DISTRICT LEADERS AND PARTNERS GATHER IN GREENSBORO TO DISCUSS CONSERVATION IN GEORGIA
Last month, conservation district supervisors and conservation partners gathered in Greensboro Georgia for the 2018 annual meeting of the Georgia Association of Conservation Districts. Approximately 175 supervisors, partners, and guests were present for GACD’s leadership team to introduce “A New Era for Georgia’s Conservation Districts.”
The meeting began on Sunday, January 21st with the exhibit showcase. GACD Past President Dan Bennett and Chaplain Jeff Paul then led a Memorial Service for the District Supervisors who passed away this year. Attendees then gathered for the conservation dinner, followed by s’mores lakeside.
On Monday, the general session kicked off with a welcome from hosting District Chairman, Pat Hardy of the Piedmont Soil and Water Conservation District. GACD President Woody Snell and Executive Director Casey Cox then co-presented on the new direction of GACD and the core objectives of the organization to advance Georgia’s 40 soil and water conservation districts. Following the presentation, GACD hosted a partnership panel which included Casey Cox (GACD), Jeffrey Harvey (Georgia Farm Bureau), John Redding (GACD / NACD), Dr. Laura Perry Johnson (University of Georgia Extension), Robert Amos (Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission), Rhonda Gordon (RC&D Councils), Luke Crosson (Natural Resources Conservation Workshop), Katy Parker (Alabama Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts), and Charlene Richburg (Association of Florida Conservation Districts).
Following the general session, GACD President Woody Snell led the business session, which included a financial report, legislative update, new business, and the election of officers. GACD covered two very important items of new business regarding the Natural Resources Conservation Workshop (NRCW) and Oconee County property owned by GACD.
The GACD Board voted in December for Georgia’s conservation districts to become the lead sponsor of NRCW. With each district contributing $100, GACD will contribute the remaining $2,500 for a sponsorship in the amount of $6,500 for the top-scoring student at NRCW to apply toward tuition at any accredited college or university in Georgia.
The GACD Board also presented a decision on the Oconee County property owned by the organization and requested ratification from the membership. The membership ratified the Board’s decision to sell the property in Oconee County. For more information on this decision, please click here.
The business session was followed by lunch with a keynote presentation from Dr. Kier Klepzig, the director of the Jones Ecological Research Center in Baker County, Georgia, on the relationship between prescribed fire and invasive species.
That afternoon, attendees traveled to nearby Watkinsville, Georgia for a tour of the University of Georgia’s Iron Horse Plant Sciences Farm, led by Piedmont SWCD Supervisor Thomas Macfie. Thank you to Mr. Macfie and the University of Georgia team for a very informative visit!
GACD AWARDS & HALL OF FAME BANQUET
The GACD Annual Awards & Hall of Fame Banquet commenced in the evening. President Snell welcomed everyone to the Banquet, and Immediate Past President Dan Bennett presented the poster contest winners and scholarship awards winners.
Emilee Gruno, 3rd grader from Quitman Elementary, Middle South Georgia District, won for the 2-3 grade category. Thomas Henry Massey, 5th grader from Terrell Academy, Lower Chattahoochee River District, was the winner in the 5-6 grade category. The annual NACD and NACD Auxiliary Poster Contest provides students from kindergarten through 12th grade the chance to have their art displayed as part of a national conservation outreach initiative. For more information on the poster contest, please click here. Congratulations, Emilee and Henry!
Every year, GACD awards three scholarships to deserving, talented students attending colleges in Georgia. The recipient of the Garland and Anita Thompson Scholarship is Adam Phillips of Miller County. This year’s GACD Auxiliary scholarship recipient is Dalton Green of Ringgold (pictured above with Dan Bennett and also Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black). The GACD Scholarship was awarded to Abigail Turner of Fort Valley (pictured above, left with District Supervisors Sonny Turner and Dr. Lindsay Holliday). We are so appreciative of the Thompson family and the Ladies Auxiliary for providing their scholarships. Congratulations to our scholarship recipients!
President Snell then took the stage to begin the GACD Awards portion of the banquet. The first award is the GACD Superior Professional Support Award, given to someone who goes above and beyond in working with Georgia’s conservation districts. Tansel Hudson, Assistant State Conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) was the recipient of this award. Next, Snell presented the Supervisor of the Year (pictured above, left). Congratulations to Tom Mims of the Brier Creek SWCD for being recognized as the Supervisor of the Year! Following this award, the District of the Year was announced as Walton County SWCD (pictured above, right).
The final portion of the banquet was the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The GACD Hall of Fame recognizes significant dedication to conservation and stewardship of District Supervisors each year. This year, the first Hall of Fame inductee was Catoosa County Conservation District Chairman Roger Bowman (pictured above, left). Roger has been Chair of the Catoosa County Conservation District for 15 years. His father, Roger Bowman, Sr. was a founding member of the Catoosa County Conservation District and also a member of the Hall of Fame. The next Hall of Fame inductee was Walton County SWCD Chairman Dan Bennett (pictured above, right). Chairman Bennett joined the Walton County Soil and Water Conservation District as a Supervisor in 1996. Becoming Chairman a few years later, Dan worked hard with his fellow supervisors to set priorities and direction for the needs of Walton County’s soil and waterways and to educate Walton’s citizens on the importance and practices of conservation. Congratulations to these two exceptional conservation leaders!
To conclude the program, Commissioner Black provided a keynote address, emphasizing the importance of Georgia Grown agriculture. His key message was that agriculture makes life better for people. GACD is very appreciative of Commissioner Black's time and the continued partnership with the Georgia Department of Agriculture!
The final day of the annual meeting began with a conservation district showcase from 5 of Georgia’s districts doing extraordinary work in their local communities. Catherine Reuter, GACD’s District Program Assistant for Walton County SWCD and Rockdale County SWCD, kicked off the showcase. Following Catherine was Fredando Jackson, Executive Director of Flint River Fresh - the spinoff organization of the Flint River SWCD’s urban program started with a grant from the National Association of Conservation Districts. Tom Mims, GACD’s recently awarded Supervisor of the Year, highlighted two ongoing projects for the Brier Creek SWCD including a feral swine control project and a variable rate irrigation project. Alan Toney, Chairman of the Fulton County SWCD, provided an overview of several urban projects ongoing within their District, including an exciting new partnership with multiple organizations in Atlanta to create a working farm on the land within a power easement. To close, Harvey Milner with Pine Mountain SWCD showcased the District-sponsored outdoor learning center and annual forestry field day for students. Conservation districts across Georgia are making a positive impact in their local communities, and these five districts are exceptional examples of the role districts play in the diversity of natural resource and conservation needs across Georgia.
To conclude the program for Tuesday, Rod Pinkston, founder and CEO of Jager Pro, and Matt Ondovchik, USDA Wildlife Service feral swine coordinator and wildlife biologist, teamed up for a presentation and conversation on one of Georgia’s most pressing concerns: feral swine. Ondovchik explained his role with USDA Wildlife Services and the goals they have on feral swine control efforts in Georgia. Pinkston followed with a dynamic presentation on the core issues related to feral swine, and his experience with the most effective methods of controlling the populations. Following the presentations, Ondovchik and Pinkston engaged in a dialogue with the audience, answering questions.
We want to express our deepest gratitude to all of our sponsors and exhibitors for their generous support of our annual meeting.
THANK YOU SPONSORS!
THANK YOU EXHIBITORS!
A special thank you to the new GACD District Program Assistants who attended the annual meeting and provided a tremendous amount of support! The entire GACD leadership team - Board of Directors, staff, and partners - worked together as a team to make this annual meeting a success. We are so appreciative of the time and efforts of each of you who contributed your time, experience, and talents on behalf of the meeting.
Our core partners at USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, who unfortunately were unable to attend due to the federal government shutdown, were greatly missed during the first two days of the meeting.