NRCS-Michigan Conservation Notes Newsletter

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USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

NRCS-Michigan Conservation Notes Newsletter -  Nov/Dec 2021

State Conservationist's Message

NRCS Michigan State Conservationist Garry Lee

Happy holidays from NRCS-Michigan to all of our conservation partners. I hope that all of you have the opportunity to share the holidays with friends and family. We can all take pride in navigating another challenging year.

Here at NRCS, we continue to support the agency’s mission of getting conservation on the land. During the past year, NRCS with assistance from our partners including local conservation districts and private Technical Service Providers among others, provided nearly $30 million in conservation financial assistance to Michigan agricultural producers and private forest owners. We also provided $1.64 million to farmland preservation organizations to preserve valuable agricultural land through the purchase of conservation easements.

Our local partners continue to support conservation efforts, a strong example of this is the selection of six new Regional Conservation Partnership Program projects in our state. The lead partners who submitted these projects for funding demonstrate the variety of entities promoting conservation in Michigan; included are the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, The Nature Conservancy, Gladwin County, the Ottawa Conservation District, and the City of Ann Arbor.

As you can see from this newsletter and the previous issue, NRCS-Michigan is continuing to add new employees. Many of these new hires filled positions that were vacant for an extended period of time. New employees will help bring new ideas and vitality to our mission that make me excited for what the new year will bring, Happy New Year!

EWP Funds Repairs at State Game Area

Dike breached by May 2020 flooding at Shiawassee State Game Area

The May 2020 flood waters that caused two dam failures on the Tittabawassee River didn’t stop after causing mass evacuations and property damage in Midland County. Another area adversely affected was the Shiawassee River State Game Area near St. Charles.

“They absorbed a lot of that impact from all different directions,” said NRCS Civil Engineer Colleen Vasher.

The nearly 10,000-acre state game area serves as a flood storage area, said Biologist Jeremiah Heise of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The Tittabawassee joins the Shiawassee River north of the game area on its way to the Saginaw Bay. The volume of water at the two rivers’ convergence bottled up water further upstream.

(Breached dike after May 2020 flooding - above left)

The rains that caused the May 2020 flood was a watershed wide event and the area was inundated. It was the worst flooding Heise had seen in his eight years at the refuge and was only comparable to the historic flood of 1986. The flooding breached or damaged numerous dikes within the game area that serve to control water levels and protect adjoining property. Financial and technical assistance through the USDA Emergency Watershed Protection Program aided with the repairs which are now largely completed.

NRCS provided engineering assistance, including designs, and materials to repair damaged dikes in the game area. The DNR provided construction labor which fulfilled their matching contribution required for EWP assistance. Work is largely completed with only seeding and some other finish work to do in the spring, said Vasher.

Although the Shiawassee River State Game Area was not able to contain all of the flood waters it demonstrated the value wetlands have in reducing the impact of floods. Wetlands will continue to play an important role as major rain events become more frequent.

(Breached dike after repairs - below)


Dike repaired after being  breached by May 2020 flooding at Shiawassee State Game Area

Notices and Announcements

USDA Service Center
  • Michigan farmers and private forest owners are invited to submit applications for a funding initiative that addresses water and wildlife resources. Producers may submit applications by Jan. 14, 2022, to be considered for selection.
    Funding will be provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through Conservation Incentives Contracts. The contracts provide conservation financial assistance for implementing conservation practices targeted to regional conservation concerns. In addition, producers can receive annual payments for ongoing management practices that benefit water quality, water quantity, and wildlife for up to five years.
    The current Conservation Incentives Contracts funding is available to farmers in the Western Lake Erie Basin and Saginaw Bay watersheds for addressing water quality, in the St. Joseph Watershed for practices that conserve water quantity, and in the Upper Peninsula for practices that improve wildlife habitat.
  • Michigan farmers in the Western Lake Erie Basin and Saginaw Bay watersheds are eligible to apply for U.S. Department of Agriculture financial assistance for adopting cover crops. Producers with at least a portion of their operations in one of the two watersheds may submit applications by Jan. 12, 2022, to be considered for selection.

    The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is providing $3.2 million in financial assistance to encourage producers to adopt cover crops as a way to protect water quality and reduce soil erosion in the two priority watersheds. The adoption of cover crops has other conservation benefits including improving soil quality, suppressing weeds, and providing wildlife habitat. Producers can apply for assistance to plant a single-species or a more diverse multi species cover crop. 

New Employees

Alisha Autio-Wiitala – Natural Resource Specialist

Alisha Autio-Wiitala – Natural Resource Specialist, Area 1

Last Position: Fish and Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Hometown: Marquette
Education: B.S. Ecology and Environmental Science, Wetlands focus;  Michigan Technological University. M.S. Forest Resources; University of Maine.
Family: Husband Troy and greyhound Ruby
Hobbies and Interests: Gardening, playing music, hiking with friends and family, walking my dog


B Battel - Soil conservationist

Bob Battel - Soil Conservationist, Bad Axe

Last Position: MSU Extension Field Crops Educator, Huron and Tuscola counties
Home Town: Cass City
Education: BS in Crop and Soil Science, Michigan State University and MS in Extension Education, MSU
Family: Four kids; Addy, 19; Dori, 15; Asher, 13; and Elias, 11
Hobbies and Interests: Maple Syrup Production


John Bauer - Soil Conservationist

John Bauer - Soil Conservationist, Sandusky

Last Position:  Farm Bill Biologist, Tuscola Conservation District
Home Town: Reese
Education: B.S. Forestry, Natural Resources,  Michigan Technological University
Family: Married with toddler and chocolate lab
Hobbies: Hands on/being in the field; metal fabrication/mechanic; arborist/lumber- landscaping



Jules Boscarino, Engineer

Jules Boscarino - Agricultural Engineer , Marquette

Last Position: Undergraduate Researcher at Michigan Tech, Sediments Lab at the GLRC
Home Town: Menominee 
Education: B.S. in Environmental Engineering; Michigan Technological University
Hobbies and Interests: Crocheting, sewing, playing video games


A Brannick - Civil engineering technician

Amber Brannick – Civil Engineering Technician, East Lansing

Last Position: Graduate Teaching Assistant at Michigan State University
Hometown: Jackson
Education: M.S. and B.S in Environmental Engineering from Michigan State University
Hobbies and Interests: In the summer I enjoy rollerblading, hiking and kayaking, and in the winter, I enjoy reading and crocheting


Steven Gambicki, biologist

Steven Gambicki - Biologist, Gaylord

Last Position: Biological Science Technician USFWS, Alpena
Hometown: Atlanta
Education: B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Management; Lake Superior State University
Pets: Cat, Captain
Hobbies and Interests: Fishing, hunting, gardening, camping, snowmobiling, basically anything outdoors


Anna Geister – Soil Conservation Technician

Anna Geister – Soil Conservation Technician, Lapeer

Last Position: Conservation Technician, Lapeer Conservation District
Home Town: Romeo
Education:  B.S. in Environmental Science with a Resource Management Concentration, Oakland University
Family: Husband; Jonathan, Daughter; Heidi
Hobbies and Interests: Herbalism, Camping, Mushroom Hunting

Jeremy Ingmire - Civil Engineering Technician


Jeremy Ingmire - Civil Engineering Technician, West Branch

Last Position: Surveyor at Trimedia Environmental and Engineering, Marquette
Home Town: Marquette
Education: Geology major,  Ball State University
Family: Wife; Andrea, two children; Orion and Lyra, two dogs; Thor and Maya
Hobbies and Interests: Star gazing, canoeing, making firewood


Jerry Kass, natural resource specialist

Jerry Kass - Natural Resource Specialist, Scottville

Last Position: Conservation Technician Mason-Lake Conservation District
Hometown: Muskegon
Education: B.S. in Wildlife Biology; Grand Valley State University
Family: Wife; Julie, Sons; Landon, Emmitt, and Paxton
Hobbies and Interests: Hunting, fishing, and coaching my children’s sports teams


Bryce Lienau - Soil Conservation Technician

Bryce Lienau - Soil Conservation Technician, Midland

Last Position: Sanitation Specialist
Hometown: Chesaning
Education: Agricultural Industries Certificate; Michigan State University
Hobbies and Interests: Farming, Sports, Hunting, Raising show pigs


Shivonne Marshall, Soil conservationist

Shivonne S. Marshall, Soil Conservationist- Jackson

Last Position: Program Manager at Hustle & Grow, Baton Rouge, LA
Home Town: Detroit
Education: M.S. in Urban Forestry; B.S. in Agricultural Science
Family: One year old son, Ivan.
Hobbies and interests: Travel, explore nature, and painting


Ruben Morales, Soil Conservationist

Ruben Joehan Morales – Soil Conservationist, Standish

Last Position: Agronomist/Inspector, East Region |Puerto Rico
Home Town: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Education: B.S. in Agricultural Mechanical Technology; University of Puerto Rico, M.S. in Agronomic Engineering; University of Salamanca, Spain
Hobbies and Interests: Languages, outdoor activities/sports, music festivals and travelling, most of all


Chris Valvano - Cultural Resources Specialist


Christopher F. Valvano - Cultural Resources Specialist, East Lansing

Last Position: Grants Coordinator, Michigan Department of Transportation
Home Town: Dunmore, PA
Education: BA; Mercyhurst University, Masters; Maritime History & Nautical Archeology, East Carolina University, PHD; Anthropology, Michigan State University
Family: Wife; Dimity, daughters; Libby and Birdie
Hobbies and Interests: Cooking and gardening


Other New Employees

Kamira McNeal - Biologist, Cassopolis
Jade Steele - Economist, East Lansing

Position Changes/Relocations

Craig Aho - Area 1 Resource Conservationist (formerly district conservationist Stephenson)
Conrad Hayes - Civil Engineering Technician, Ithaca (formerly SCT, Mt. Pleasant)
Frank Packard -  Civil Engineering Technician, Ionia (formerly SCT, Stanton)

Conservation Calendar

Upcoming Events


11 - Winter Woody Plant Identification webinar with Martha Holzheuer, 6 - 7:30 p.m., for more information go to

14 - Kiss the Ground live film viewing, 6 - 8 p.m., Acorn Farmers Market & Cafe - Manchester, for more information and to register go to

26&27 - Great Lakes Crop Summit, Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort - Mt. Pleasant, for more information go to

27 - Waterbody Health: Benefits of Natural/Living Shorelines Webinar, 6 - 7 p.m., for more information and to register to


1 - Native Plants & Natural Communities webinar with Doug Tallamy & Michael Kost, 6:30 - 8 p.m., for more information go

24 - Mid-Michigan CISMA Annual Invasive Species Training, Save the Date, for updates including time and location go to


- Maintaining & Restoring Native Plant Gardens in-person seminar with Vern Stephens, 2 - 3:30 p.m., Matthaei Botanical Gardens Auditorium - Ann Arbor, for more information go

Natural Resources Conservation Service - Michigan


Michigan State Office
3001 Coolidge Road, Suite 250
East Lansing, Mich. 48823

Phone: 517-324-5270

Local Field Office Directory