Soil and Water Conservation District board members and staff from across the state learned about wetland issues, water quality trading, working to restore impaired waters, and more at the 72nd annual meeting of the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD).

The meeting was held Dec. 7-9 at the Crowne Plaza Riverfront Hotel in St. Paul.  This year's theme was "SWCDs -- Meeting the Challenge."

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"This was a great chance for us to learn more about some of the current natural resource issues in the state," said Jerome Flottemesch of the Becker SWCD Board of Supervisors.

Flottemesch added, "The convention always provides us with new ideas that we can use locally."

Also during the convention, recently selected local conservationists of the year from each SWCD were recognized at a noon luncheon in their honor.

Each year, the state's SWCDs recognize individuals and organizations for outstanding accomplishments in implementing conservation practices and improving Minnesota's natural resources.

The award program is conducted with support from The Farmer magazine. John and Mike Schouviller of rural Callaway were the Becker SWCD recipients for 2008. The Schouvillers were recognized for their efforts in ag waste management, feedlot runoff control, construction of sediment and erosion control basins, and windbreak plantings.

Dr. Peter Nowak was the keynote speaker for the event.  Nowak is a professor at the UW-Madison's Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.  His expertise related to the human dimension of natural resource management is sought after by organizations across the nation.  Nowak provided his insights into how SWCDs can be the key to making the water resources of Minnesota sustainable.

Later that morning, a session was held entitled "Working Across SWCD Boundaries to Achieve Water Quality Improvements."  The session focused on the future of water management issues facing the state of Minnesota and provided information and recommendations for ways SWCDs might more effectively work across district boundaries. 

In addition to a variety of sessions on conservation topics, the annual meeting included the MASWCD business meeting, with discussions and votes on natural resource resolutions.

Several awards were presented at a December 8 luncheon. 

These include the Minnesota DNR Division of Waters Appreciation Award, MASWCD/MPCA Outstanding Community Conservationist Award, MASWCD/ MnDOT Living Snow Fence Achievement Award, the Outstanding SWCD employee award, and awards for legislator, media, teacher, environmental education, and SWCD supervisor.  

Featured sponsors of this year's event were the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.