Conservation efforts recognized at annual awards banquet

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) board honored outstanding conservationists at their annual awards banquet on Friday, January 13th.  The event was held at the Divots Conference Center in Norfolk and attracted over 60 people.

Outstanding Tree Planter Award

The Outstanding Tree Planter Award is presented to individuals within the district who have shown a strong commitment to the planting and care of trees.  The Bill Osborn family of Tilden were honored as the recipients of the 2016 Outstanding Tree Planter Award.

The Osborns live north of Tilden in Pierce County where Bill is a carpenter.  The rustic log cabin that the family resides in was built by Bill, with the assistance of friends and family.  Bill, and his wife, Kathy, have three children, Tyler, Audrey, and Elizabeth.

The Osborns were nominated by LENRD Forester, Pam Bergstrom.  Bergstrom said, “If you were to visit Bill’s place, you would think you were out in a native forest, when you are in fact in a man-made windbreak/forest that encircles the property and has been planted one tree at a time by Bill and his family.”

The main windbreak that protects the log cabin was planted by the Lower Elkhorn NRD in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  With planting around 300 new trees each year along with the trees that the NRD has planted, it is estimated that there are over 5,000 trees on his property that have been purchased through the Lower Elkhorn NRD’s Conservation Tree Program, a grand total of 9,200 trees from both the NRD and other nurseries.

Bergstrom added, “This would be roughly 10-15 acres of trees.  Maintenance and management on his trees is Bill’s main priority and every year he replants the ones that have died.   He is very diligent about making sure that there is no space left vacant.  He has started a new project of growing his own trees from seed that he has collected from his own trees and unique trees from around the area.  Bill and his family are very deserving of this award.”

Educators of the Year Award

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District partners with schools across the district and encourages students to become good stewards of our natural resources.  At their recent awards banquet, the district recognized two teachers who have demonstrated excellence throughout their career.

Suzy Goedeken and Patrick Kratochvil are instructors at Madison Public School.  Madison Public Schools implemented a Watershed Dynamics program into their summer curriculum in 2011.  Suzy and Patrick are the co-instructors of the program which brings students together to learn more about our water through a diverse sampling program in the Taylor and Union Creek Watershed.  Madison High School has received grants from the Lower Elkhorn NRD to continue the program thanks to the efforts of both Suzy and Patrick.

The program brings approximately 20 students together to complete water sampling and analysis of the data throughout the summer months.  Each year, Suzy and Patrick, bring the students to an NRD board meeting so they can give a report on what they discovered and show the directors what they have learned.

Suzy is currently in her 16th year of teaching.  She has been working with the Taylor-Union Creek Watershed Program since the beginning.  Before that, Suzy worked with the Shell Creek Watershed Program in Newman Grove for 5 years. Suzy and her husband, Mick, have two children, Michayla and Micah.

Patrick is in his 19th year of teaching and has been teaching High School Physical Sciences for 14 years at Madison High School.  He has been co-sponsoring the Taylor-Union Watershed Class for 6 years.  Patrick and his wife, Beth, have four children, Courtney, Shawn, Michael, and Curtis.

Vice-Chairman of the LENRD Board, Dennis Schultz, presented the awards.  Schultz stated, “The educator of the year award recognizes Suzy and Patrick for their excellence in teaching future generations the value of our natural resources.”

Outstanding Partnership

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District works with various agencies and partners each year as we work to improve the quality of life for the citizens across Northeast Nebraska.  At the banquet, the district recognized Susan Risinger Green for the outstanding partnership they have shared with her throughout the years.

Susan Risinger Green is a native of Brunswick and a graduate of Plainview High School. She attended Wayne State College and Northeast Community College.

She began her journalistic career in 1981 at the Neligh News and Leader, and was named assistant news director at WJAG radio in Norfolk in September of 1989. She was with WJAG, Lite Rock 97.5 and 106KIX Radio in Norfolk for more than 26 years, where she served as assistant news director and farm director.

She has received numerous awards over the years for her agricultural reporting and programming, including the 2007 Oscar in Agriculture.  Most recently, she received the award of merit for significant achievement in the advancement of agriculture at the AgCeptional Women’s Conference, which the Lower Elkhorn NRD helps sponsor each year.

Schultz said, “Susan has been an outstanding partner with the Lower Elkhorn NRD for the past 26+ years.  She has been extensively involved with stories from water to wildlife.  This award recognizes Susan for her past support & excellence in reporting on the wise use and conservation of Nebraska's natural resources.  Susan, thank you for the partnership we have shared with you.”

Susan joined Northeast Community College in May of 2016 to serve as the campaign director for the proposed Ag and Water Center of Excellence.  She and her husband, Ron, live in Norfolk and have four children.

Service Awards:

Service awards were also presented by LENRD General Manager Mike Sousek.

Laurie Schold of Oakland, Logan East Rural Water System Financial Secretary, was awarded for 10 years of service.

Director awards were also presented to the following:  Jarvis Otten of Norfolk for his service on the board since 2015; Dave Shelton of Wayne for his service on the board since 2014; Danny Kluthe of Dodge for his service on the board since 2010; and Tim Tighe for his 25 years of service to the district from 1991-2016.

Vice-Chairman Schultz added, “Congratulations to all of our winners tonight.  We thank you for your hard work and continued efforts in protecting our natural resources.”