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News Release

Conservation Volunteers Honored During National Volunteer Week

Julie MacSwain

ST PAUL, MINN, March 10, 2014 — USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is celebrating National Volunteer Week April 6th-13th by thanking and honoring its Earth Team volunteers (ETV) for their service to conservation.

Earth Team is the agency’s volunteer workforce, and nationally, in fiscal year 2013, more than 22,000 people donated 330,084 hours of service to NRCS worth approximately $7.3 million.

“Volunteers work closely with our staff, and they play an important role in our state’s conservation work,” said Don Baloun, state conservationist.

Minnesota NRCS ETV 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.

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

 “We are grateful for the help, but we also recognize much more conservation work needs to be done,”  Baloun, state conservationist said.

Earth Team is a program that partners volunteers with NRCS employees. It was created in 1985 and offers many opportunities to individuals 14 and older who are interested in volunteering to improve the nation’s natural resources. Earth Team volunteers help NRCS conservationists provide private landowners and others a range of services from conservation technical assistance to teaching and generating awareness about conservation through community projects.

Earth Team Volunteers allow NRCS to stretch available resources and help put additional conservation practices on the ground. Volunteer efforts help improve land and wildlife habitat and contribute to cleaner water and air for everyone.

Learn more about the Earth Team Volunteer Program online at: by calling (toll-free) 888-526-3227. For more information on NRCS visit


 *Note: The Value of Volunteer Time to the Agency is $21.79/hour as established by the Independent Sector and utilized by the Federal Interagency Team for Volunteerism.

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