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Columbia and Benton Soil and Water Conservation Districts earn statewide recognition for outstanding customer service

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Pictured: Leo Preston (left), NRCS basin team leader for the Lower Willamette and North Coast Basins, and Don Mehlhoff (far right), NRCS District Conservationist in Columbia County, present members of the Columbia SWCD with the 2016 District Partnership Award at the CONNECT conference in Pendleton, Oregon, May 2, 2017. Pictured center, from left to right: Kari Olsen-Hollander, district manager with the Columbia SWCD; Selene Keeney, coordinator with the Lower Columbia River Watershed Council; and Kay C. VanNatta, Zone 4 treasurer on the Columbia SWCD Board of Directors.

News Release #: 2017-04-028

Contact: Tracy Robillard, Public Affairs Officer, NRCS

Phone: 503-414-3220. Email:

PENDLETON, Ore. – When it comes to helping people help the land, employees with local Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) are instrumental in engaging Oregon’s urban and rural communities in voluntary conservation.

This year, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recognized two Oregon SWCDs who have done exceptional work throughout 2016 to help NRCS implement Farm Bill financial assistance programs across the state and perform conservation education and outreach.

The Columbia SWCD received the District Partnership Award, and Teresa Matteson from the Benton SWCD received the District Employee Partnership Award. The awards were presented at the 2017 CONNECT conference in Pendleton on May 2.

The annual NRCS Partnership Awards honor a conservation district and a conservation district employee who has provided exemplary assistance to implement conservation programs on Oregon’s private working agricultural lands and forestlands.

The Columbia SWCD was recognized for providing outstanding assistance to private landowners and local municipalities in response to record-setting rain and flooding in December 2015 in Columbia County. During and after the storms, Columbia SWCD employees engaged with local residents, business owners, cities, and the county to assess and inventory damage, and develop repair solutions. The SWCD partnered with NRCS to sponsor more than $2 million in Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) funding to implement construction repairs for 12 projects to protect infrastructure, private property, and fish and wildlife habitat from further damage. The Columbia SWCD provided top-notch customer service and technical expertise to successfully implement this EWP program, which was the first EWP in Oregon since 2010. As a result of the Columbia SWCD’s partnership with NRCS to implement the EWP Program, we have protected more than $3 million of private and public infrastructure in Columbia County.

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Pictured: Heather Medina Sauceda, NRCS basin team leader for the Central Coast Upper Willamette and Southwest Basins, presents Teresa Matteson, soil health coordinator with the Benton SWCD, with the 2016 District Employee Partnership Award at the CONNECT conference in Pendleton, Oregon, May 2, 2017.

Teresa Matteson was recognized for her outstanding support to the Corvallis Plant Materials Center (PMC) in providing technical assistance on plant materials and technology to address natural resource concerns. Teresa was instrumental in helping to plan and facilitate key events at the PMC, including field days and workshops focused on cover crops, pollinators, integrated biological pest management, and nutrient management. Teresa continues to engage multiple partners including the Oregon Department of Agriculture, OSU Extension, Oregon Recreation and Park Association, and producers to increase education and outreach to targeted groups in Oregon’s agricultural community.

With a field office in nearly every Oregon county, NRCS works closely with local SWCDs to deliver technical and financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and non-industrial private woodland owners to conserve vital natural resources on private lands while support local urban and rural economies. For more information about NRCS Oregon and conservation opportunities in the state, visit

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