Jon Stika, North Dakota Conservationists speaking at Soil and Water Conservation Leadership Program Training

North Dakota’s Soil and Water Conservation Leadership Academy looks to build knowledge and community

Story by Jodi Delozier

In November 2022, I assumed the role of NDSU Extension Specialist and Program Director for Soil and Water Leadership Development. With the assistance of two Program Coordinators and a team of Extension Specialists, I support and guide 54 distinct Soil Conservation Districts across the state of North Dakota.

People standing in front of a Soil and Water Conservation Leadership Program sign
Individuals who participated in the January 2023 Level 1 Training through the Soil and Water Conservation Leadership Program

The Program Coordinators – a relatively new concept to the overall ND Soil Conservation District system – are responsible for one of five Areas across the state (each Area consisting of 10 – 12 individual Soil Conservation Districts). Similar to other SCWDs across the nation, the North Dakota Soil Conservation District mission is to “provide for the conservation of the soil and soil resources of this state and for the control and prevention of soil erosion, and to preserve the state’s natural resources, control floods, prevent impairment of dams and reservoirs, assist in maintaining the navigability of rivers…” [N.D.C.C. 4.1-20-01]. Program coordinators are, thus, expected to work closely with their respective districts, assist in capacity and resource building, and provide professional and technical training. Further, coordinators assess conservation plans to ensure that districts have the necessary tools, knowledge, and resources to identify and address resource concerns in their local communities.

Our team of Leadership and Civic Engagement professionals recognize that Soil Conservation Districts are as unique as their geographic area, and require a targeted approach to conservation training. We use a variety of methods to ensure that our district supervisors and staff are adequately trained on a variety of topics.

Through our Leadership Academy, we provide districts the opportunity to learn more about conservation best management practices and watershed management. We work closely with the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality, NDSU Extension, and other state partners to provide training that is taught by content experts. The Academy sessions run two full days and consist of Level I and Level II training. Although the training is targeted toward supervisors, we encourage district employees and associated staff to attend in order to provide a more collaborative approach.

We recognize that designing workable conservation plans, which includes both rural and urban resource concerns, requires a wide-ranging skillset from our district personnel. To that end, the Academy brings in professionals to present on conservation planning design, principles of watershed hydrology and management, leadership and civic engagement, and other conservation-related topics.

Although North Dakota is not known for its large number of water bodies but rather its prairie potholes, the Academy highlights water testing practices as well as how to conduct a waterbody assessment and develop a successful watershed plan. The state’s NPS Program Coordinator is actively involved in the Academy training while simultaneously working with individual districts to implement watershed restoration plans and increase public awareness of water quality.

Providing technical and professional leadership education to so many districts is a challenge, but possible with the help of our Leadership Team and local, state, and regional partners. It is only through these partnerships and multi-stakeholder collaboration that we can achieve our state’s conservation goals. Overall, the Academy is more than a training session but a place for individuals to connect with peers, seek advice, and discover and share ideas among colleagues.

Jodi Delozier, Extension Specialist and Program Director, North Dakota State University Extension

Jodi Delozier came to ND State in March from Lincoln, Nebraska where she completed her Ph.D. in Natural Resource Sciences. Jodi’s degree also includes a specialization in Human Dimensions which focuses on understanding the social aspects of natural resource management. Her research examined the role of a Boundary Spanner as it pertains to community stakeholder engagement with particular emphasis on issues dealing with water and agriculture management practices.

Jodi holds a Master’s degree in German Linguistics and Literature from the University of Nebraska and spent many years teaching German at both the college and secondary levels. She was a German Lecturer for Mount Union College and University of Akron in Ohio. Prior to moving to Fargo, she completed a second master’s degree in Natural Resource Sciences and worked closely with the Nebraska Water Leaders Academy. Jodi not only helped facilitate relationship-building among participants, but currently serves as an Academy presenter.

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