NACD Announces Conservation Award Winners

CONTACT: Stephanie Addison
(202) 547-6223; stephanie-addison[at]

CONTACT: Sara Kangas
(202) 547-6223; sara-kangas[at]


January 31, 2018


NASHVILLE, TN. — Last night, the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) honored conservation leaders from across the country during the organization’s 72nd Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

The first award of the night was the inaugural Hugh Hammond Bennett Excellence in Conservation Award, received by Dorn Cox of Lee, N.H. Cox serves as a county supervisor and vice-chair of the Strafford County Conservation District and is vice president of the New Hampshire Association of Conservation Districts. Cox is a NACD Soil Health Champion, a pioneer of the Resource Stewardship Evaluation Tool (RSET), and emphasizes conservation outreach and education efforts.

The NACD/NRCS Olin Sims Conservation Leadership Award is presented annually to an individual, district or organization that has gone above and beyond in promoting conservation on private lands. This year’s award was presented by Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Acting Chief Leonard Jordan to Kris Swartz of Wood Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).

Swartz is a fifth-generation farmer from Perrysburg, Ohio. He and his wife, Sue, operate a 2,000-acre farm in Wood County where they grow soybeans, corn and wheat. Swartz is the past president of the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (OFSWCD). Under his leadership, Ohio became one of the leading states in adding Soil Health Champions to NACD’s Soil Health Champion Network.

The NACD Friend of Conservation Award recognizes an individual, business, organization or agency for outstanding contributions to conserving our nation’s natural resources. NACD Past President Gene Schmidt presented this year’s award to Case IH and Patricia Lardie.

Lardie is the Manager of Government Sales for Case IH Agriculture and has been instrumental in cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship between NACD and Case IH. Over the past six years, Case IH has contributed large power tractor hours to NACD’s Live Auction. Those proceeds go directly to support NACD education and outreach for conservation.

NACD’s Distinguished Service award recognizes someone who has made significant contributions to the conservation of our natural resources. This year’s winner is Ken Leiting of the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts (NMACD) of Rio Ranch, N.M.

Over the past 13 years, Leiting’s work through “Restore New Mexico” is recognized as one of the main reasons the New Mexico Partnership has been able to restore over 3.3 million acres of grassland.

The NACD President’s Award was presented to Debbie Hughes, executive director of the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts (NMACD).

Hughes has dedicated her career to preserving water quality and keeping drought mitigation at the forefront of New Mexico’s natural resource priorities. Hughes was instrumental in helping NMACD secure grant funding through the USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to fund conservation initiatives to revitalize private ranches, federally-owned rangelands, acequias and forest soil health.

Earlier that day, NRCS Acting Chief Jordan and NACD President Brent Van Dyke presented Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in Indiana with the 2017 Earth Team Award.

For more information on NACD’s annual awards, visit the NACD Awards webpage.


About the National Association of Conservation Districts:

The National Association of Conservation Districts is the non-profit organization that represents the nation’s 3,000 conservation districts, their state and territory associations, and the 17,000 men and women who serve on their governing boards. For more than 70 years, local conservation districts have worked with cooperating landowners and managers of private working lands to help them plan and apply effective conservation practices. For more information about NACD, visit:

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