Extension Helps Develop Soil and Water Conservation Leaders

Attending NDSU Extension’s North Dakota Soil and Water Conservation Leadership Academy was time well spent for Matthew Olson, 319 watershed coordinator for the Wild Rice Soil Conservation District.

“For new staff and supervisors, I believe it clarifies the goals and missions of soil conservation districts,” he says. “It also provides some great background for understanding personality types, becoming an effective leader and running effective meetings.”

The academy is designed to build people’s skills and enhance their abilities to lead community-based watershed conservation projects to improve and protect water quality. It was developed primarily for soil conservation district supervisors and employees. However, people representing several other organizations, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, NDSU Extension, BNI Coal, North Dakota Department of Health and North Dakota State Soil Conservation Committee, and one state senator have participated.

“We believe that these academies are playing an important role in diversifying conservation leadership in North Dakota,” says Aaron Field, program coordinator.

The academy is presented at two levels. In Level One, participants learn to navigate conflict, seek and act on community input, facilitate effective discussions and meetings, identify and manage human impacts on watersheds and understand watershed hydrology. Level Two focuses on participants’ ability to do team-based conservation planning, manage interpersonal relationships, capitalize on the strengths of multigenerational teams, and build and maintain conservation partnerships.

Nearly 300 conservation leaders from 50 of North Dakota’s 54 soil conservation districts have participated. Participants in Level One training reported an average of 23.5% increases in their understanding, confidence and abilities. Level Two participants reported increases averaging 15.8%.

“Taking time away from day-to-day work/activities and spending some time learning how to be better and do better is valuable,” says Donna Grann, a member of the North Dakota State Soil Conservation Committee who attended the academy.


Aaron Field, 701-231-1732, aaron.field@ndsu.edu 


Top of page