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2019 State Award Winners


TEMPLE—Each year the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) and the Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts (ATSWCD) recognize and honor individuals who dedicate themselves to the conservation and management of renewable natural resources. These outstanding conservationists were recognized during an awards luncheon on Tuesday, October 29, 2019 at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort in San Antonio, TX.

The Texas Conservation Awards Program began in the late 1970s to recognize conservationists and the vital role they play in managing Texas’ natural resources. The purpose of the program is to acknowledge, recognize, and honor individuals that dedicate their time and efforts to the conservation of natural resources.  The program provides an opportunity for competition and incentives to expand and improve conservation efforts as well as the wise utilization of renewable natural resources.



Reiley Brothers

Comal-Guadalupe SWCD #306

The Reiley Brothers, Dale and Darren, are the third generation of Reileys farming over 2,600 acres and running a cow-calf operation in Seguin.  The brothers are carrying on the family’s tradition set out by their father and have dedicated themselves to innovative and progressive farming techniques. They have been cooperators with the Comal-Guadalupe SWCD since 1991, and they are no stranger to protecting and conserving natural resources.  Over the years they have implemented a crop rotation system with corn, maize and wheat, management as well as maintenance of parallel terraces and maintenance of grassed waterways. They are currently participating in a field trial, planting cover crops as well as sponsoring a Soil Health Demonstration plot.  They are dedicated to helping others protect the land and its resources through the construction company that they own.  This company allows them to help local landowners with needs related to ponds, terraces, waterways or erosion problems.  As trends in agriculture continue to change, the Reiley brothers are always looking to the future and how they can advance their operation with conservation in mind.



The Longbranch

Llano County SWCD #233

Since 1972, Wallace and Dolores Klussmann have owned and operated The Longbranch.  The 560-acre ranch is nestled in the Texas Hill Country, lying in Llano and Gillespie Counties.  The Klussmanns have been cooperators with the Llano County SWCD since 1973 and have worked diligently to improve their ranch.  They have utilized a variety of programs to implement conservation practices on their land which have improved habitat for wildlife, as well as provided benefit for their livestock.  Their passion for youth and the outdoors shines bright has they use their ranch as an outdoor classroom for students nearby to partake in field days. College students from Texas A&M University and Colgate University in New York have made their way out to the ranch to study and collect native grasses, as well as learn about range and wildlife management.  The dedication to conservation and education demonstrated by the Longbranch is widely admired and appreciated.



Felicia Locke

Toyah-Limpia SWCD #209

Felicia Locke has been teaching at Dirks Anderson Elementary School in Fort Davis for the past 12 years and is currently the 5th grade Science and Social Studies teacher. She also coordinates the Gifted and Talented program at the school and is a member of the Region 18 Gifted and Talented Advisory Board.  She has partnered with the Toyah-Limpia Soil and Water Conservation District since 2009, participating in the Texas Conservation Awards Program Contest, each year incorporating the theme into her curriculum.  Growing up in a ranching family in Texas, Felicia raised steers in FFA, learned about wildlife and native plants and while hunting with her grandfather, she gained a great respect for conservation.  That’s where her story begins! Over the course of her 34-year career, Felicia has dedicated herself to sharing her love of ranching, range management, and conservation with her students and those around her.  Felicia is a leader in teaching our future generations the importance of conservation and stewardship.


2019 Theme:

"Life in the Soil:  Dig Deeper"


Blair Dahl, of Channing and the Hartley Soil and Water Conservation District, was first place winner in the Junior Division of the essay contest.  Pictured left to right:  Bill Gray, ATSWCD Secretary/Treasurer, Area I; Dahl; Tina Y. Buford, TSSWCB Director and Rex Isom, TSSWCB Executive Director. 



Don Casey

Pedernales SWCD #218

For the past thirty-eight years, Don Casey has been managing a 5th generation cow-calf operation on approximately 1,000 acres in Northeast Blanco County as well as cooperating with the Pedernales Soil and Water Conservation District and the USDA-NRCS.  Casey attributes his success in ranching to his observant nature and willingness to adapt to the ever-changing trends.  Casey’s long-term conservation goal is to restore the land back to pre-settlement ecological conditions.  Providing quality wildlife habitat through intensive grazing management, managing water-depleting brush, pasture planting and nutrient management practices have all been implemented on the ranch. Don Casey has done an outstanding job of being a dedicated steward of the land and will continue to set a fine example for others to follow.



Trinity-Neches Forest Landowners Association

Cherokee County SWCD #427

Established in 2005, the Trinity-Neches Forest Landowner Association (TNFLA) is a non-profit that encourages and assists in the development of the full potential of forestry in the counties in Texas that it serves.  TNFLA is the largest forest landowner association in East Texas, serving its 133 members across the following seven counties: Anderson, Freestone, Leon, Henderson, Van Zandt and Houston Counties.  They work closely with local Soil and Water Conservation Districts and United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) in support of grassroots conservation efforts. TNFLA offers continuing education, technical assistance and professional networking opportunities for its members. Natural resource conservation and education are top priorities with the end-goal of ensuring sustainable forestry through wise forest management practices.



Howard Soil and Water Conservation District #243 Kevin Hamlin, Chairman

Jimmy Sterling, Vice Chairman

Glenn Berry, Secretary

Ed Miller, District Director

Mark Morgan, District Director

The Howard Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) was originally organized in 1941 as a part of the Martin-Howard-Midland (M-H-M) Soil and Water Conservation District. In 1971, Howard SWCD #243 was created when the M-H-M SWCD was divided into three separate districts. Since then, the Howard Soil and Water Conservation District has provided farmers and ranchers of Howard County with technical and financial assistance to encourage the wise and productive use of natural resources. The Howard SWCD is passionate about educating landowners through sponsoring and hosting, workshops, symposiums, and field tours that address the needs and interests of their local producers. Their goal is to ensure the availability of those resources for future generations so that all Texans' present and future needs can be met in a manner that promotes a clean, healthy environment and strong economic growth.


Wyatt Barger from Dekalb and the Bowie County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), was the 2019 Conservation Poster Contest winner.  Pictured left to right:  Kent Batman, ATSWCD Director, Area IV; Barger; Rex Isom, TSSWCB Executive Director and David Basinger, TSSWCB Director, Area IV.  


Lexus Aguirre, of Menard and the Menard County Soil and Water Conservation District, won first place in the Senior Division of the essay contest.  Pictured left to right:  Volney Hough, ATSWCD President, Area II; Aguirre; Marty Graham, TSSWCB Director, Area II and Rex Isom, TSSWCB Executive Director. 

State Award Winners



McCulloch County

The President's Award honors outstanding achievements by a Texas conservationist and is the highest award bestowed by the Association of Texas SWCDs.  Volney Hough, ATSWCD president, made the announcement during during the General Session at the 79th Annual Meeting of SWCD Directors, held October 28-30, 2019 in San Antonio, TX. 

Some of Edmiston's many accomplishments as a conservation leader were recognized in Hough's presentation address: 


I am pleased to introduced Mr. Gene Edmiston as our 2019 President’s Award Recipient.  Gene served on the McCulloch County Soil and Water Conservation District board from 1994 to 2018. 

Gene filled the seat on the board held by his father Jack and when Gene retired from the board in 2018 his son Errett filled the seat.  The Edmiston family is truly a family dedicated to conservation and service, with more than 50 years of service to soil and water conservation in Texas.


Gene served on the board during a critical time in SWCD history.  He led the charge in addressing SWCD liability and funding for the watershed program. 

Both of these were long-fought battles that stretched across several legislative sessions, and a long education process for our elected officials.  But Gene stood strong as he truly understood the importance of these issues for districts in Texas.    In 2007 the state board was able to purchase the first liability insurance policy for directors.  I personally appreciate the fact that we can all continue to serve on our local boards without fear of liability issues.


But this was not the end of the problems.  And once again Gene was at the front of the line leading the charge to address the issue of funding for operation and maintenance for the more than 2,000 flood control structures. 


An all-star cast of characters was assembled to educate elected officials on the needs and by the end of the legislative session the state agreed.  Fiscal year 2010 was the first year funding was made available for operatation, maintenance, rehab and repairs.  We have not looked back; this program has been funded every year since and continues to grow. 


As I stated, Gene has retired from his local SWCD board but I understand he continues to stay very busy.  One of his favorite pasttimes is auctioneering.  He is also very active with the McCulloch County Junior Livestock Committee. 


Gene and his wife Lisa, along with Errett and his wife Lauren, continue the family ranching tradition on their ranch near Voca. 


We greatly appreciate Gene making the time to be with us here today. We appreciate your dedication to soil and water conservation in Texas and most importantly we appreciate your commitment to leaving the state of conservation districts and programs in a better position than when you joined your local board.


Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in honoring Mr. Gene Edmiston.  I understand that Gene’s family is here today as well.  If they would like to join him on stage it would give us an opportunity to thank all of you.

President's Award
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