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Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board Announces 2019 Conservation Award Winners

TEMPLE—Each year the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) and the Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts (ATSWCD) recognize and honor individuals who dedicate themselves to the conservation and management of renewable natural resources. These outstanding conservationists will be recognized during an awards luncheon on Tuesday, October 29, 2019 at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort in San Antonio.

The Texas Conservation Awards Program began in the late 1970’s to recognize conservationists and the vital role they play in managing Texas’ natural resources. The purpose of the program is to acknowledge, recognize, and honor individuals that dedicate their time and efforts to the conservation of natural resources.

The program provides an opportunity for competition and incentives to expand and improve conservation efforts as well as the wise utilization of renewable natural resources. Categories recognized through the Texas Conservation Awards Program are: Poster Contest and Junior and Senior Essay Contests, Conservation Farmer, Outstanding Soil and Water Conservation District, Conservation Rancher, Friend of Conservation, Conservation Teacher and Wildlife Conservationist.

The subject for the 2019 Poster Contest was “Life in the Soil: Dig Deeper." Wyatt Barger from Dekalb and the Bowie County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), was chosen as this year’s winner.

"Life in the Soil: Dig Deeper” was also the topic for the 2019 Essay Contest. Blair Dahl, of Channing and the Hartley Soil and Water Conservation District, took first place in the Junior Division of the essay contest. Lexus Aquirre, of Menard and the Menard County Soil and Water Conservation District won first place in the Senior Division.

Below is a list of the 2019 Conservation Award Winners:

Conservation Farmer – Reiley Brothers, Comal-Guadalupe SWCD #306
The Reiley Brothers, Dale and Darren are the third generation of Reileys farming over 2,600 acres and running a cow-calf operation in Seguin. The brothers are carrying on the family’s tradition set out by their fathers and have dedicated themselves to innovative and progressive farming techniques. They have been cooperators with the Comal-Guadalupe SWCD since 1991, and they are no stranger to protecting and conserving natural resources. Over the years they have implemented crop rotation system with corn, maize and wheat, management as well as maintenance of parallel terraces and maintenance of grassed waterways. They are currently participating in a field trial, planting cover crops as well as sponsoring for a Soil Health Demonstration plot. They are dedicated to helping others protect the land and its resources through the construction company that they own. This company allows them to help local landowners with needs related to ponds, terraces, waterways or erosion problems. As trends in agriculture continue to change, the Reiley brothers are always looking to future and how they can advance their operation with conservation in mind.

Outstanding Soil and Water Conservation District – Howard Soil and Water Conservation District #243
Kevin Hamlin, Chairman
Jimmy Sterling, Vice-Chairman
Glenn Berry, Secretary
Ed Miller, District Director
Mark Morgan, District Director

The Howard Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) was originally organized in 1941 as a part of the Martin-Howard-Midland (M-H-M) Soil and Water Conservation District. In 1971, Howard SWCD #243 was created when the M-H-M SWCD was divided into three separate districts. Since then, the Howard Soil and Water Conservation District has provided farmers and ranchers of Howard County with technical and financial assistance to encourage the wise and productive use of natural resources. The Howard SWCD is passionate about educating landowners through sponsoring and hosting, workshops, symposiums, and field tours that address the needs and interests of their local producers. Their goal is to ensure the availability of those resources for future generations so that all Texans' present and future needs can be met in a manner that promotes a clean, healthy environment and strong economic growth.

Friend of Conservation – Trinity-Neches Forest Landowners Association, Cherokee County SWCD #427
Established in 2005, the Trinity-Neches Forest Landowner Association (TNFLA) is a non-profit that encourages and assists in the development of the full potential of forestry in the counties in Texas that it serves. TNFLA is the largest forest landowner association in East Texas, serving its 133 members across the following seven counties: Anderson, Freestone, Leon, Henderson, Van Zandt and Houston Counties. They work closely with local Soil and Water Conservation Districts and United States Department Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) in support of grassroots conservation efforts. TNFLA offers continuing education, technical assistance and professional networking opportunities for its members. Natural resource conservation and education are top priorities with the end-goal of ensuring sustainable forestry through wise forest management practices.
Conservation Rancher – Don Casey, Pedernales SWCD #218
For the past thirty-eight years, Don Casey has been managing a 5th generation cow-calf operation on approximately 1,000 acres in Northeast Blanco County as well as cooperating with the Pedernales Soil and Water Conservation District and the USDA-NRCS. Don attributes his success in ranching to his observant nature and willingness to adapt to the ever-changing trends. Mr. Casey’s long-term conservation goal is to restore the land back to pre-settlement ecological conditions, provide quality wildlife habitat through intensive grazing management as well as manage water-depleting brush, pasture planting and nutrient management have been implemented on the ranch. Don Casey has done an outstanding job of being a dedicated steward of the land and will continue to set a fine example for others to follow.

Conservation Teacher – Felicia Locke, Toyah-Limpia SWCD #209
Felcia Locke has been teaching at Dirks Anderson Elementary School in Fort Davis for the past 12 years and is currently the 5th grade Science and Social Studies teacher. She also coordinates the Gifted and Talented program at the school and is a member of the Region 18 Gifted and Talented Advisory Board. She has partnered with the Toyah-Limpia Soil and Water Conservation District since 2009, participating in the Texas Conservation Awards Program Contest, each year incorporating the theme into her curriculum. Growing up in a ranching family in Texas, Felicia raised steers in FFA, learned about wildlife and native plants and while hunting with her grandfather, she gained a great respect for conservation, that’s where her story begins! Over the course of her 34-year career, Felcia has dedicated herself to sharing her love of ranching, range management, and conservation with her students and those around her. Felcia is a leader in teaching our future generations the importance of conservation and stewardship.

Wildlife Conservationist – The Longbranch, Llano County SWCD #233
Since 1972, Wallace and Dolores Klussmann have owned and operated The Longbranch. The 560-acre ranch is nestled in the Texas Hill Country, lying in Llano and Gillespie Counties. The Klussmanns have been cooperators with the Llano County SWCD since 1973 and have worked diligently to improve their ranch. They have utilized a variety of programs to implement conservation practices on their land which have improved habitat for wildlife, as well as the provided benefit for his livestock. Their passion for youth and the outdoors shines bright has they use their ranch as an outdoor classroom for students nearby to partake in field days. College students from Texas A&M University and Colgate University in New York have made their way out to the ranch to study and collect native grasses, as well as learn about range and wildlife management. The dedication to conservation and education demonstrated by the Longbranch is widely admired and appreciated.

More information about the Texas Conservation Awards Program is available at:

"Protecting and Enhancing Natural Resources since 1939."

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