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Minnesota NRCS Recognized With 2014 National Earth Team Volunteer Program Award

Minnesota Natural Resources Conservation Service Earth Team Volunteer program was recently recognized with two 2014 National Earth Team Volunteer Program Awards. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness volunteers earned the Group Volunteer Award and Caledonia District Conservationist, Gary Larson, earned the NRCS Employee Earth Team Award.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness volunteers helped NRCS during the summer of 2013. During the 2013 field season, the Duluth, Minnesota Major land Resources Area (MLRA) Soil Survey Office was charged with collecting soil data in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) for raster based soil surveys. The BWCAW is a million acre wilderness area in northeastern Minnesota managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). A partnership between NRCS and the USFS was developed to collect soils data for 595,000 acres.

The Duluth MLRA office recruited volunteers for the wilderness expedition. Volunteers Aaron Janz, Dennis Meinert, Timothy Nigh, Kyle Lilly, Kim Steffen, Jeffery Albers, and Meghan Zenner assisted NRCS on 5 wilderness expeditions, totaling 510 hours of volunteer service. These volunteers assisted NRCS soil scientists by navigating, paddling canoes, bushwhacking to sample points, carrying soil sampling tools, digging soil pits, and recording soil data. After work hours included wilderness cooking, chopping fire wood, hanging bear bags, and keeping the campsite clean.

National Earth Team Award“The BWCAW project was successful due to the assistance of the volunteers, said Larissa Schmitt, Soil Scientist Project Leader for the BWCAW soil survey. “Crew members collected over 200 sample points for the 2013 field season.”

Gary Larson is the District Conservationist in Caledonia, Minnesota. His office is home to several Earth Team Volunteers. Gary recruits volunteers to assist with many different NRCS field office tasks. These tasks are tailored to the individual volunteer. These volunteers have assisted in many ways including: surveying, layout and design of conservation practices such as grassed waterways, contour buffer strips and a grade stabilization structures. Additionally the volunteers have completed several NRCS program applications and status reviews for the Caledonia Field office.

Gary Larson works closely with his volunteers to provide the training necessary to assist NRCS staff with planning and the application of conservation practices. He feels it is important to develop the volunteers so that they can work independently and accomplish tasks assigned.

“Recognizing an earth team volunteer is important,” said Larson. “Thank you for a job well done means a great deal to the volunteers.” His Earth Team Volunteers have been recognized with multiple state and national volunteer awards.

Thank you BWCAW volunteers and Gary Larson for your strong commitment to the Earth Team Volunteer Program in Minnesota. “Your efforts are being noticed throughout our country with this national recognition,” Don Baloun, Minnesota NRCS State Conservationist said.


The Earth Team offers outstanding and exciting opportunities for people who need professional work experience, academic credit or the satisfaction of becoming a caretaker of natural resources in their community. If you want to learn more about the NRCS Earth team Volunteer Program in Minnesota, contact Julie MacSwain at or visit our website at