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NRCS Earth Team Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients

Earth Team Volunteers...Love It!

The NRCS Earth Team Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes United States citizens and lawfully admitted, permanent residents of the United States who have achieved the required number of hours of service over a 12-month time period or cumulative hours over the course of a lifetime.

The Earth Team would like to recognize these volunteers who have generously donated over 4,000 hours to the Earth Team program.

Minnesota volunteer receives awardJim Stevenson, a retired 20-year Army veteran, was recruited to volunteer by his daughter
Robin Stevenson, who is the Area Administrative Coordinator in the Brooklyn Center Area Office in Minnesota.  Mr. Stevenson has donated over 4,962 hours of service to the NRCS in Minnesota since becoming a volunteer for the NRCS in November, 2004.


South Carolina volunteer receives awardLuke Nance is a retired Planning Engineer with more than 41 years of service with NRCS. After his retirement on Jan. 3, 2009, he took the weekend off and returned to his desk Monday morning as an Earth Team volunteer in South Carolina. Mr. Lance has currently donated 5,753 hours to NRCS.  “I believe in watershed projects and how they can help people and natural resources,” said Nance. “I like doing the things that I do, and that includes working on projects and with people.” 

(l to r) Ann English, SC State conservationist, James Tillman, Sr., SE Regional Conservationist, presents certificate Luke Nance and his wife, Laurely Nance.

Presidential Volunteer award winner Caroline Fox-DeckerCaroline Fox-Decker began volunteering for the Rolla Field Office, North Dakota in 2012 through an agreement with Experience Works. On average, Caroline works about 20 hours per week, she has volunteered over 4,670 hours. Her primary task all this time has been to sort through a mountain of disorganized historical paperwork and records, and re-file it according to legal description. Caroline enjoys the tedious task of tracking down the origin of a document, often referring to herself as a detective, looking for the slightest clue to point her in the right direction, and basking in the satisfaction of putting all the clues together and finally determining which piece of property a document belongs to. Caroline also helps with a variety of other tasks around the office, such as recording completed contract information, answering the phone, greeting the public, and developing producer copies.

Anna WalterAnna Walters, as an Earth Team volunteer, has donated 4,018 hours to help further the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service mission of helping people help the land. Anna became an Earth Team volunteer for the Southwest Wisconsin Area Office in 2013 and has worked with NRCS for 5 years. She has an outstanding, positive attitude and a willingness to help wherever she can. Volunteer time in Wisconsin is valued at $23.06 an hour. That means that Anna alone has donated $92,655 dollars in time to help further the agencies direct efforts to get technical scientific data and assistance out to the public.

Shirley Shirley “Cookie” Spangler is a well-known volunteer for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Nebraska. She has dedicated over 4,693 hours of her time since 2005. Cookie is responsible for scanning and electronically archiving over 1 million slides (and counting) of aerial photography taken from 1984-2002 throughout Nebraska’s 93 counties. Cookie’s effort has increased the efficiency and accuracy of the wetland determination process. When thinking of NRCS employees who have made memorable contributions to conserving natural resources, Cookie is included on the list.


After 21 years of soil conservation service, Texas native Russell Dorrough, retired in 1999 from the NRCS. Returning as a district technician with the Red River County Soil and Water Conservation District, Dorrough continued his conservation efforts in Clarksville, TX until his retirement in 2003. Following his retirement, he became an Earth Team Russell DorroughVolunteer. He offered his expertise working with landowners: reviewing soil maps, assisting with soil sample information, office duties, vehicle reports, or anywhere the agency mission could be met. He took great pride in raising the American and Texas flag each morning at the USDA Service Center. Dorrough was recognized as an Outstanding Earth Team Volunteer in 2013; and, in 2010 as the Texas Earth Team Volunteer of the Year. In 2014, he traveled to Washington D.C. to accept the President’s Cup National Award for his service as a volunteer. Dorrough donated 6,798 hours before he passed in December 2017. Texas NRCS presented a lifetime volunteer recognition award to his  family in early 2018 as a commendation for his selfless sacrifice to the agency and community.  

(l to r)Acting Chief Leonard Jordan and Russell Dorrough   

Earth Team Volunteer Jerry HattanJerry Hattan is a very important asset to the Torrington Wyoming field office. Whether it is a question about a pivot design, who owns which field, family histories, hydraulics or when the next home game is for the Torrington Trailblazers, Jerry generally has an answer to your question. Jerry worked for the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for 41 years and nine months when he decided to retire in 2006 and become a dedicated Earth Team volunteer.  
He retired on a Friday and was back in the office as an Earth Team volunteer the following Tuesday since Monday was a holiday. He continues to assist with irrigation expertise. He has logged 11,856 volunteer hours in his years of volunteering. Jerry has received many awards over his years of service but one of the highlighted awards was presented to him by the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. He was awarded the “Presidential Volunteer Service Award”.


Earth Team volunteer Elizabeth BickhamElizabeth Bickham was an excellent Earth Team volunteer, she volunteered over 5,275 hours. Her work was so valuable that she was successfully recruited to be a fulltime NRCS employee in November 2017. As a volunteer, Elizabeth brought outstanding GIS skills, an environmental degree and a solid background volunteering for other environmental organizations. She is highly self-motivated, dedicated and well organized, which enabled her to quickly learn how to become a very competent conservation planner. She is equally adept at doing tasks in the office and working in the field. Elizabeth has a pleasant demeanor and is a good listener, which has endeared her both to her coworkers and producers. She has been successfully working with a diverse mix of producers that include Korean, Hispanic, Caucasian and Middle Eastern farmers – of all ages. Elizabeth is competent at finding solutions to producer problems, addressing their concerns, and figuring out ways to help make the office more organized and efficient.