2023 Annual Meeting Breakout Sessions

NACD offers the opportunity to host breakout sessions during the Annual Meeting. These informational breakout sessions focus on the work of conservation districts and their partners across the country. Sessions run 30-45 minutes long and often showcase several speakers. NACD’s breakout sessions are some of the most popular activities among meeting attendees.

The four themes for this year’s breakout sessions are:

  • Natural Resource Management & Climate Resilience
  • District Operations & Developing Next-Gen Conservationists
  • Equity, Access, & Outreach
  • Conservation Planning & Customer Service Training

Information regarding this year’s breakout sessions can be found here as it becomes confirmed. 

Monday, February 13 | 2:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Natural Resource Management & Climate Resilience Building Regenerative Agriculture Finance Programs Aimed to Scale Across the Great Lakes

How might conservation districts and their partners build projects with a clear path to scale regenerative agriculture practice adoption beyond the local community? This session will reflect on this question through the example of the Cornell Atkinson project, Transition Financing for Regenerative Agriculture. After an explanation of the project’s innovation process, from research to impact and the launch of a pay for outcomes pilot, a diverse panel of stakeholders will discuss potential opportunities for how collaboration was key to the project’s success, how others might partner, and key insights from the project that will help other conservation districts across the country increase the adoption of regenerative farming practices.

Presenters: Alan Martinez, Cornell University; Annica McGuirk, NE Region Representative, NACD; Sam Casella, President, NY NYACD

District Operations & Developing Next-Gen Conservationists Next-Gen Engagement: National RC&D Intern Program

The National RC&D Intern Program focuses on providing collegiate interns with a conservation career overview, conservation career shadowing opportunities with their local RC&D Council, Conservation District, and NRCS office, in addition to providing leadership development through one-on-one mentorship and soft skill training. This session will explore this program and how it provides opportunities for growing conservation careers.

Presenter: Colton Buckley, NARCDC Executive Director

Equity, Access, & Outreach DEI in Context: Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Conservation Districts Through Tailored Organizational Assessments

In this session, learn about how the Vermont Conservation District worked with a team of masters students out of the University of Michigan to conduct a Delphi survey and develop a DEI tool kit catered to the needs of the conservation districts. By the time of the this session in February, all 14 districts throughout Vermont will have utilized this toolkit with their boards and staff. The presenters will provide an overview of the research involved in creating a DEI Self-Assessment Tool and accompanying guide for the Vermont Conservation Districts to be used annually, and how it can be replicated to fit the context of other districts across the country.

Presenters: Jennifer Byrne, White River Conservation District Manager

Conservation Planning & Customer Service Training Watershed Planning with Ohio’s Caesar Creek Collaborative

The Caesar Creek Collaborative is a group of local agencies, university partners, community organizations, agricultural producers, residents, and volunteers whose mission is to improve and maintain the water quality and soil health of the Caesar Creek Watershed and the surrounding region in Ohio.Join this session to learn about the Agriculture Conservation Planning Framework and Ohio EPA Nine-Element Nonpoint Source Implementation Strategies to guide efforts to connect with land owners, identify conservation projects, obtain funding, and effect change in the watershed. This presentation will showcase an extensive outreach plan, 9 completed NPS-IS plans, interactive ACPF data map, annual outreach event “Pickin’ in the Park”, and the establishment of an on farm research site where we will monitor the effectiveness of traditional vs cascading grass waterways.

Presenter: Amanda McKay, Greene SWCD District Director


Monday, February 13 | 3:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Natural Resource Management & Climate Resilience California Conservation Planning Partnership

This session will discuss the formation and work of the California Conservation Planning Partnership. Working off the national NCPP MOA, California developed a state MOA focused on technical assistance. Key partners involved with the MOA include California Department of Food and Ag, University of CA Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, California Association of Conservation Districts, and NRCS.

Presenter: Carlos Suarez, CA NRCS State Conservationist; Don Butz, California Association of Resource Conservation Districts Board President

District Operations & Developing Next-Gen Conservationists Leadership and Conservation Development

North Carolina works on the adult and student level to promote careers and leadership in conservation. This presentation will spotlight one program for each level in our break out session. For the adults, NC offers leadership training for Conservation Supervisors, staff and interested parties who seek to serve in a conservation leadership role. On the student side, hear about the Resource Conservation Workshop; a week-long event where students are brought to the field to do job related activities and interact with resource professionals associated with various careers in conservation.

Presenter: Bryan Evans, NC Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts; Vernon Cox, NCDA&CS Division of Soil & Water Conservation Director

Equity, Access, & Outreach Finding Forgotten Seedlings

When expanding your program’s reach, what do you do when the contact information you need is outdated or simply not available? Using the New Castle Conservation District’s “Community Agriculture Resource Review” project as a case study, audience members will learn about the numerous outreach strategies they used to reconnect with and find new local urban growers. In this session, hear about lessons learned for implementing both digital and physical methods that could be applied in any setting in any District.

Presenters: Madison Walter, New Castle Conservation District Urban Agriculture Coordinator

Conservation Planning & Customer Service Training Locally Led Water Banking to Protect Irrigation Water

In this session, the presenters will explore how Okanogan Conservation District (WA) is leading efforts to develop a locally controlled water bank in partnership with Okanogan County, Washington Department of Ecology and other partners. The purpose of the bank is to provide an alternative water management program that grass-roots led and managed. The operation of the bank will help combat the commodification of water rights to help ensure the long-term sustainability of agriculture and local communities.

Presenter: Lorah Super Okanogan Conservation District Supervisor; Craig Nelson Okanogan Conservation District Executive Director


Monday, February 13 | 4:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Natural Resource Management & Climate Resilience Participating in Eco-Harvest by ESMC – an Ecosystem Services Market Program

This session will provide attendees an overview of ESMC’s Eco-Harvest market program for carbon and ecosystem services. Presenters will review current eligible practices, crops, and regions for producer participation and will discuss current market and pilot projects. The presentation will include a panel to discuss opportunities for producers to participate in Scope 3 agricultural supply chain markets, highlighting the benefits for both producers and food and beverage companies.

Presenter: Jack Jeworski, ESMC Director of Product and Business Development

District Operations & Developing Next-Gen Conservationists Conservation Crusaders: An Education Partnership

Learn about Conservation Crusaders, an outdoor education day camp for children 5 to 12! Warrick Soil and Water Conservation District has partnered with several people, corporations and the community to successfully provide fun, educational activities centered around soil, water and habitats for our community. The partnerships we have made through our volunteers, business and towns have strengthen our role in our county and allowed us to reach non-traditional partners to spread education and conservation.

Presenter: Holly McCutchan, Warrick County Soil and Water Conservation District Executive Director; Whitney Buechler, Warrick County Soil and Water Conservation District Natural Resource Specialist

Equity, Access, & Outreach The NAD Appeals Process

In this session, learn about the USDA National Appeals Division (NAD) Appeals Process. The NAD provides a free appeals service for NRCS program participants who are denied the chance to participate in NRCS programs such as EQIP, etc. Appellants do not need a lawyer and are entitled to a free hearing before a licensed Administrative Judge in their state of residence.

Presenter: Tezra O. Woody, JD., Regional Director of the Southern Region/USDA National Appeals Division

Conservation Planning & Customer Service Training NCPP Project 13 – Open Source Software

NCPP has been working on several related topics in support of the Local Work Group (LWG) process. Data capture of the LWG input is the vital next step. This is needed to craft the framework by which data would be gathered through the locally led conservation process. Another key piece of the framework is the ability to aggregate and disaggregate data so that the information we collect and use to make decisions is relevant, actionable, and accessible at the local, state, and national levels and the entirety of the partnership.

Presenter: NCPP Project 13 – Open Source Software Project Leads Chad Cherefko, NRCS; and Dorn Cox, NACD


Monday, February 13 | 4:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Natural Resource Management & Climate Resilience How Districts Can Leverage Advances in Technology to Provide Climate Smart Agriculture Insights to Producers

This session will include a facilitated panel discussion to bring together perspectives from an advanced technology provider (HabiTerre), a conservation district representative and producer, and the national perspective on programmatic approaches (NACD) to address how we can work together to support farmers with climate smart agriculture and emerging carbon markets. This panel would address how new technologies like HabiTerre’s could best be deployed to democratize information about climate impacts and carbon market opportunities by providing relevant insights while also limiting barriers to engagement like extensive data gathering requirements and/or carbon market commitments.

Presenters: Nick Reinke, HabiTerre CEO; Dr. Kaiyu Guan, HabiTerre Founder and Science Lead; Jen Nelligan, NACD CPO

District Operations & Developing Next-Gen Conservationists Listening to Landowners: The Value of the Mancos Conservation District

Local landowners recently shared stories with the Mancos Conservation District about the history of MCD, how MCD projects have been valuable to them, and how MCD makes a difference to landowners in the Mancos Valley. By listening to these landowners’ stories, we discovered that while each landowner experienced unique benefits, interviewees frequently valued the connections to education, community, funding and project-specific expertise that MCD provides. The story of the Mancos Conservation District helps us to understand our past as a district, which enables us to anchor our organization in the present and helps create a vision for how we can continue to support local landowners far into the future.

Presenter: Sensa Wolcott, Mancos Conservation District Watershed Coordinator

Equity, Access, & Outreach Non-operating Landowners: An increasing population hungry for knowledge to assist in critical management decisions

When survey results indicated 60% of South Dakota’s agriculture land is owned by those who do not operate it, our conservation partnership realized it became apparent that a key decision making demographic was not being reached. In this session, learn about how over the past three years, a NOLO (non-operating landowner) outreach program has been implemented with positive response.

Presenters: Angela Ehlers, SD Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director

Conservation Planning & Customer Service Training NCPP Project 12 – Local Work Group

The local working group process exists to provide the Partnership recommendations on resource priorities and activities. In the past, these groups have provided direct input to NRCS on priority resource issues and practices best suited to address them for funding on a local, state, and national level. Local working groups are a key pathway for producers to communicate with partners. Current local working groups are not meeting this need due to a lack of clear direction, time commitment, and follow through at all levels.

Presenters: Dick Went, NASCA; David Williams, NASCA; Sarah Tunge, NCDEA; John Wilson, NRCS; Melanie Shull, NACD


Tuesday, February 14 | 1:30 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.
Natural Resource Management & Climate Resilience Conservation Delivery in Partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

This session will showcase how the voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) restore fish and wildlife habitat, contribute to climate resilience, and help sustain working lands. The program will include an overview of the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife (Partners) Program and Coastal Program followed by a panel of Service biologists, landowners and other partners who will present examples of projects benefiting priority fish and wildlife species and their habitats with a focus on how the projects also improve climate resiliency and support landowner’s management objectives.

Presenters: John Huffman, Matt Filsinger, Dave Walker

District Operations & Developing Next-Gen Conservationists Maximizing Total Compensation to Retain and Motivate Talented Employees

This session will explore creative options available to Districts for enhancing their total compensation packages to better retain and motivate talented employees. Key concepts covered will include effective organizational change management strategies and total compensation packages, while demonstrating how both can improve employee motivation and increase overall employee retention. Specific examples will be presented and time will be provided for open discussion and Q&A.

Presenter: Douglas M. Beri Jr, Indiana County Conservation District Executive Director

Equity, Access, & Outreach E Pluribus unum – Building and Leading a Diverse Team

In a quickly diversifying United States, we see historically underserved populations and communities taking interest in Conservation Districts and Programs. For us to serve these communities better we must first take an internal look at our District and ourselves. We must ask the question of whether our offices genuinely reflect the communities we serve. Learn practical approaches to build and engage a diverse District that can serve a diverse community.

Presenter: John Nelson, Hamilton County Conservation District Executive Director

Conservation Planning & Customer Service Training Success in the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program

Session providing examples of Conservation District involvement and success in the USDA Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program ( FSCP ). The majority of these pilot programs are managed by the Conservation Partnership in each state and delivered at the Conservation District level by District employees to the producer. The session will provide information and success stories in three areas… 1. Program Management, 2. Field Operations, 3. Data Collection and Management.

Presenter: Bill Simshauser, NACD Invasive Species RPG Chair; Lisa Knauf-Owen; Theron Phillips; Ashley Henderson


Tuesday, February 14 | 2:15 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Natural Resource Management & Climate Resilience Innovations in Managing Soil Water Resources to Optimize Climate Resilience, Environmental Results, Soil Health, and Crop Production

Science-based management of soil water resources by producers is essential to optimize climate resilience, achieve desired environmental results, improve soil health, and enhance production in cropland settings. Approximately 180 to 200 million U.S. cropland acres are either poorly drained and have pattern tile-drainage systems or are sandy with rapid permeability and little water retention, resulting in constrained crop production vulnerable to climate change impacts including too much or too little soil water, especially during critical crop growth periods. Innovative, scientifically proven, cost-effective, and practical technologies are now ready for producer adoption on a widespread basis to actively manage their soil water resources through automated drainage water management and subirrigation on tile-drained cropland and through thin water retention polymer membranes mechanically installed in a cascading arrangement below the tillage depth in sandy soils.

Presenters: Dr. Alvin J.M. Smucker, Steve Law, Charlie Schafer, Keegan Kult, and Tom Christensen

District Operations & Developing Next-Gen Conservationists Strategies to Engage, Educate, Recruit, and Retain Next-Gen Conservationists

The future of U.S. natural resources and ecosystems conservation depends on each District developing and adopting strategies centered around engaging, educating, recruiting, and retaining the Next-Gen of Conservationists. Structured conservation educational experiences, activities, and local explorations targeted toward youths of all ages will increase understanding, and appreciation while conveying the significance of our country’s natural resources. This interactive session engages participants in critical thinking to explore proven strategies, existing resources, and collaborative opportunities to encourage and support conservation, responsible use, and informed decision-making relative to preserving our natural resources.

Presenter: Diana Collingwood, VI Dept. of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner

Equity, Access, & Outreach Using the Fieldprint Platform to Measure the Environmental Impacts of Your Conservation Outreach

This session will equip district conservationists with tools to assess the impacts of their work with commodity crop producers on biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions and water quality, and other environmental metrics using the free, online Fieldprint Calculator, Participants will also learn about opportunities to connect the growers they serve with supply chain sustainability projects that may offer incentives to growers.

Presenters: Greg Pilchak, Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture Project Manager; Kelly Murray Young, Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture Senior Manager of Education and DEI

Conservation Planning & Customer Service Training Soil Health, Resources, Assessment, and Management Centering Soil Health: Innovative Drivers to Effective Transition

Delta Institute, along with the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District and The Conservation Fund, successfully developed and executed a pilot program that offered incentives for Illinois farmers to implement soil health practices under a “pay-for-outcomes” model. The Soil Health Incentive Program (SHIP) provided framework, technical support, and financial incentives to farmers interested in mitigating climate change through implementation of conservation management practices. This presentation will share the outcomes of SHIP and what the project team learned during its implementation.

Presenters: Bill Schleizer, Delta Institute CEO; Ivan Dozier, Champagne County Soil & Water Conservation District Resource Conservationist


Tuesday, February 14 | 3:30 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.
Natural Resource Management & Climate Resilience One Water: Collaborations to Protect Water from Source to Sea

Upstream, downstream, or on the coast, we are all connected by One Water. Learn about collaborations among conservation districts and partners to protect watersheds by conserving natural and working lands and the important ecosystem services they provide. Gather ideas for community outreach and partnerships and hear from NACD about this year’s One Water Stewardship Week materials.

Presenters: Timothy Allen, Apache Louisiana Minerals LLC and NACD Coastal Resource Policy Group Member; Britt Paul, NRCS Louisiana Assistant State Conservationist/Water Res. & Rural Dev.; Clare Lindahl, Soil and Water Conservation Society CEO; Keith Owen, NACD Director of Education

District Operations & Developing Next-Gen Conservationists TBD
Equity, Access, & Outreach TBD
Conservation Planning & Customer Service Training Creating a Planning Process for Strategic Watershed Opportunities

The Allegheny County Conservation District (ACCD) evaluated and then ranked watersheds based on need and workability in three categories; community and ecological condition and existing programming. Within the highest ranked watersheds, each municipality was contacted and surveyed for opportunities, thereby providing evidence by which to base conservation district programming and projects. Early engagement results suggest that MS4 compliance, stormwater improvements, and new funding opportunities are needed for the regions’ municipalities.

Presenter: Erin Copeland, Allegheny County Conservation District Assistant Director


Tuesday, February 14 | 4:15 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Natural Resource Management & Climate Resilience District Success Stories in Meeting Ground Water Challenges

Four conservation districts from around the US will share lessons learned and success stories from their implementation of innovative groundwater management and conservation. Speakers will address topics related to water use and quantity as well as projects focused on groundwater quality.

Presenters: Pete Hunter, Coahoma County SWCD; Harold Crose, Grant County SWCD; Mark Masters, Lower Chattahoochee SWCD

District Operations & Developing Next-Gen Conservationists Modernizing Stream Permits (and other forms) through Gilly

The Gallatin Conservation District recently launched an online platform, Gilly, for submitting stream permit applications. Learn more about the platform through this session! Making this switch will help standardize and streamline the application process. Gilly also has a mapping feature that allows the public to search for new and old permits online.

Presenter: Sydney Lyons, Gallatin Conservation District Education and Outreach Director; Elizabeth Emeline, Gallatin Conservation District Natural Resource Specialist; Becky Clements, Gallatin Conservation District Administrator

Equity, Access, & Outreach Resources to Advance Districts in DEI, Conservation Planning and Technical Assistance

The Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) is the premier international organization for professionals who practice and advance the science and art of natural resource conservation. Our goal is to cultivate an organization of informed, dynamic individuals whose contributions create a bright future for agriculture, the environment, and society. Districts are at the center of this and our work includes them! During this presentation, SWCS will highlight resources that can be utilized and emulated by Districts across the nation including 1) The Conservation Practitioners Poll, completed with assistance from NACD, to discover the barriers and opportunities of conservation implementation in the Upper Mississippi River Basin, 2) Conservation Technology Blue Ribbon Panels, held with support from NRCS, these panels show how districts can use new technologies in the field to scale up conservation and 3) A Conservation Professionals’ Guide to Diversity, Equitable and Inclusive Conservation Delivery Among the Historically Underserved, an actionable document to assist districts in having a broader reach. Other resources available to District elected officials and staff will be shared as well.

Presenter: Clare Lindahl, Soil and Water Conservation Society CEO

Conservation Planning & Customer Service Training ConserveAZ Portal – Facilitating Districtwide Planning

The Arizona Association of Conservation Districts (AACD) is coordinating the creation of resource needs assessments (RNA) and conservation action plans (CAP) for all conservation districts in Arizona with support from NRCS. These plans are based on resource information for each district in an online data portal developed by AACD and input from local workgroups and federal or state agencies. The plans will document resource concerns, priorities for conservation practices, previous work, need for additional assessment and studies, and possible funding sources, and will be continually updated as new information becomes available or policies and funding sources change.

Presenter: Deborrah Smith, AACD Executive Director

Last updated Jan. 3, 2022

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