NACD Honors National Award Winners at 77th Annual Meeting


February 15, 2023

Terrence Curtiss

NACD Honors National Award Winners at 77th Annual Meeting

New Orleans, LA – Yesterday, the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) recognized winners of its national service awards at the association’s 77th Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA.

The following awards were presented to recipients during the meetings closing event:

National Conservation Planning Partnership Co-Chairs Melissa Higbee and Astor Boozer presented the Hugh Hammond Bennett Conservation Planner Award, and Hugh Hammond Bennett Conservation Producer Awards. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Terry Cosby and NACD Immediate Past President Michael Crowder presented the Olin Sims Award. NACD Immediate Past President Michael Crowder presented the Friend of Conservation Award, the Distinguished Service Award, the President’s Award, and the NACD President’s Appreciation of Service to Conservation Award. National Conservation District Employees Association (NCDEA) President Melissa Higbee and NCDEA Executive Director Tim Riley presented the National Conservation Districts Employee Association Awards.

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. This award is presented to one conservation planner and one conservation producer who demonstrate their commitment to conservation planning, pioneer new approaches to planning, and advance soil health adoption through civic engagement.

The Hugh Hammond Bennett Conservation Planner Award was presented to Pamela Pavek of Moscow, ID. As the NRCS Resource Conservationist in the Moscow Field Office, Pavek is a leader in expanding conservation adoption throughout the community. She leads trainings and provides numerous presentations, lectures, and learning opportunities for new conservationists and the public. She is also the author of numerous publications and continually goes above and beyond in her conservation planning.

The Hugh Hammond Bennett Conservation Producer Award was presented to Charles Holmes of Marion, AL. Holmes was an early adopter of soil health practices. Even as a young man, he recognized the value of healthy soil because of the examples his predecessors set on his family farm. Conservation is his personal mission, and he has worked tirelessly to improve and promote natural resources stewardship. Holmes has dedicated his life to serving the west Alabama community where he was born.

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 to promote private lands conservation.  Sims, a rancher from McFadden, WY, was a longstanding leader in NACD who dedicated his life to volunteer service and conservation.  The award serves as a testament to the memory and legacy of Sims.

The Olin Sims Award was presented to Wade Troutman of Bridgeport, WA. Troutman is a prominent conservation leader in the state of Washington. He has served on his local conservation district board, and in various positions with the Washington Association of Conservation Districts and NACD. Troutman actively manages his farm to protect sage grouse habitat. More than 30% of the land he farms is left in its natural condition, which provides cover and food for the sage groups grouse and countless other species. He has, and continues to be, an inspiration and mentor to innumerable leaders at the local, state, and national levels.

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

The Friends of Conservation Award was presented to Brian Ponder of Tifton, GA.  Ponder is a fourth-generation famer and co-owner of Pond-O-Gold Farms. Brian and his brother grow cotton, peanut, watermelon, and corn on 3,000 acres. Ponder truly embodies a commitment to conservation. He utilizes terraces and waterways to reduce erosion, grows cover crops on his peanut and cotton fields, and conserves water with irrigation systems. Ponder understands the need to care for the land and takes that to heart when making decisions on the farm.

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 Brian Sneeringer of Gettysburg, PA. For over 30 years, Sneeringer has been a Conservation District leader in no-till and the implementation of conservation practices. His well-established reputation with the farm community allows him to have 1 on 1 discussions with local farmers, where he challenges them to think outside the box and try new and innovative techniques. He is an innovator, leader, mentor, and outstanding example of a high performing conservation professional.

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 Larry Davis of Washington. The NACD President’s Appreciation of Service to Conservation Award was presented to Ray McCormick.

Stephen Coleman of Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District in Kentucky and Lynn Carey of Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District in Tennessee 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.

Also during the NACD Appreciation Banquet, the leaders of National Conservation Planning Partnership presented the first ever Rich Duesterhaus Lifetime Achievement Award to its namesake, Rich Duesterhaus. This award recognizes exceptional dedication and commitment to a career serving with the conservation partnership.

On Monday, during the Leadership Luncheon, Charles Holmes of Alabama and Donald Wells of Virginia were honored by being inducted into NACD’s Hall of Distinction.

During the Tuesday General Session, NRCS Chief Terry Cosby and NACD President Michael Crowder presented the Tri-Basin Natural Resources District from Holdrege, NE 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 individuals 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

Latest News

Calendar of Events

Find your Local District

Accessibility Toolbar