Texas Watershed Stewards Team receives Superior Service Award

COLLEGE STATION — The Texas Watershed Stewards Team recently received a 2010 Superior Service Award from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, an education outreach agency of the Texas A&M University System.

Superior Service awards are presented annually to agency individuals and teams who have provided superior service in Extension to the people of Texas.

Receiving the team category award were: Jennifer Peterson, AgriLife Extension program specialist; Dr. Mark McFarland, professor and AgriLife Extension specialist; Nikki Dictson, AgriLife Extension program specialist; Dr. Diane Boelstorff, assistant professor and AgriLife Extension specialist; and Matthew Berg, AgriLife Extension program specialist.

According to the award nomination, the team was responsible for creating the Texas Watershed Steward program in response to the state’s current and future water quality and resource needs.

“At present, more than 50 percent of the assessed water bodies — streams, rivers, lakes — are ‘impaired’  and do not meet their designated uses for contact recreation, fish consumption or water supply,” the nomination reads.

To help address this statewide need, the team developed a comprehensive one-day training to “increase citizen understanding of watershed processes and to empower local stakeholders to take an active role in the management and protection of their water resources,” according to the nomination.

The Texas Watershed Steward program and its curriculum were conceived and developed by the team in 2006, and the program was launched officially in late 2007. The project was funded by a Clean Water Act nonpoint source grant from the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board.

The program’s training curriculum is comprised of five units and has been compiled into a full-color handbook which also includes a glossary, information on local, state and federal water quality agencies and organizations, important websites, and community activities relating to watershed improvement. In 2009, the handbook was recognized by the American Society of Agronomy with an Educational Materials Award.

The team developed interactive topic modules for each of the five curriculum units and the “combination of animated slides, videos and hands-on stations (that) provide a unique and interesting educational experience for participants,” according to the nomination.

Each watershed training is team-taught in a fast-paced, interactive format, and participants are continually engaged in question-and-answer scenarios which connect them to the situation and needs  in their own watershed, the nomination stated.

As of year-end 2010, more than 25 workshops had been conducted across the state in project watersheds undergoing development and/or implementation of total maximum daily loads or watershed protection plans. Additionally, more than 1,350 Texas watershed residents and others, including homeowners, landowners, small businesses, city employees, agricultural producers, academic institutions and environmental groups or agencies, became Texas Watershed Stewards through the efforts of this program.

To further enhance access to the program, the team also developed an online version of the Texas Watershed Steward program, which is now available at http://tws.tamu.edu.

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