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Texas NRCS receives national USDA partnership award

story by Beverly Moseley

A partnership effort in Texas among the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS) and the Polk-San Jacinto Soil and Water Conservation District which focuses on restoring longleaf pine to its historical range, has received a 2011 Two Chiefs’ Partnership Group Award from USDA NRCS Chief Dave White and Forest Service (FS) Chief Thomas Tidwell.

These awards recognize exemplary employees and projects from NRCS, FS, state forestry agencies and conservation districts who have worked collaboratively to support conservation and forest stewardship.

“It’s a tremendous honor to have Texas’ conservation efforts, employees and partners recognized at the national level for their work and commitment to conservation and stewardship,” said NRCS State Conservationist Salvador Salinas. “This group award also highlights NRCS’s USDA-NRCS Chief Dave White (right) presents Texas NRCS State Conservationist Salvador Salinas with a plaque recognizing Texas’ 2011 Two Chiefs’ Partnership Group Award.commitment to working with our partners on projects that benefit Texas and America’s lands.”

Group award winners are:

NRCS- Ronald Harris-district conservationist; Garry Stephens, wildlife biologist and American Indian liasion; Jim Rogers, biologist; Beverly Moseley, public affairs specialist and Bob Stobaugh-video information specialist.

Alabama Coushatta Tribe of Texas – Kyle Williams, Tribal council chairman; Carlos Bullock, past Tribal council chairman; Don Sylestine, forestry director, and Kerwin Williams, Tribal member.

Texas A & M Forest Service – Maynard Williams, resource specialist II; Rusty Smith, resource specialist IV and Kenny Harrelson, resource specialist II.

The Polk-San Jacinto SWCD – Wright Baker, chairman, on behalf of the SWCD.

The nationally recognized partnership project began when the Tribe enrolled 400 acres into NRCS’ Longleaf Pine Landscape Initiative through the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP). This was the first time the Tribe had signed a contract with NRCS as part of a Farm Bill program. Needles from the longleaf pine are a treasured cultural resource used for centuries in making handmade baskets from the needles. Tribal leaders recognized the need to create a sustainable supply of the needles and approached the NRCS to help them accomplish this goal. This successful partnership benefits the estimated 1,150 Tribal members and future generations, along with the land’s wildlife habitat and aesthetic and recreational value.

Partners have developed and implemented a conservation plan focused on restoration and enhancement of this diverse ecosystem. Site preparation has begun and tree planting is scheduled for 2012.

A successful multi-media outreach effort included feature stories in newspapers and partner publications. A video featuring this project has reached numerous outlets, including RFD-TV’s Voices of Agriculture. This partnership was featured at the 2011 Intertribal Agriculture Council and Indian Nations Conservation Alliance symposium.