Conservation Districts Celebrate Environmental Success, Discuss Challenges, Recognition

During its 2011 Joint Annual Conference in State College, the PA Association of Conservation Districts and the State Conservation Commission highlighted the top environmental issues and challenges facing the commonwealth, including the exploration for oil and natural gas.
            “For decades, Pennsylvania has reaped the benefits from its booming industrial and agricultural sectors,” said MaryAnn Warren, President of the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts. “And at every turn, our membership has been on the front lines, insuring that the environment and our natural resources have been protected, while supporting the businesses that have benefited Pennsylvania’s hardworking men and women.”
            Warren added, “This conference provides an excellent opportunity for our membership to meet, share innovative ideas and strategically plan for the upcoming year to guarantee that our commitment to our communities continues and that we approach the protection of the environment in a responsible and balanced way."
            The two-day conference included panel discussions relating to the development of Marcellus Shale, the state’s 2011-2012 fiscal year budget and transportation issues. In addition, it provided an opportunity for participants to attend a Leadership Development Session on Public Budgetingand meet with and ask questions of PACD’s new executive director, Robert B. Maiden.
            “The Association and its membership take their commitment to conservation and protecting Pennsylvania’s environment very seriously,” said Maiden. “This week, our staff, volunteers, members and local officials demonstrated this commitment by outlining strategic goals for the upcoming year, as well as providing ideas and solutions on how to best accomplish these goals that will improve and safeguard our communities.”
            Awards Presented
            In addition to the educational aspect of the conference, each year, the PACD presents awards to deserving individuals to acknowledge their unyielding efforts and dedication to furthering the activities and accomplishments of conservation districts on a statewide basis. This year’s awards were presented to:
-- Carl Undercofler, Clearfield County Conservation District: Mr. Undercofler was awarded the Ann Rudd Saxman Conservation District Director Excellence Award for his thousands of hours of volunteerism with the Clearfield County Conservation District. 
            In addition to his work as the Associate Director of the District, Mr. Undercofler has volunteered his time to cleaning up abandoned mine drainage throughout the county, helped to complete many watershed assessments, walked miles of streambanks to install weirs, collected monthly and quarterly water samples, as well as collecting macroinvertabrates. 
            Mr. Undercofler also helps the district with many educational, fundraising, and outreach events. He builds trophies, advertises events statewide, helps maintain trails, and stays all day helping wherever needed.
            The Ann Rudd Saxman Conservation District Director Excellence Awardis awarded to a conservation district director or associate director for his or her outstanding volunteer efforts that have furthered the activities and accomplishments of conservation districts on a statewide basis.
-- Sandy Thompson, McKean County Conservation District: Ms. Thompson received the Conservation District Employee Excellence Award for her outstanding service to the McKean County Conservation District where she helped develop the district to full-time status from part-time service, as well as her more than 19 years with the Potter County Conservation District.
            During this time, Ms. Thompson has been instrumental in strengthening existing partnerships and facilitating new partnerships with other agencies. Perhaps most importantly, Sandy works tirelessly to enlist financial and political support for the Association and the local conservation districts on a statewide level.
            Most recently, she worked to include funding for conservation districts in the allocation of any Marcellus Shale Impact Fee. Sandy is very compassionate and dedicated in her work, and a true leader.
            The Conservation District Employee Excellence Award is presented to a conservation district employee for his or her outstanding efforts that have furthered the activities and accomplishments of conservation districts on a statewide basis.
-- The 2011 President’s Award was give to: Andrew Gilchrist, Montgomery County; Jack Tressler, Somerset County; Robert Robinson, Wyoming County; Samuel Worley, Franklin County; Patricia Sueck, York County; Preston Boop, Union County; Linda Cioppa, Pike County; Don Koontz, Mercer County; Blaine Smith, Blair County; Harold Kulp, Chester County; Robert Ritchey, Cambria County; Kenneth Meck, Lancaster County; and Donald Bashore, Juniata County. 
            Previously, this award had been presented to one individual for their outstanding efforts as recognized by the President of the Association to further the accomplishments of PACD and its membership. 
            This year, President MaryAnn Warren chose to honor the current PACD executive board of directors, as well as former members of the board who have gone above and beyond during the past eleven months to refocus the efforts of the Association to meet the goals of its primary mission.
            “I am extremely grateful to be a part of this team of dedicated individuals,” said Warren. “Their willingness, hard work and support laid the groundwork for PACD to once again become one of the leading and premier environmental protection organizations in this state.”
            Legislator Recognition
            Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) and Rep. Kate Harper (R-Montgomery): Sen. Scarnati and Rep. Harper were chosen for the 2011 Legislator Recognition Award for their ongoing dedication and outstanding efforts to further the activities of local conservation districts or PACD on a statewide basis.
            Sen. Scarnati has taken on many important issues related to the protection of our environment and natural resources, as well as a champion for the conservation districts. The Senator proposed a bill which included a bold local impact fee on Marcellus Shale. The impact fee, if approved, will ensure that Pennsylvania’s environment is protected both now and in the future by providing a dedicated funding stream to local governments, as well as the conservation districts.
            Rep. Harper has always been a strong supporter of natural resource conservation and Pennsylvania’s conservation districts. Realizing the value of the conservation districts, Representative Harper recently introduced legislation that provides for a natural gas severance tax, with a portion of the revenue to go to conservation districts. Her ongoing support of the districts has proven fruitful to the future of our natural resources and conservation efforts.
            Emily Kuhn, York County: A student at Penn State University Park, Ms. Kuhn was awarded the Auxiliary Scholarship to assist with her future goals of becoming a secondary agricultural educator. 
            Ms. Kuhn began taking college courses while attending high school, enrolled in various summer courses that will allow her to expedite her education and spend only three full years attending Penn State and graduate in spring of 2012. Ms. Kuhn is studying Agricultural Extension Education with a production option, which will allow her to become a secondary agricultural teacher.
            For more information on Conservation District activities, visit the PACD website.


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