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2006 West Regional Cooperative Soil Survey Conference Executive Summary

Brief Overview

The 2006 West Regional Cooperative Soil Survey Conference (WRCSS) was held in conjunction with the Western Society of Soil Science (WSSS) conference at the Prospector Square Lodge in Park City, Utah, from June 19-22. The theme of the WRCSS was “Innovative Applications of Soil Survey: Meeting the Changing Needs of Today’s Society”. The theme of the WSSS was “The Relevancy of Soil Science to the Needs of a Changing West”. Both conferences were planned under one Steering Committee that included representatives of from both conferences. Utah State University was hired as a Conference Services contractor to provide website development, registration services, financial reconciliation, and negotiations with vendors used for the conference. The cooperating agencies provided all other planning and logistical needs for the conferences. A total of 104 people attended the conferences during the week.

The WRCSS conference included a mix of agency/cooperator reports, technical presentations, and business sessions. Cooperator interaction was also provided through a full-day field trip, evening poster session, evening banquet, and an evening hospitality gathering. The WSSS included technical presentations and papers concurrent to the WRCSS and participation in the evening sessions. A joint ½-day WRCSS/WSSS session occurred that included technical presentations from members of each group. The field trip included field stops to describe several private and public land management issues and uses of soil information to assist with land management decisions.

The steering committee solicited comments and recommendations regarding the conferences during the general business meeting and during a closeout meeting on the final day of the conferences. The recommendations include those that address the WRCSS, WSSS, and the National Cooperative Soil Survey (NCSS) conference. The recommendations are summarized below.

Recommendations

WRCSS Conference Content

  • The future conferences should include a mix of new technology development, applications of soil survey, and NCSS business subjects.
  • A field trip is very valuable to show applications of information and issues facing members of the NCSS. Interaction during the field trip between agencies allows the building of partnerships and opens communications between cooperators.

WRCSS 2008 (Washington) Conference Theme

  • Several suggestions were made to include Ecological Site Descriptions (ESD) and Ecological Classification and Mapping into the 2008 conference. Greater participation by range and forestry professionals is encouraged.

Concurrent with WSSS

  • The co-location of the WRCSS and WSSS was a success. The interaction between the groups was beneficial to both groups. The recommendations for the 2008 meeting are to include the two groups under one agenda so that there are opportunities for both groups to attend all sessions.
  • The standing committees should be open to all that would like to attend, including those that are not part of the WRCSS.
  • The conferences should utilize the opportunity to recruit students that are attending. The 2008 conference should consider a booth or information on soil science careers in the various agencies during the conference. The agency representatives should be introduced during the conference so that individuals can make appropriate contacts during the conference.

Use of Contract Conference Services

  • The conference contracted with Utah State University to provide website development, registration, and financial reconciliation with vendors. It is recommended that these types of services are used in the future to assist steering committees with planning and implementation of conferences. The time saved by the steering committee is generally greater than the costs of the contract services.

Location for the 2009 National Meeting

  • The WRCSS steering committee recommends one of three states for the 2009 national conference. They are Arizona, New Mexico, or Idaho. The decision of the final 2009 location will be based upon the National Steering Committee and commitment by the states.

Standing Committees Summary and Recommendations

  • Greater participation is needed from all agencies in the standing committees. Commitments from personnel are needed prior to the conference to ensure work is completed prior to the conference and charges are clearly identified.
  • The committee reports should be reviewed to obtain a complete understanding of the recommendations.

Applied Technology

  • Bill Ypsilantis (BLM) was the chairperson for the 2006 conference.
  • Chair elect is Dave Hover (NRCS) and Co-Chair elect is Don Fallon (FS).
  • At the business meeting it was moved, seconded, and unanimously approved to forward the committee recommendations to the national conference.
  • It was decided that the ‘Applied Technology Web Page’ include a Digital Soil Mapping section; and it was recommended that the NRCS Soils Website section on conferences reflect the regional organization structure and be more accessible.
  • Committee recommended the establishment of a ‘Digital Mapping Framework’ and will forward a copy of a white paper on the topic to the national conference.
  • Committee recommended that a work group with representatives from each of the regional committees be formed to develop a framework for NCSS Digital Soil Mapping.

Soil Survey Standards

  • This committee didn’t meet during the conference.
  • There is a need for a new chairperson and co-chairperson.

Soil Taxonomy

  • Tom Hahn (NRCS) was the chairperson for the 2006 conference.
  • There is a need for a new chairperson and co-chairperson.
  • At the business meeting it was moved, seconded, and approved to forward the committee recommendations to the national conference. However, several were opposed. The opposition was mostly in relation to the discussion on incorporating TERRA landform terminology into NASIS.
  • The main committee work had been completed prior to the conference to meet an April 2006 deadline to comment on proposed changes to the ‘Keys to Soil Taxonomy’. Most of the West Region recommendations were incorporated by the NSSC.
  • Future review will include addressing the recommendations of the ‘Mica Work Group’, descriptive terms for gypsum soils, and refinements to descriptions of diatomaceous/mineral soils.
  • Identified the need for improved identification of paralithic/densic contacts; the need for new criteria on slope stability; and the incorporation and/or data dictionary crosswalk of TERRA (FS) landform terms into NASIS.

Research Needs

  • Dr. Anthony O’Geen (UC Davis) was the chairperson for the 2006 conference.
  • It is hoped that Dr. O’Geen will continue as chairperson.
  • At the business meeting it was moved, seconded, and unanimously approved to forward the committee recommendations to the national conference.
  • Identified the issues and logistics for the new multi-state research project, Benchmark soilscapes to predict the effects of climate change in the western U.S.; collaborate with State Soil Scientists, identify catenas with a bioclimatic sequence, and for NSSL support select regionally important soils.
  • Identified issues surrounding gypsiferous soils including descriptive terminology, field methods to distinguish between gypsum and other soluble salts, and investigations to relate gypsum morphology to landscape evolution.
  • Provided update on three dynamic soil properties projects and the need in the future for reviewers of a dynamic soil properties manual.
  • Identified future needs for geochemical investigations that should focus on benchmark soils in areas not contaminated by trace and heavy metals.

Interpretations (Ad Hoc)

  • Sue Southard (NRCS) was the chairperson for the 2006 conference.
  • It is hoped that Sue Southard will continue as chairperson.
  • At the business meeting it was moved, seconded, and unanimously approved to forward the committee recommendations to the national conference.
  • It is recommended that the Ad Hoc Interpretations committee be made a standing committee. This business area is critical to improvements of the NCSS and many issues are identified each year.
  • Charge 1. Changes to the National Soil Survey Handbook were proposed that establish a procedure for the review of interpretation changes initiated by the National Soil Survey Center (NSSC). Refinements were proposed for the procedures on changing interpretations by NRCS offices or cooperators outside the NSSC.
  • Charge 2. Three issues on interpretations were addressed. It was recommended that septic interpretations for aridic soils be the same as other soil orders; errors on gravel source interpretations for vertisols and soils with pans need to be addressed; slope limit for pond interpretations should be lowered from 50 percent to 8 percent.
  • Additional interpretive and database concerns for the west were identified including Wind Erodibility Groups for soils with desert pavements, hydrophobicity, site index, and highly erodible lands.

Summary

The 2006 WRCSS and WSSS combined conference was a tremendous success. The interactions between the groups and all of the agencies and cooperators involved led to the identification of many opportunities to improve soil resource management in the future. During the past several WRCSS conferences, we have seen a progression and increased demand to include more information on technology advancements and their applications. This progression and demand fit well into the recommendations we have provided above for the 2008 conference. The inclusion of the WSSS provided a great opportunity to bridge experienced agency personnel with personnel of the future. This opportunity needs to be an important part of our future conferences to ensure the future success of our profession.

On behalf of the steering committee, we thank all of those who participated in the 2006 joint conference. The success of the conference was due to your cooperation.