By Sally Voth
The work Northern Shenandoah Valley teachers, farmers and lawmakers are doing to make the land and water cleaner was recognized Thursday by the Lord Fairfax Soil & Water Conservation District.
A dozen awards were presented during a luncheon at Hotel Strasburg.
"This fiscal year we've had a bumper number of dollars to allocate for the agricultural best management practices cost-share program," district Chairman Richard Hoover said prior to the awards presentation.
The SCWD had more than $1.5 million, and about $1.1 million of that has been distributed already, he said.
"We've been able to do this by not only really working hard, but by stressing our [available] resources," Hoover said.
According to the SWCD website, the Virginia Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program will cover as much as three-quarters of the cost -- capped at $50,000 -- for approved conservation plans.
"The purpose of the program is to improve water quality in the state's streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay," the site states.
Strasburg High School agriculture and ecology teacher Brian Fisher received one of two outstanding educator awards, and has been nominated for the state-level award.
Fisher's students plant trees, make birdhouses, create and maintain conservation areas, recycle phone books, and teach elementary school students what he has taught them about ecology and energy conservation, according to an award write-up from the SWCD.
Mark Zimmerman also was given an outstanding educator award for his work with the Winchester Chapter of Trout Unlimited. He started "Trout in the Classroom," five years ago, and the program now supports 17 cold-water aquariums in Woodstock, Boyce, Winchester and West Virginia.
"The program is exciting to both students and teachers, and makes an important contribution to Standards of Learning [requirements] in our schools," said Paul Anderson, a Frederick County director on the SWCD.
In eastern Shenandoah County, the animals are eating well thanks to Burl Norris, according to Shenandoah County at-large Director Lauck Walton. He presented Norris with the outstanding forestry best management practices award.
Norris and his wife Cynthia bought a 240-acre property on the mountain seven miles west of Edinburg in 2009, Walton said. Since then, he has actively managed the timber and created wildlife habitat, planting numerous trees and shrubs which can feed "high quality food for the deer, turkey, bear, and grouse on the property," according to an SWCD write-up.
"Burl has actively managed this property ever since he purchased it," Walton said. "This is [an] animal buffet."
Norris gathered chestnuts from a tree at Virginia Tech, and then planted them on his land, according to Walton.
Also honored Thursday:
• Timothy Kettlewell, of Frederick County, and Jonathan Day, of Shenandoah County, as outstanding conservation farmers.
• Harry and Sue Polk, of Shenandoah County, with a clean water farm award.
• David Weiss, of Clarke County, with an outstanding conservation advocate award.
• Andy Guest State Park, the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation with conservation partner awards.
• Walton, with an outstanding director award.
• Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Upperville, and Del. Beverly Sherwood, R-Winchester, with legislator appreciation recognitions.
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org