SAN ANTONIO – During the annual National Association of Conservation Districts’ meeting in San Antonio, the National Association of State Conservation Agencies recognized Curtis Elke, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service’s state conservationist for Idaho, as the 2018 Outstanding State Conservationist.
He was nominated by state conservation associations and NASCA members in both Idaho and Minnesota, where he served as the acting state conservationist for nearly six months in 2018.
The award recognizes the recipient’s willingness to collaborate with partners, including state agencies, adapt NRCS operations to the needs of his or her state, prioritize the landowner/producer’s interests, and provide training.
Elke has experience in many Idaho conservation issues and initiatives, soil health being a good example. He also brings unique qualifications in agriculture and has continually balanced agricultural and conservation interests from North Dakota to Massachusetts, back to South Dakota, and Idaho.
“He has been committed to building relationships with local conservation districts and farmers from day one,” said Steve Becker, president of the Idaho Association of Soil Conservation Districts. “Idahoans have genuinely accepted him as a trustworthy partner in getting conservation on the ground and I can’t think of a more deserving person to receive this distinguished award.”
The Idaho Natural Resources Conservation Service is an important player in a partnership between local soil and water conservation districts, landowners and state agencies.
Cooperative projects often involve three or four of the partners working together to achieve “boots-on-the-ground” conservation. The NRCS team also tracks mountain snowpack and predicts streamflow and irrigation water supplies for farmers, ranchers, recreationists and the general public.
“The IASCD board of directors have been very pleased with the selection of Elke as state conservationist,” said Benjamin Kelly, executive director of the Idaho Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. “It has been very encouraging to us, especially his experience in agriculture. South Dakota is a good place to come from with many parallel issues facing private land owners in both states.”