NACD Honors National Award Winners at 76th Annual Meeting


February 15, 2022

Rebecca Cisco | 202.595.9052

NACD Honors National Award
Winners at 76th Annual Meeting

ORLANDO – Today, National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) recognized winners of its national service awards at the association’s 76th Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL.

NACD President Michael Crowder, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservationist for the Southeast James Tillman, and National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) President Spencer Chase presented the President’s Award, Hugh Hammond Bennett Conservation Planner Award, Hugh Hammond Bennett Conservation Producer Award, Olin Sims Award, National Conservation Districts Employee Association Awards, Friend of Conservation Award, and Distinguished Service Award to recipients during the meeting’s closing event.

The Hugh Hammond Bennett Awards for Conservation Excellence were established by the National Conservation Planning Partnership (NCPP) to honor the legacy of Hugh Hammond Bennett by recognizing conservation planners and producers who have exemplified outstanding conservation service.  The awards are presented to one conservation planner and one conservation producer who demonstrate commitment to conservation planning, pioneering new approaches to conservation planning, advance soil health adoption, and civic engagement.

The Hugh Hammond Bennett Conservation Planner Award was presented to Ling He of Livermore, CA. An NRCS Rangeland Management Specialist, He has played a crucial role in conservation planning in California.  Her rangeland management and botany skills have been extremely valuable in assessing resources concerns and developing effective conservation solutions on a wide range of landscapes.  Additionally, He provides translation support for Chinese producers and workshops in her area, as well as to Asian producers applying for the Coronavirus Food Assistance program.

The Hugh Hammond Bennett Conservation Producer Award was presented to Guy Choiniere of Choiniere Family Farm in St. Albans, VT. Choiniere has worked closely with NRCS and the Vermont Conservation Partnership for nearly 20 years protect and improve his organic, grass-fed dairy.  His whole-farm approach to conservation includes prescribed grazing, reduced tillage, and a manure storage system that protect water quality.

The Olin Sims Conservation Leadership Award was established in partnership between NACD and NRCS, and is presented to an individual, district, or organization that has gone above and beyond in promotion of conservation on private lands.  A rancher from McFadden, WY, Sims was a longstanding leader in NACD who dedicated his life to volunteer service to conservation.  The award serves as a testament to the memory and legacy of Sims.

The Olin Sims Award was presented to Bryce Wrigley of Delta Junction, AK. Concerned by the lack of food security in Alaska, Wrigley established a mill that produces barley flour and other barley-sourced food products sold at grocery stores across the state under the “Alaska Grown” emblem.  Wrigley is an NACD Soil Health Champion, the District Manager for the Salcha-Delta Soil and Water Conservation District and has previously served as President of the Alaska Farm Bureau.  In these roles he has innovated his region of the state through the adoption of soil health farming practices and precision agriculture technologies, championed voluntary conservation projects, and organized an Alaska Food Security Conference which later evolved into the Alaska Food Policy Council that focuses on addressing food security challenges and solution in Alaska, respectively.

The Friends of Conservation Award recognizes a person or group who has left an impact on conservation work.

The Friends of Conservation Award was presented to Robbie Faust of Bellflower Farms in Dawson, GA. Faust and his family prioritize soil health on their 1,800-acre farm that includes strip-till and no-till, cover crops, terraces, grassed waterways, and low-pressure drop nozzles.  Faust entered into a partnership with the Lower Chattahoochee Soil and Water Conservation District, Golden Triangle Resource Conservation and Development Council, University of George Extension, and NRCS to participate in a multi-year cover crop outreach and education project which hosts field days on the research and demonstration plots created through the project.

The NACD Distinguished Service Award recognizes someone who has made significant contributions to the conservation of natural resources.

The Distinguished Service Award was presented to Hans Lawaetz of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. A conservation leader in the U.S. Virgin Island for more than 50 years, Lawaetz helped in the founding of the Virgin Islands Conservation District in 1965.  He has served in a variety of roles with the conservation district, including President and Chairman, and helped pass and approve the “Earth Change Law” which mandated permits before any earth movement occurred with heavy machinery.

The President’s Award, given yearly by NACD’s President to an individual or organization that has been especially dedicated to advancing conservation during the president’s term, was given to Kim LaFleur, NACD President-Elect from Plympton, Massachusetts.

Robert Harrison of Cullman County Soil and Water Conservation District in Alabama and Hope Daley of Jefferson Davis County Soil and Water Conservation District in Mississippi were also recognized as recipients of the National Conservation Districts Employee Association Award for Outstanding Conservation District Board Member and Outstanding Conservation District Professional, respectively.

During the Tuesday General Session, NRCS Chief Terry Cosby and NACD President Michael Crowder presented Montgomery Soil Conservation District from Derwood, MD with the NACD + NRCS Earth Team Award.

About the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD)

The National Association of Conservation Districts is the nonprofit organization that represents the nearly 3,000 conservation districts across the United States, their state and territory associations, and the 17,000 men and women who serve on their governing boards. For more than 75 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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