HANOVERTON, Ohio — The Columbiana Soil and Water Conservation District spotlighted the diversity of its programming and assistance during its annual meeting Nov. 3 at United Local High School.
Richard Berg, owner of Pancake Tree Farm in Middleton Township, was named Cooperator of the Year.
Berg has worked with the local SWCD ever since buying the property in 1993 to improve the woodland that SWCD Program Coordinator Pete Conkle called an “inaccessible jungle” because of its steep topography.
Because of his early collaboration with the district, he received its Outstanding Woodland Owner award in 1999, and Berg has continually worked to improve access roads in his now Certified Tree Farm, usually hand-off loading and loading gravel into an all-terrain vehicle to transport it. He’s also worked to improve drainage from those improved trails and roads, to minimize sediment runoff into the nearby North Fork of Middle Beaver Creek, which abuts his property.
In 2001, he created a conservation easement through the SWCD on a hillside portion adjacent to the creek.
Berg has completed timber stand improvement measures on the woodland, including plantings of American chestnut trees, crop tree release, and grapevine control measures on all 132 acres
“If anybody ever deserves this conservation award, it’s Mr. Berg,” Conkle said. “Every day, he wants to make an improvement.”
Conkle, along with Watershed Coordinator Josh Emanuelson and Wildlife/Forestry Specialist Jason Reynolds, recapped the Columbiana SWCD’s work over past 12 months.
The district works with landowners or other entities on a variety of natural resources conservation practices, and works closely with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service personnel Scott Kenreich, district conservationist, and Drue Kovick, civil engineering technician, on plan designs and cost-share programs.
They’ve worked with six landowners to attain Environmental Quality Incentives Program contracts, including four livestock practices, one forestry and one grazing practice. There are currently 15 active contracts in the county, establishing conservation practices.
The district has also worked to develop educational events with the Eastern Ohio Grazing Council, and the Crop Production Partnership with Mahoning County, and participated in the annual Highlandtown Outdoor Education Days. The district also reached more than 650 students in 17 educational programs.
Wildlife Specialist Jason Reynolds also works with landowners on nuisance wildlife damage control, as well as nuisance Canada geese control. These calls were up from last year, Reynolds said, and he worked with private pond and lake owners as well as a public park to rid locations where the geese population ranged from 100-150 head.
Emanuelson helped coordinate a cleanup of a dump site at Hellbender Bluff in Madison Township, which drew 40 volunteers who cleared nearly 2 ton of trash from a steep, streamside site, including 97 tires and a cut-up hot tub.
And speaking of hellbenders, Emanuelson said the annual survey found the first eastern hellbender, an endangered species in Ohio, in an artificially created habitat, and through the Ohio Hellbender Partnership, collected 51 eggs which will be raised in captivity at the Toledo Zoo and released back in the wild in southeastern Ohio. Emanuelson was also instrumental in writing five grants for $66,450 for watershed protection and education.
The Columbiana SWCD is led by a five-member board of landowner supervisors. Brady Baker and Bryan Hays, both of Hanover Township, were re-elected to the board at the Nov. 3 meeting. Rounding out the supervisor board are Jeremy Kohler, Elton Lowmiller and Jack Moore.
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