Jay Pinsky: Meet one of Mother Nature’s planet guards

Amanda Chester

Everyone needs this planet. Most of us know this.

Few are willing to fight for it. Only the chosen actually do …

Mother Nature’s army, one would think, would resemble the world’s bravest, most powerful creatures. After all, with the fate of all life as we know it at stake, and with her pick of any beast around the world to protect her, Mother Nature’s guardians ought to be the world’s most capable creatures.

Don’t worry, they are. Just don’t look for fangs, fins or fur. In fact, to find them don’t look at all. Instead, just listen: “Without the farmers, we lose land to development and lose local food sources.” Or … “As I grew up I realized how much I enjoyed nature and wanted to work in a field that helped preserve the environment rather than develop it.”

Hearing these words are the sure sign you’ve found one of Mother Nature’s body, uh – planet guards. In fact, those specific words belong to one of newest planet guards, Amanda Chester, a conservation specialist here at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.

“I chose this job because I wanted to do something that helped clean up and protect the environment,” said Chester. “I also realized I wanted a job where I got out in the field instead of solely working behind a computer screen. It’s rewarding to work with farmers because they protect the land and we can help them to protect the resources.”

To the untrained eye, the 20-something brown-haired Fauquier County native might not seem well-equipped for protecting our planet, but let me assure you, she is. In fact, the entire crew of conservation specialists at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District are because just having a heart full of “want to” isn’t enough to win the fight against pollution, ignorance and neglect. Successful conservationists must be highly trained, educated and motivated professionals.

You know, like Chester.

She brings it academically, folks. The young lady holds a bachelor of science degree in biology with two minors, chemistry and psychology from Christopher Newport University.

Whoa. She’s not a Hokie? Nope.

“Probably the biggest shocker for people I work with is that I didn’t go to Virginia Tech,” said Chester, “and its OK. I don’t bite, have two heads or not know which way is up.”

Well before she graduated from college, Chester was finding ways to be on the front lines to save our planet.

“In college I took an ornithology class and really loved it, so as an undergrad and after graduation I volunteered with several groups, including the Virginia Working Landscapes project at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District doing bird surveys, and even got to do some as a park assistant for Riverbend Park in Fairfax.”

Getting hired last year as a conservation specialist didn’t slow down the soft-spoken do-gooder who just blazed though her required Virginia Conservation Planner Certification nearly a year ahead of schedule. You see, conservation specialists with the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District are required to complete this certification within their first two years on the job. Saving the world is a great responsibility and as such, plenty of fellow soldiers in Mother Nature’s army make sure each new recruit knows a lot more than the basics, which Chester mastered as a child.

“Conservation has always been something I was passionate about,” said Chester. “I grew up on a small hobby farm in Orlean and participated in 4-H. I was constantly outside and around animals.”

Chester said the qualification program teaches people how to use the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) nine-step planning process to put together conservation plans for landowners.

“There are several online classes as well as in-person trainings on cultural resources, erosion processes, resource management and prescribed burn awareness,” Chester said. “Outside of the planner certification, NRCS also offers an introduction to conservation engineering class which I attended as well.”

Conservationists like Chester are just one example of the kind of highly trained and compassionate professionals who are ready to help anyone here at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District office. And, uh … don’t worry about the Hokie thing, there’s always graduate school.

If you’re looking for professional conservation help, contact us at Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District at 540-465-2424, ext 5 or visit us at www.lfswcd.org

James Pinsky is the Education and Information Coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.  Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.