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TSSWCB Announces 2024 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 recognize and celebrate individuals that 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, 2024, at the Loews Hotel in Arlington, Texas.

The Texas Conservation Awards Program began in the late 1970s to recognize the state’s conservationists and the vital role they play in managing Texas’ natural resources. The program provides an opportunity for competition and incentives to expand and improve conservation efforts and natural resource development, as well as the wise utilization of renewable natural resources. Categories recognized through the Conservation Awards Program are: Conservation Farmer, Conservation Rancher, Conservation Teacher, Wildlife Conservationist, Friend of Conservation, Outstanding Soil and Water Conservation District, Junior Poster Contest, Senior Poster Contest, Junior Essay Contest, and Senior Essay Contest. 

The subject for the 2024 Poster Contest was “May the Forest Be With You Always.” Elizabeth Gillem, representing the Lamar Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) #415, was chosen as this year’s Junior Division Winner (kindergarten – second grade). Sophia Alaniz, representing Zapata SWCD #335 won the Senior Division (third – sixth grade). Both posters will advance to the National Association of Conservation Districts Poster Contest in December 2024.

"May the Forest Be With You Always” was also the topic for the 2024 Essay Contest. Sydney Pletcher, representing the Jackson SWCD #336, took first place in the Junior Division of the essay contest. Jayden Gonzales representing the San Patricio SWCD #324, placed first in the Senior Division of the essay contest.

Below is a list of the 2024 Conservation Award Winners:

Conservation Farmer – Roy Book, Tom Green SWCD #248
Roy Book stands as a testament to the deep-rooted connection between agriculture and natural resource conservation. Roy's dedication to caring for the land can easily be seen through the 2,500 acres of land that he tends to just north of San Angelo, Texas. Growing up on a farm surrounded by cotton, milo, wheat, and cattle, Roy inherited an understanding of the land's true value and the delicate balance needed to protect it. After high school, Roy started on a lifelong journey of innovation and sustainability through his operation. His commitment to enhancing traditional practices through strategic crop rotations and strip tillage to protect the soil, make him a valuable steward of the land. By implementing crop rotation, Roy is actively improving soil health, optimizing soil nutrients and combatting weed and pest pressure. Additionally, he has taken a proactive approach to conserve water in dry West Texas, by establishing waterways with native grasses and contouring cropland terraces. Lastly, he has installed a roof runoff system that can store up to 20,000 gallons of rainwater that he in turn uses on his crops. Roy also recognizes the importance of cultivating the next generation of agriculturists. Last year, his daughter and son in law joined the Book Family farming operation, it is truly a family affair. He is also involved in his community through serving on the Tom Green County Farm Bureau and the Quail Valley Volunteer Fire Department. Roy serves as a reminder of the importance of working towards a future where agriculture and conservation effortlessly go hand in hand.

Conservation Rancher – Collier Farms, Wise SWCD #548
Spanning 280 acres, Collier Farms is located in Northwest Wise County near Chico, Texas. The land has belonged to the Collier Family since 1919. Carroll and his daughter, Jeanette, have nurtured the land, transforming it from a cotton and peanut farm into a thriving cow-calf operation. With 17 fields of native grasses, Bermuda, and Old World Bluestem, Collier Farms epitomizes the importance of caring for the land. Carroll, inspired by his grandfather, prioritizes land stewardship practices, collaborating with the USDA-NRCS and Wise Soil and Water Conservation District to implement conservation programs since 1967. Through that partnership, Carroll has carried out numerous conservation practices such as native and introduced grass plantings that help provide a solid forage base for his herd as well as for erosion control. The Collier’s maintain a herd of 45 Red Angus cows that are meticulously managed to prevent overgrazing, in order to protect the health of both the land and the cattle. Their dedication extends beyond the farm gates; Collier Farms serves as an educational hub, welcoming visitors and engaging with community groups. Since joining her father full time in 2018, Jeanette's efforts have diversified the farm, through introducing dorper sheep, beekeeping, and chickens. This has allowed the farm to offer all-natural beef, free-range eggs, and honey directly to local customers. Recognized for their commitment to conservation, Collier Farms stands as a fine example of sustainable agriculture. Through their leadership, advocacy, and adoption of conservation practices, Carroll and Jeanette embody what it means to be a Conservation Rancher.

Conservation Teacher – Jessica Reeves, Kerr County SWCD #217
Mrs. Reeves has a heart for education, conservation, and outdoor exploration with 23 years of experience. Her dedication to nurturing young minds extends far beyond the classroom, making her a beloved figure across the state. Through innovative programs like the Ingram Tom Moore Agricultural Science Associates Degree Program in conjunction with Palo Alto College, almost all of Mrs. Reeves’ agricultural science courses are dual credit, and students can earn a free, full associates degree in Agricultural Science by the time they graduate from high school. Her passion for agriculture and conservation shines through her involvement in various organizations such as the Wildlife Alliance for Youth and the Agriculture Teachers Association of Texas. Additionally, her commitment to hands-on learning is evident through the array of activities she incorporates into her curriculum, from soil analysis to wildlife management through which her students can take Hunter and Boater Education Courses and receive the Ducks Unlimited Wildlife Industry Certification. Her impact extends statewide, as she trains teachers and students alike at educational workshops and conferences. For over 20 years, Mrs. Reeves has shared her passion for education, conservation, and the outdoors with children through the Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP).  As a TYHP Huntmaster, she has provided well over 300 children the opportunity to hunt, work on marksmanship, learn how to score deer, age deer, skin and quarter, track blood trails, as well as identify wildlife and plants.  Her dedication to empowering future leaders in agriculture is unparalleled, making her an inspiration for generations to come.

Wildlife Conservationist – Kevin Tauzin, Medina Valley SWCD #226
Hondeaux Oaks is situated on a sprawling 970-acre ranch north of Hondo, the operation is a sanctuary for wildlife and a testament to owner, Kevin Tauzin’s commitment to sustainability. Kevin's holistic approach to wildlife management has yielded impressive results with a thriving trophy whitetail population to an array of species including exotics like axis, red stag, and zebra. By purposefully selecting species that complement each other's diets and ensuring available forage and water, Kevin is able to maintain balance within the ecosystem he has curated. With a history of involvement with conservation agencies like the Medina Valley Soil and Water Conservation Board and USDA-NRCS, Kevin has championed efforts to preserve and improve his land through clearing brush to create grasslands, seeded areas with native vegetation and strategically managed water resources to sustain wildlife populations. Water availability is a cornerstone of Kevin's conservation efforts, he has laid over 6 miles of pipe for water. Animals on his land do not drink from troughs, they drink from wet spots on the ground lined with rocks that are fed from a drip system and monitored to maintain proper levels. With three ponds and another under construction, Kevin ensures a reliable water supply for wildlife. Conservation for Kevin is a passion, he has a background in biology and chemistry that has given him a strong base in navigating his conservation priorities. After leaving his career in law, he has chosen to reconnect with the land and work tirelessly to prioritize conservation and wildlife habitat.

Friend of Conservation – David Cowan, Collin County SWCD #535
David Cowan is the Watershed Manager for the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD). Covering 10 counties and serving around 2 million residents, NTMWD plays a crucial role in providing water and wastewater services to many in North Texas. With Lavon Lake as one of its main reservoirs, David's leadership in source water and watershed protection ensures the sustainability of water supplies. Since assuming his role in 2019, David has been instrumental in implementing the Lavon Lake Watershed Protection Plan through collaboration with local stakeholders, the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and the Environmental Protection Agency. David shines most through his dedication in safeguarding the natural resources of Texas by engaging with partners and stakeholders to address diverse needs while prioritizing resource health. Education lies at the heart of David's conservation efforts, through hands-on demonstrations, presentations, and collaborative programs with local schools and cities. He works to foster a deeper understanding of land stewardship and water conservation among people of all ages. Partnerships with organizations like the Bonneville Environmental Foundation have allowed for additional resources for conservation programs, ensuring their effectiveness and longevity in the area. In the face of rapid urban growth, David's work on low-impact development projects highlights the importance of sustainable practices while mitigating environmental impact. From rain gardens to green infrastructure workshops, his initiatives pave the way for a more resilient and environmentally conscious future.

Outstanding Soil and Water Conservation District – Nolan County SWCD #245

J.C. Stroman, Jr. - Chairman
Ralph Stirl - Vice Chairman
Mark Wright - Secretary
Don Campbell - Member
Jason Jones - Member 

The Nolan County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is dedicated to promoting conservation for the benefit of their community. Established in 1974, the SWCD serves 1,200 farms and ranches across 923 square miles in the heart of Texas. With a focus on wise natural resource management, they have implemented numerous initiatives to protect the region's agricultural and environmental interests. Through strategic partnerships and educational programs, the Nolan County SWCD actively engages the community in conservation efforts. They support local schools through events like the Sweetwater FFA Invitational CDE Contest and the Texas Conservation Awards Program Poster and Essay Contest, fostering environmental awareness among students. Additionally, they sponsor initiatives like Kids on the Land, which educates children on conservation practices and connects them with the importance of land stewardship. The SWCD's commitment extends beyond education to practical conservation projects. They manage flood control structures as well as facilitate programs to improve water quality and land health. Collaborations with organizations like the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and USDA-NRCS have enabled the implementation of cost-share and technical assistance for local landowners to put conservation and best management practices in place. Through their unwavering commitment to their local community and natural resources, they continue to make a meaningful impact on Nolan County's environment and agricultural heritage.

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

"Protecting and Enhancing Natural Resources since 1939."

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