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USDA NRCS names Assistant State Forester "Conservationist of the Year"


Assistant State Forester Kurt Atkinson was named the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservationist of the Year Feb. 22 at the annual Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts meeting in Oklahoma City.

"We were thrilled when we learned Kurt was receiving this award," said State Forester John Burwell, of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. "He has worked very hard with NRCS to form a strong and effective partnership for improved conservation and deserved this recognition."

This partnership resulted in an agreement to set aside funding for forestry practices under the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program, a first for the state, he said.

"Kurt also contributed significantly to the project that the Oklahoma NRCS submitted under the Healthy Forest Reserve Program," Burwell added. "There were only four in the nation approved for funding and the one Kurt helped develop was one of those four."

The HFRP is designed to promote the recovery of threatened or endangered species, improve biodiversity and enhance carbon sequestration.

Atkinson said he was honored and looked forward to improving the partnership between the state agriculture department and NRCS.

"I have really enjoyed the chance to work more closely with the NRCS over the past year as we expand the forestry opportunities available to landowners in Oklahoma," he said. "Obviously, I had a lot of support from others in the Department of Agriculture and Forestry Services that helped make receiving this award possible."

Oklahoma's Secretary of Agriculture, Terry Peach, said he is glad to see an employee of ODAFF receive this kind of recognition.

"I think this is indicative of the high quality of our employees and the dedication they have to serving the state of Oklahoma," he said. "Whether its conservation efforts, food safety, or responding to crises such as disease outbreaks or wildfires, our staff do an outstanding job and deserve recognition."

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