By Katrina Stacey
In Hopkins County, Kentucky, where gully and sheet erosion are common natural resource concerns, the Hopkins County Conservation District has utilized NACD Technical Assistance Grants to address a backlog in completing survey and design projects related to those and other natural resource issues. Through its first grant, the district was able to bring on Jessie Baldwin as a technician to provide technical assistance and serve as a friendly face for landowners coming into the office.
Baldwin has been a big help in getting Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contracts completed. In 2020 alone, Baldwin had her hands on over 130 CRP and 85 EQIP contracts.
Baldwin’s assistance comes in many forms, including field visits, survey designs, light detection and ranging (LIDAR), paperwork and job chutes. “Our work unit has lost a few people over the past couple of years,” said Kelly Bennett, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) soil conservationist. “What Jessie did was invaluable, as she freed up some other people to do other work.”
To address gully erosion concerns, the conservation district implements a lot of water and sediment control basins. “They’re little basins with dams that store water for a little bit,” Bennett said. “It gets the water underneath the ground and off of the field.” This practice is heavily favored in the area because individuals can crop across them. Baldwin is a huge help with the implementation of these basins, as she utilizes LIDAR to assess the land’s topography to better assess where and how to implement the basins.
Baldwin has also assisted with various outreach events to discuss resource concerns. In May 2019, she assisted with a middle school outreach event, where students visited a park and learned about different water quality issues surrounding the nearby lake. “There were probably about 150 students there that day, and they really got into the event,” said Debbie Boyd, the district’s administrative secretary.
“If it hadn’t been for the NACD and NRCS partnership, there would be no way that we would have been able to hire someone,” Boyd said. “We would have needed to use our income for her payroll, and that doesn’t really leave much for our other projects. So, if not for NACD and NRCS, this would not have been possible.”