Mower SWCD staff and board members accept the 2021 SWCD of the Year Award on Dec. 14, 2021, at the annual awards luncheon of the Minnesota Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD) in Bloomington, Minn. Pictured left to right are James Fett, watershed technician; Jensen Bigeloow, MN GreenCorps member; Jim Kellogg, board member; Mattie Hackensmith, intern; board chairman Randy Smith; Larry Callahan, district technician; Paul Hunter, watershed conservationist; Tim Ruzek, water plan and outreach coordinator; Cody Fox, project manager; Jeanne Crump; office manager; and Justin Hanson, district manager.

Mower SWCD gets state award

Staff, board honored with 2021 SWCD of the Year for MN

Dec. 15, 2021 — For its extensive conservation efforts and various leadership roles at the state level, the Mower Soil & Water Conservation has been honored with the top award for SWCD offices in Minnesota.

Mower SWCD on Tuesday was recognized as the 2021 SWCD of the Year by the Minnesota Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD) at the organization’s 85th annual meeting in Bloomington, Minn.

MASWCD gives the award annually to one of the 88 SWCD offices in the state to recognize and inspire leadership within the SWCDs to go above and beyond the base capacity. Mower SWCD last received the award in 1996.

This comes after Mower SWCD project manager Cody Fox this month received the award for the 2021 Outstanding Watershed District Employee of the Year from the Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts (MAWD). Mower SWCD is contracted annually to perform the work of Cedar River Watershed District, which in 2017 was recognized as the state’s top watershed district.

“Things are just different in Mower County — we have an uncommon network of community partners that support our mission and actively engage in our projects,” Mower SWCD district manager Justin Hanson said. “Our community has a strong conservation ethic that allows us to blast through barriers and get our projects done.

Mower SWCD district manager Justin Hanson speaks Dec. 14, 2021, at the annual MASWCD awards luncheon in Bloomington, Minn., after accepting the SWCD of the Year Award.

Hanson accepted the award Tuesday with Mower SWCD staff and two board members Jim Kellogg and Randy Smith, who also serves on the MASWCD’s Board of Directors. He expressed great appreciation for the award and thanked the many partners who have worked with Mower SWCD.

This award, he said, is an example of how effective conservation can get done when you have “everyone rowing downstream together. He called his staff as a “brilliant and passionate group” that allows him to pursue grants and take chances on innovation.

“I always know that we have the talent to dream big and then set our staff free to go and deliver,” Hanson said.

Hanson also credited the Mower SWCD board and the strides it has made in recent years. The board is more than an advisory group for the staff, Hanson said, adding, “They roll up their sleeves and get involved with our work.”

Mower SWCD was recognized for having an exceptionally engaged board; highly skilled technical and administrative staff; and an outstanding manager, all dedicated to delivering a wide range of conservation services geared toward their diverse base of land and water resources,” MASWCD executive director LeAnn Buck said.

“Whether you are in the city of Austin, live along the Cedar River or one of Mower County’s many creeks or streams, or farm in one of the rural areas of the county, you are benefiting from the efforts of the Mower Soil and Water Conservation District,” Buck said. “The efforts of their board and staff truly rise to the level of being exceptional, and MASWCD is proud to recognize Mower SWCD for all their hard work.”

Mower SWCD’s board members are effective communicators with their county board as well as their SWCD peers in their region and across the state, Buck said. Hanson also is a graduate of the MASWCD Leadership Institute, and, along with leading a strong staff of conservation professionals, serves in leadership roles at the regional and state level, she said.

Mower SWCD’s district manager Justin Hanson speaks Dec. 14, 2021, at the annual awards luncheon of the Minnesota Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD) after accepting the 2021 SWCD of the Year Award. Joining him on stage to the left are Mower SWCD staff and board members; to the right are MASWCD’s executive director LeAnn Buck and assistant director Sheila Vanney.

Technical staff with Mower SWCD, she added, also have a depth of experience and expertise designed to meet the needs of and communicate effectively with Mower SWCD residents whether it be on issues of soil health, water-quality monitoring, habitat work or watershed management, among others.

MASWCD is a non-profit organization that represents Minnesota’s 88 conservation districts and the 440 men and women who serve on their governing boards. For more than 80 years, local conservation districts have worked with cooperating landowners of private working lands to help them plan and apply effective conservation practices.

Along with Hanson, Mower SWCD staff includes Jeanne Crump, office manager; Cody Fox, project manager; James Fett III, watershed technician; Steve Lawler, soil scientist; Tim Ruzek, water plan and outreach coordinator; Paul Hunter, watershed conservationist; Larry Callahan, district technician; Mattie Hackensmith, intern; and Jensen Bigelow, GreenCorps member.

Mower SWCD board members include Randy Smith, Jim Kellogg, Jon Erichson, Micah Peterson and Rod Moe.

Mower Soil & Water Conservation District

Since 1953, Mower SWCD has provided land and conservation services to Mower County landowners to help manage lands in a way that promotes a sound economy as well as sustains and enhances natural resources that are key to the state’s environmental health. Mower SWCD is one of Minnesota’s 88 SWCDs that each are governed by an elected board.

After receiving the SWCD of the Year Award at the MASWCD annual meeting, pictured are (left to right): Mower SWCD’s Tim Ruzek and James Fett: Jeff Irving, Northern Country Co-op (Mower SWCD’s 2021 Conservationist of the Year); Mower SWCD’s Paul Hunter, Jeanne Crump, Larry Callahan, Justin Hanson, board member Jim Kellogg, board chairman Randy Smith, Cody Fox, intern Mattie Hackensmith and GreenCorps member Jensen Bigelow. Not pictured are Mower SWCD’s Steve Lawler and board members Jon Erichson, Micah Peterson and Rod Moe.

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Formed in 2007, CRWD works to reduce flooding and improve water quality on the Cedar River State Water Trail and its tributaries in southern Minnesota.

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Cedar River Watershed District

Cedar River Watershed District

Formed in 2007, CRWD works to reduce flooding and improve water quality on the Cedar River State Water Trail and its tributaries in southern Minnesota.

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