SAN DIEGO — Conservation outreach to Cantonese farmers in Silicon Valley, a new partnership that enhances forests on Fort Bidwell Indian Community lands, and better ways to conduct bird surveys in the San Bernardino Mountains were all celebrated innovations receiving conservation planning awards for 2018. The awards were presented at the annual conference of the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD), held this year in San Diego.
The awards were presented by Carlos Suarez, State Conservationist of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in California and Karen Buhr, Executive Director at CARCD.
NRCS Soil Conservationist Drew Mather, received the partnership’s Conservation Planner Award for 2018 for his work to help farmers in San Benito and Santa Clara counties improve their soil health, and their irrigation and nutrient management. Most significantly Mather has worked tirelessly to help about 100 Cantonese farmers who are trying to rehabilitate aging greenhouses to grow vegetables in Silicon Valley. The farmers, who speak primarily Cantonese, have struggled to find appropriate irrigation and fertilization regimes. Mather has partnered with dozens of people and agencies to provide both workshops and one-on-one help for the farmers—and found people to translate the information into Cantonese. As a result, 80 percent of the farmers have reduced their fertilizer use in the past three years.
In the San Bernardino Mountains, the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District and the Redlands NRCS office shared the Conservation Innovators Award for 2018. The two conservation groups had previously secured funding for dozens of landowners to thin overgrown forests, improving forest health and reducing wildfire hazards. Working in the small windows of time between snow season and fire season, this year the duo developed unique partnerships with biologists from the Santa Ana Watershed Association (SAWA) who can work quickly once projects are ready. Birds and other species must be surveyed and sometimes flagged and worked around. Nocturnal creatures too, like spotted owls and flying squirrels, must be tracked. Once surveyed, the project must proceed within 5 days. Susie Kirschner with the RCD and Tomas Campos with NRCS accepted the awards on behalf of their groups for greatly accelerating the local capacity to complete forest restoration.
The Conservation Planning Partnership Award of 2018 was given to four groups in Modoc County who successfully launched a partnered forest thinning effort in land managed by the Fort Bidwell Indian Community. A forest health plan was cowritten by NRCS and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The plan called for removing encroaching junipers and noxious weeds and then replanting with suitable conifer species. The juniper clearing was done locally and the US Forest Service helped locate 13,000 trees that were given to the Indian Community or sold at cost.
–USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service
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