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Texas Soil And Water Conservation Essays

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 24, 2017 at the Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa & Convention Center in Galveston.

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 2017 Poster Contest was "We All Need Trees." Macy Rae Cantu from Industrial Junior High School and the Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District, was chosen as this year’s winner.

"We All Need Trees" was the topic for the 2017 Essay Contest. Brentton Jenkins, of Marshall and the Harrison Soil and Water Conservation District, took first place in the Junior Division of the essay contest. Tyler Ray Jackson, of Boerne and the Kendall Soil and Water Conservation District, won first place in the Senior Division.

Below is a list of the 2017 Conservation Award Winners:

Conservation Farmer – Adam Yablonski, Medina County
From the beginning, Adam Yablonski has devoted his time to run an efficient, conservation-minded operation. Conservation practices currently in place on his land address the wise use of irrigation water, preventing soil erosion, improving soil health, as well as managing water quality and quantity. Yablonski understands the significance of precision agriculture as an aggressive method to address areas concerning natural resources. Upon entering the agriculture business over a decade ago, Yablonski sought out the Medina Valley Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and his local USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) office with whom he worked to establish sound conservation practices. As a result of the success of the conservation partnership between the three entities, he continues to work with these agencies, staying abreast of the latest technological trends.

Outstanding Soil and Water Conservation District – Llano County Soil and Water Conservation District #233
Tom Ball, District Director
Joe Freeman, District Director
Steve Haverlah, District Director
Johnny Sawyer, District Director
Joe Allen Wells, District Director

Organized in 1950, the Llano County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) has provided farmers and ranchers of Llano County with balanced and innovative conservation programs. The District currently has 555 individual cooperators working to actively implement conservation practices. The Llano County SWCD is passionate about educating landowners and youth of the importance of protecting and enhancing natural resources. This passion is put into play many times during the year through field days, educational meetings, community outreach, fish and seed sales as well as promoting the Conservation Awards Program. Llano County Soil and Water Conservation District is a strong supporter of conserving and protecting natural resources for the many generations to come.

Conservation Rancher – Holt River Ranch, Palo Pinto County

Dr. Glenn Rogers, DVM - Owner
The Holt River Ranch lies along the banks of the Brazos River a few miles south of Graford, Texas. Dr. Glenn Rogers, DVM, has spent the last 35 years working the lands and improving the ranch. Dr. Rogers is part of the fifth generation of agriculturists that are carrying on the tradition of soil and land stewardship. The ranch has been in the Roger’s family since 1906 and consists of 3,149 acres with approximately 7,000 additional leased acres. Dr. Rogers has water supply enhancement at top of mind by implementing brush control and prescribed burned practices. The ranch is also home to an efficient livestock watering system that pumps water from the Brazos River into a central storage tank. The watering system also acts as a hub for intensive grazing management, which allows for better grazing distribution. Rotational grazing works well with his heifer operation allows him to rotate cattle through the pastures, providing longer rest periods that increase grass growth and vigor. Holt River Ranch has done an outstanding job of demonstrating great land stewardship through implementing numerous conservation practices.

Friend of Conservation – Kerr Wildlife Management, Kerr County
Along the headwaters of the Guadalupe River, lies the 6,493 acres of the Kerr Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The WMA was purchased by the State of Texas in 1950, using funds from the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program. Currently, it is owned and operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. This particular WMA is used to develop and manage wildlife habitats, populations of wildlife species, provide an opportunity for research as well as provide the public access to hunting and to appreciate its wildlife. The primary mission is to function as a wildlife management, research and demonstration site for trained personnel to conduct wildlife related studies. The Kerr WMA and Kerr County Soil and Water Conservation District have supported each other’s endeavors over the years, dating back to the mid-1950’s.

Conservation Teacher – Linda Frerich, Runnels County
Linda Frerich of Rowena was selected as the 2017 Outstanding Conservation Teacher, representing Runnels Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). She and her husband, Charles, own and operate a farm in the Rowena area. Frerich has been a teacher at Ballinger ISD for the past twenty-one years. Over her many years of teaching, she has used her knowledge of erosion control and conservation practices to teach students about conserving natural resources. Frerich has partnered with the local USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) office and Runnels SWCD for classroom presentations as well as participating in the Conservation Awards Program. Frerich continues to be a leader in teaching our future generations the importance of conservation to ensure the availability of Texas’ natural resources for many generations to come.

Wildlife Conservationist – Katy Prairie Conservancy, Waller County
As a nonprofit land trust, the Katy Prairie Conservancy (KPC) works to protect green space in Harris, Waller and Fort Bend Counties for its conservation and recreational benefits, enhance wildlife habitat, restore tallgrass prairie and wetlands as well as sponsor scientific research. The KPC has been a District Cooperator with the Navasota Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) since 1996. KPC currently runs a cow-calf operation as well as produces rice and corn, making them the only rice producer in Harris County. The organization has also been a regular participant in conservation programs through their local USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) office and SWCD, using prescribed burn and brush control. These practices help to improve forage resources and promote native grass establishment and vigor. KPC also installed cross fencing to improve grazing distribution and improve wildlife habitat. The dedication to conservation and land stewardship demonstrated by KPC is widely admired and appreciated.

More information about the Texas Conservation Awards Program is available at:http://www.tsswcb.texas.gov/infoed/conservationawards.

Photo essay: Navasota River water quality monitoring

By Leslie Lee
Brian Jonescu, TWRI research assistant, and Anna Gitter, TWRI graduate research assistant, preparing to monitor and sample water quality at their second site of the day on the Navasota River one March morning.
Leslie Lee, TWRI.
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Jonescu and Gitter prepare to deploy the River Surveyor, which uses Doppler to measure the river flow.
Leslie Lee, TWRI.
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The Navasota River rises in Hill County roughly 10 miles northeast of Waco and and flows approximately 126 miles until it connects with the Brazos River 5 miles southwest of the town of Navasota. On the river bank at this water quality monitoring site, Jonescu uses the River Surveyor while Dr. Lucas Gregory, TWRI project specialist, records the flow data.
Jonescu, Gitter and Gregory measure flow in the river. The floating River Surveyor is useful when a water body is too deep to wade into.
Gregory inputs flow data while Jonescu and Gitter use the River Surveyor to take multiple flow measurements in the river. Taking multiple flow readings provides a clearer picture of flow rates throughout the entire water body, which helps the researchers make an accurate bacteria or nutrient load estimate for the river.
Gregory takes a water sample from the river.
The sample is labeled and will be delivered to an accredited lab for analysis.
Gitter uses a Secchi Transparency Tube to determine the clarity of the water.
Some samples require pre-processing in the field prior to turning the samples over to the lab. Gitter filters a water sample in order to be processed for nutrients.
After arriving at the team's third water quality monitoring site of the day, Jonescu and Gregory unload the kayak.
Gregory carries the kayak to the river bank.
Jonescu readies the River Surveyor for the third water quality monitoring site.
Gregory and Jonescu carry the kayak to the water quality monitoring site. Located under a busy highway bridge, this spot on the river is frequented for fishing and other recreational uses, as evidenced by the debris along the banks.
Gitter readies the River Surveyor.
Gitter looks on as Jonescu paddles with the River Surveyor to take various flow measurements.
The kayak allows the team to safely traverse the Navasota River at this site. The bridge across the site is a narrow, heavily trafficked highway and unsafe for the team to maneuver the River Surveyor by rope. Paddling across the river in the kayak, while maneuvering the surveyor, solved the narrow-bridge problem for the team.
The busy and narrow State Highway 30 bridge over the Navasota River makes taking water quality measurements from the bridge an impossibility for the team.
Jonescu paddles to different points in the river to take various flow measurements with the River Surveyor.
Through the Navasota River Water Quality Improvement project, TWRI is working to address bacterial impairments in the Navasota River Basin through a stakeholder driven process. Water quality monitoring over the course of two years will give TWRI an accurate picture of the river's water quality.
After the team has completed the monitoring at the site and entered the data, Gitter carries the River Surveyor back to the truck.
After a full morning of water quality monitoring work, Gregory helps Jonescu return the kayak to the bank. To learn more about TWRI's work on the Navasota River, visit navasota.tamu.edu.

One morning in March, Conservation Matters joined up with members of the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) water team to get a behind the scenes look at the water quality monitoring process. Check out this photo essay to see what it takes to survey and measure water quality in the Navasota River.

Rising in the Hill County roughly 10 miles northeast of Waco, the Navasota River flows approximately 126 miles until it connects with the Brazos River southwest of the town of Navasota. Its watershed drains portions of Brazos, Freestone, Grimes, Hill, Leon, Limestone, Madison and Robertson counties in east-central Texas.

TWRI is helping lead the Navasota River Water Quality Improvement project, which includes frequently monitoring water quality in the river. 

Beginning in 2002, the Texas Integrated Report of Surface Water Quality identified portions of the Navasota River and a number of its tributaries as having elevated levels of E. coli that do not comply with the state’s recreational water quality criteria. Since then, E. coli levels have remained above the state’s water quality standard.

In an effort to reduce E. coli levels in the river, TWRI's water team is working to develop a better understanding of the sources of bacteria seen in the river.This entails gathering existing information regarding the river’s watershed and pairing it with intensive water quality monitoring prior to conducting a water quality assessment. This knowledge gained will also be conveyed to watershed stakeholders, who will then be guided to develop a restoration plan to improve water quality in their watershed.

To learn more, visit navasota.tamu.edu. The project is funded in part by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, through the State Nonpoint Source Grant Program.

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