y. Lopez-Ramos, Soil Conservationist, Great Bend, assisted with the translation of the captions. The trailer was finished and ready for use in February 2013, and has since been booked and used for over 35 events throughout Kansas through October 2013.