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The Faces and Places of Conservation

The purpose and passion for conservation is shared among many. It is shared between NRCS employees and partners who help people help the land. And it is shared by the landowners with whom we work. Our passion is manifested through the benefits derived from stewardship of private lands—benefits we all enjoy, such as cleaner water and air, improved soils and abundant wildlife habitat.

Learn about our stories, the stories of conservation made possible through a shared purpose, a shared passion and a shared commitment to conservation.

Meet Nevada's Featured Employees...

Bringing a Purpose and Passion to work
Every day, NRCS employees bring a purpose and passion to their conservation work. Learn what drives their passion for conservation.

Conservationist Cory Lytle Gets Excited about Helping Landowners . . .

For the past two years, I’ve been helping a farmer, Ed Hanson, replace his 50-year-old concrete ditches with an engineered pipeline system to irrigate 40 acres of grass and alfalfa hay. This is probably the most successful conservation practice I’ve helped implement. With his new system, Ed and his family are saving water, time and energy, and have made their farm a safer place to live.Cory Lytle and Ed Hansen

It all started during one of our 2002 Farm Bill public meetings. Ed asked me about updating his conservation plan. His concrete ditches were failing and it was taking him about 19 hours straight to irrigate. In Nevada, you get your irrigation water when it’s your turn, about every 12 days during the growing season. If you don’t open your gates, the water flows down the ditch to your neighbor. At 70 years of age, this was putting quite a strain on Ed. The old ditches were a safety hazard as well, since it was easy for Ed or his children to fall into the ditch when opening the gates, especially if they were irrigating in the dead of night. To make matters worse, Ed could only water about ¾ of his fields, less than that in the heat of the summer. Ed signed up for EQIP in August 2005 and got right to work installing the new system in January 2006. 

Hansen hay fieldRecently, I stopped by to check on the project and was impressed by the height of the grass hay and the size of the windrows. Ed had to borrow a swather so he could cut the hay. The hay had grown so heavy and thick that his older swather couldn’t get the job done. This was his third cutting of grass hay; he also got 5 cuttings of alfalfa this year. He credits the added production to the new pipeline, and being able to control the water and getting it where it was needed on the fields. Plus, it takes him less about an hour less to water all of his land.

Ed told me that irrigating is a pleasure now. He opens a set of risers, goes back to the house, sets an alarm clock, and when the alarm rings, he goes out and opens the next set. The family has developed a numbering system for the risers so that even Ed’s grandchildren, ages 12 to 19, can help—it has made irrigating that simple.

Helping People Help the Land—yes, that’s what it’­­s all about!

Soil Scientist Doug Merkler Helps Educate People about the Importance of Soil . . .

It’s not often that the work we do affects millions of people but that’s what’s happening as a result of a phone call from Dr. Robert Graham, a pedologist from the University of California, Riverside. Dr. Graham contacted me in June to help obtain a soil monolith from Doug Merkleran arid landscape in the Mojave Desert. A soil monolith is a vertical slice of soil in its natural position that is removed from a soil profile in the field and mounted. These models help soil scientists observe soil properties, help explain how soils form, and serve as valuable teaching tools. The University of California, Riverside is adding the monoliths to their soils teaching collection.

I was already working on a cooperative soil survey with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge so they gave the NRCS permission to extract and collect the monolith. Paul Sternberg, Dr. Graham’s staff research associate and an expert in collecting soil monoliths, spent two days sculpting and extracting the monolith of Purob soil. Purob has a formidable impervious layer or hardpan with the upper layer starting between 14 and 20 inches. A Purob monolith had not been collected before due to the serious challenges created by its concrete-like hardpan.soil monolith

As a result of this effort, the US Fish and Wildlife Service became totally enchanted with the role soils play in defining the ecosystems of their refuge, and are going to display soil monoliths in their new visitor center that will be completed next year. Word spread and now, through the Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association, the US Bureau of Land Management plans to have a soil monolith on display in their brand new $23 million visitor center, located in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Approximately 1.2 million visitors pass through the visitor center each year.

These are the defining moments where we refine the passion for the work we do; an opportunity to enlarge the scope of our profession, our agency and our science.

With any luck, what is learned in Vegas will not stay in Vegas...

How could you not love this job!

People Help the Land

Last Modified: 04/25/2008