WINTERSVILLE, Ohio — Eight years ago, Eugene Battlochi decided to improve water quality and reduce soil erosion on his Ross Township farm in Jefferson County. He turned to local conservation agencies for help and since then, the beef farmer has installed fencing, water systems, an access road and livestock use protection area to safeguard environmentally sensitive areas on his property.
A managed grazing system has improved the pastures and a brush management plan helps control multiflora rose. Also, crop tree release and grapevine control has helped improve timber stand quality.
Battlochi’s hard work has earned him the title of 2008 Conservation Farmer of the Year from the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District.
The district honored the farmer, along with several other individuals, at its 65th annual meeting Oct. 28.
Brandon Pendleton is the district’s Conservation Teacher of the Year. An environmental science teacher at Indian Creek High School, Pendleton has developed a way for students to help with the district’s programming. Pendleton’s students assist with the district’s Fernwood State Forest Outdoor Days event, where the youth help 600 fifth graders hike the forest’s trails.
Pendleton is also an Envirothon adviser. Envirothon is a competition that tests students’ knowledge of soil, water management, forestry, wildlife and environmental issues. As an adviser, Pendleton guides teams of students as they prepare for the contests.
The Distinguished Service Award went to the Steel Valley Loggers chapter of the Ohio Forestry Association. Since the group was formed in 2000, members have helped at local field days, landowner training and state tours focused on the timber industry. The group has also donated park benches to the community and supports the Envirothon and local Agriculture and Natural Resources Expo.
Tom Perrin received special recognition for his work in the district. Working for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, he became the county’s district conservationist in 1986. Perrin held the position for 18 years before being promoted to area conservationist, then to assistant state conservationist for programs. Today, he is the Kentucky state conservationist.
The village of Mingo Junction, Ohio, received recognition for joining the county’s Urban Stormwater Consortium.
Eldridge Novak and James Slater were elected to the district’s board of supervisors.
Guest speaker Sean Logan, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, told the crowd that the key to Ohio’s economic success is a balance between conservation and development.
“It’s the difference between making progress quickly and making progress recklessly,” he said.
By finding that balance, the department can preserve the state’s natural heritage while making it a better place to live.
“Our mandate is to keep Ohio working and growing while recognizing that our land, water and air can only give so much and recover so quickly,” said Logan, a former Columbiana County commissioner.
The competition for jobs and businesses can be fierce and Ohio is out to win, Logan said. But that doesn’t mean the state will sacrifice its environment. A good economy and a good environment can go hand-in-hand.
Environmental issues are becoming increasingly important as new graduates and other job seekers look for companies that promote awareness and responsibility for air and water. But it doesn’t stop there — bankers, neighbors, customers and others who decide where to invest private money also look for states and business that take care of their natural resources.
“The people that make up our competitive edge, they believe it’s important,” Logan said.
Because of the growing concern for the environment, the director emphasized that conservation is now tightly linked with competition.
“Viewed from any perspective, our competitive position, our economic and social health, cannot be separated from the health of our air, water and soil,” Logan said.