WARSAW — Tuesday, Feb. 20, the 61st annual Kosciusko County Soil and Water Conservation District meeting was held at 2517 in Warsaw.
This year’s featured speaker was Brendan Kearns, an avid nature photographer and conservation program specialist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Healthy River Initiatives. Kearns is an enthusiast of the Wabash River and the history tied to it.
According to Kearns, the Wabash River has over 150 species of fish and 120 endangered, threatened or rare plants and animals. The river starts in Ohio and runs through 19 counties. Kearns discussed river pollution and how it affects the number of mussels in the river. “When the river is clean, mussels will thrive,” Kearns said, explaining that mussels are a food source for otters and eagles.
“Pollution was a big issue in the river at one time. We modified the environment and reduced our food sources which basically resulted in the eagles leaving,” said Kearns.
He spoke about the Bald Eagle Reintroduction Program started in 1985 by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Seventy-three eaglets were obtained from Wisconsin and Alaska from 1985 through 1989 and brought to Indiana. Prior to implementation of this program, the last time an eagle’s nest was recorded in Indiana was in 1897.
“Almost a hundred years went by and we didn’t have a single eagle’s nest in the state,” said Kearns.
Kearns resides in Vigo County with his wife, Sarah, and his daughter, Mia. He serves his community on the County Council and is involved with many organizations, including the Ouabache Land Conservancy. Kearns’ photographs of the Wabash River and its wildlife can be viewed on his Facebook page and his website.
Each year the SWCD recognizes the top four high school individuals in the area of soil judging. This year, the four students recognized were Hannah Gibbons, Tippecanoe Valley High School; Amber Evans, Tippecanoe Valley High School; Justin Beer, Wawasee High School; and Adam Beer, Wawasee High School.
Tom Brothers Farm, Syracuse, was honored as one of 49 farmers statewide who received the River Friendly Farmer Award for implementation of conservation practices that help to protect Indiana’s lakes, rivers and streams.
Brock Rhodes from Claypool Elementary School was the recipient of the Conservation Education Award due to his part in developing an outdoor learning center at his school where students could learn about nature in an outdoor setting.
The Environmental Enhancement Award for exceptional efforts to enhance natural landscapes, habitats, water quality and/or soil health went to Tom Price, Warsaw.
Mark Montel, Claypool, received the Conservation Farmer award. Montel utilized a Soil Health Systems approach to to his farming operation. Montel used cover crops for nutrient storage and erosion control.
Jamie Scott was re-elected to a three-year term on the SWCD Board of Supervisors. Scott has served as an SWCD supervisor for the last 15 years.
Jon Roberts, Kosciusko County SWCD secretary/treasurer, was recognized for recently receiving Indiana’s Supervisor of the Year Award. This award acknowledges outstanding and exemplary SWCD supervisor achievements and leadership.