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News Release

Clifford, Prince William SWCD Water Quality Team Honored with National Earth Team Awards

Barbara Bowen

NRCS volunteer Hannah Clifford (left) at her desk in Fredericksburg and Prince William
SWCD Water Quality Team member Lynda Silverstrand at work on a litter-removal
project in Woodbridge (Right photo courtesy of Prince William SWCD).

Richmond, Va., April 25, 2022 – While most people are probably familiar with Earth Day, far fewer know about the Earth Team. This committed cadre of volunteers has helped USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) protect the planet for nearly 40 years.

Two members of the Virginia team recently received the agency’s highest awards for volunteer service at this year’s national Earth Team awards ceremony. Associate Chief Louis Aspey virtually recognized Hannah Clifford and the Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District’s (PWSWCD) Water Quality Monitoring Program as the nation’s top individual volunteer and group in a virtual awards ceremony on April 21.

Clifford put in more than 1,000 volunteer hours in the Fredericksburg office and on local farms helping landowners reach their stewardship goals. The recent college graduate knew that she was interested in a conservation career and began working with NRCS on the advice of her aunt Jan Massey, who is a local farmer, educator and frequent volunteer.

“My aunt told me that if I wanted a career with NRCS, which I do, that I didn’t need to wait until after I got my degree to start showing them what I could do,” said Clifford, who works a part-time job at a local grocery store in addition to her volunteer commitment with NRCS, which extends to three days and 24 hours per week.

The second recipient is keeping the recognition in the region and demonstrates that there is definitely “something in the water” in Northern Virginia. This is actually the second time the district has received a national Earth Team award. Duane Mohr, former Earth Team member and current staff member, took top honors as an individual volunteer in 2018.

The PWSWCD program took off from small beginnings in 2016, when county resident Veronica Tangiri volunteered to help bring the national “Adopt a Stream” program to the state’s second most populous county. Tangiri was eventually hired as a part-time and then a full-time coordinator for what’s developed into a multi-faceted environmental program engaging more than 1,000 volunteers.

“At a time when we have great concerns about water quality and our changing climate, these volunteers are showing they care about clean water and waterways,” said Tangiri. “Over 1,600 volunteers collected more than 35,000 pounds of debris in this fast-growing suburb, stopping this load from reaching the Chesapeake Bay.

The announcement coincided with National Volunteer Week and the agency’s 87th birthday on April 27. Working individually and in groups, the Earth Team continues to help NRCS conservationists provide a wide range of services to private landowners and the public that will leave a lasting impact on the land.

Learn more about the Virginia Earth Team by reaching out to state and area volunteer contacts listed on the Virginia NRCS website.


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