Jason Seaton Tree Planting
On and Off the Clock Conservation Employees Help the People, Help the Land
Tennessee has long been nicknamed the Volunteer State and employees with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recently proved the sense of community compassion still thrives.
As part of their job, NRCS employees work with private landowners to voluntarily implement conservation on agricultural lands. They often see farmers who would benefit from a helping hand and in turn give their personal time willingly.
“Our employees take pride in their work and want to see the job done,” said Tennessee’s Acting State Conservationist, John Rissler. “I hear stories everyday of how our employees go above and beyond their call of duty to help people.”
“As a disabled outdoorsman, I had a dream to improve my small piece of farmland for wildlife,” said landowner Jason Seaton. “There were no more sounds of bob white quail echoing throughout the day, and that disturbed me.”
Jason started by ordering trees from the Sevier County Soil Conservation District during an annual tree sale. With assistance from, District Secretary, Beverly Treadaway and a few of Seaton’s family members, those trees were planted, but the drought took its toll on the majority and few survived.
Seaton then met with Mitchell Aman, soil conservationist for NRCS, to discuss available programs and how wildlife on his property could benefit.
NRCS partners with many different organizations with similar conservation interests. So Seaton was also referred to Tennessee’s Department of Forestry and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for a comprehensive conservation plan.
“It wasn’t long before I was given a paper that resembled a treasure map,” recalls Seaton talking about a forestry plan with symbols representing trees to be removed, sold or burned. After following all their plans and clearing out some trees, “I was left with a healthier forest, smooth riding trails for my wheelchair and some wildlife returned.”
Wanting to further improve wildlife habitat on his farm, Seaton decided to also enroll in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program with NRCS. Knowing he would soon transfer to a nearby field office, Aman assured Seaton he would still help any way he could. For Aman, that meant even if it was on his personal time.
It has been three years since Seaton’s initial inquiry and work continues by what he calls his ‘village’ of agencies, programs and volunteers. Just over a month ago on a cold, snowy day, a group of thirteen dedicated individuals ranging from kids, neighbors, family, and TWRA and NRCS employees came together to plant 500 trees on his property.
On the day of the tree planting, Aman arrived at Seaton’s farm to find not only other NRCS employees volunteering their personal time to help, “but they had brought their family members, too!” recalls Aman.
“It was below freezing, snowing, sleeting and a muddy mess,” said Aman. “But at the end of the day that big, warm smile on Jason’s face made it all worthwhile.”
“Even before the trees and grasses mature, I’ve already received a blessing of friendship. Thank God for providing a caring and knowledgeable ‘village’,” said Seaton.
Seaton has more conservation practices to complete his goal of improving wildlife habitat and the quality of his land for future generations.
NRCS programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program can be found by visiting http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/eqip/ or in person at a local field service center.
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