National Conservation Planning Partnership (NCPP) Update

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.


Hugh Hammond Bennett Awards

2021 Recipients 

The Hugh Hammond Bennett Award is named in memory of soil conservation pioneer Hugh Hammond Bennett, the first Chief of the Soil Conservation Service (now NRCS) who led nationwide efforts to raise awareness about the critical importance of soil conservation and to help farmers recover after the Dust Bowl. Bennett believed that real and lasting change on the land comes from developing and following a conservation plan that is designed to meet the unique needs of that land and based on the available resources, natural resource concerns and producer’s goals.

Guy Choiniere

Guy Choiniere has been named the winner of the Conservation Producer 2021 Hugh Hammond Bennett Award for Conservation Excellence for outstanding conservation efforts on the Choiniere Family Farm in Highgate, Vermont.

Choiniere says the health of the soil is the health of the farm. This land ethic drives his actions on a dairy farm that’s been in the Choiniere family since 1945. While navigating changes in the farm economy, climate and farming practices, the Choiniere Family Farm has become a model of innovation and adaptability for other New England dairies. Soil health and erosion control practices have kept the farm productive and resilient despite an increase in severe storms, rainfall, and periods of drought in northwest Vermont.

Prompted by an unstable market for conventional milk in the 1990s, Choiniere studied and then transitioned to organic production. It’s a move he said was good for his cows, land, and the bottom line. A few years later he seeded 25 acres of corn to permanent hay and pasture in order to convert his herd to 100% grass-fed. That move fetched an even better price for their organic milk.

After taking over the farm, Choiniere also began addressing environmental issues with assistance from NRCS. The conservation plan he developed remains in progress today. To prevent soil erosion and improve water quality, the Choinieres planted 5,000 trees along banks of the impaired Rock River. They also conveyed a 51-acre river corridor easement that designates an area where the river can meander naturally. The land can still be farmed, but the river will not be dredged. There is also a permanent 50-foot naturally vegetated buffer along 12,000 feet of the river’s bank.

Keeping nutrients on the farm and out of the river was also aided when Choiniere switched from conventional liquid manure storage to an innovative compost bedded pack system. During the winter, the cows are fed hay in large hoop barns designed to mimic the comfort and atmosphere of being on pasture. Excess hay provides bedding and catches manure before being trod down into compost. When the cows resume rotational grazing in May, pigs are let into the barns to root around and expedite the composting process before it is spread on fields as nutrient-rich fertilizer. Choiniere is an ambassador to help other dairies manage bedded pack systems.

“The Choinieres' commitment to conservation planning and protecting soil and water resources is an inspiration to NRCS, and Choiniere has been an instrumental and passionate spokesperson for the important role of soil health in Vermont,” said Justin Tuthill, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Acting State Conservationist in Vermont.

Ling He

Ling He, a Rangeland Management Specialist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Alameda County, California, has been named the winner of the Conservation Planner 2021 Hugh Hammond Bennett Award for Conservation Excellence for her outstanding efforts as a conservation planner. 

Ling serves in Livermore, California, covering all of Alameda County in the east San Francisco Bay area. She has worked in the Livermore Local Partnership Office for thirteen years and has been a certified conservation planner for over eight years. She serves as the office lead for addressing rangeland and plant-related issues and manages the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) for multiple rangeland clients. In 2018, she became a Certified Rangeland Manager, a professional certification provided by the California-Pacific Section of the Society for Range Management (CalPac-SRM), further demonstrating her abilities in this field.

Ling frequently provides translation support to Chinese producers in neighboring counties, such as Santa Clara, San Benito, and San Francisco counties. She provided translation assistance to Chinese producers at multiple workshops cohosted by University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), Loma Prieta Regional Conservation District (RCD), and NRCS on Water Quality Regulation, Weed Management, and Nutrient Management. She volunteered to provide translation review for five program appendices that were translated into Chinese.

Ling collaborates closely with the Alameda County Resource Conservation District on several annual monitoring projects and assists with complex vegetation-related projects. She led and completed vegetation and photo monitoring for four riparian restoration sites and has coordinated with clients and subcontractors on maintenance activities with adaptive management strategies. She has also assisted with educational projects for local students.

As part of a larger-scale effort to improve the access and utilization of public lands for grazing, Ling served as facilitator and technical expert during negotiations between a local water agency and their grazing lessee. She assisted with a review of the grazing lease agreements, interviews of agency staff, and literature reviews. Much of Alameda County’s viable rangeland is owned by public agencies and leased to private ranchers. Her efforts help to ensure fair and equitable processes which ultimately result in better management of these critical lands.

“I am surprised and excited to receive the [Hugh Hammond Bennett] award. Thanks to the National Conservation Planning Partnership for the recognition and high honor. I’m feeling humble and very grateful for the support and recognition from my agency [NRCS] and colleagues. To me, this award goes to all the people I work with, my NRCS and RCD colleagues, local conservation partners, as well as the producers,” says Ling.

Stay in Touch with NCPP

Check out the new NCPP website for updates, resources and to sign up for direct emails. Visit

NCPP was established in 2015 to emphasize the critical role that conservation planning plays in advancing voluntary conservation efforts on private lands. NCPP represents the efforts of five key national conservation partners working together to reinvigorate conservation planning by enhancing and strengthening the effectiveness of planning and our partnership workforce. As NCPP efforts grow, we are looking to expand the partnership to leverage all of the possible resources in the conservation planning arena.