Louisiana NRCS leader recognized nationally

Kevin Norton selected for 2017 Wetland Conservation Achievement Award by Ducks Unlimited

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DU CEO Dale Hall (l) presents Kevin Norton with his award.

Photo © Dale Humburg

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – March 10, 2017 – Ducks Unlimited announced the winners of the 2017 Wetland Conservation Achievement Awards during the 82nd North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference held in Spokane, Washington. This year’s recipient in the federal agency employee category is Kevin Norton, Louisiana state conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

“Kevin Norton has been a positive force for cooperative conservation on private lands since his beginning with Oklahoma NRCS in 1981,” said DU Chief Conservation Officer Paul Schmidt.

In the 26 years prior to becoming state conservationist in Louisiana, Kevin served in numerous positions with the NRCS in Oklahoma. His dedication to wetlands conservation dates back to the inception of the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) in Oklahoma in 1996. At one time under Kevin’s lead, Oklahoma had the largest WRP complex in the country – McCurtain County’s, Red Slough – which is now owned by the US Forest Service.

Since September 2007, Kevin has led a staff of more than 200 employees dedicated to helping people help the land. His team is responsible for ensuring Louisiana’s private landowners have access to services and programs designed to protect and enhance the state’s natural resources.

“Kevin and his top-notch staff work with local soil and water conservation districts, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and many other partners to strengthen Louisiana’s conservation partnership. As a result, conservation impacts have been significant,” Schmidt said.

Recognized nationally for his conservation knowledge and partnership building prowess, Norton was detailed to the Senate Ag Committee in 2011 to provide technical guidance for the conservation title of the Farm Bill. After 29 months, the Agriculture Act of 2014 was signed into law, bringing his detail in Washington, D.C. to conclusion.

One of the groundbreaking conservation programs added in the 2014 Farm Bill was the Regional Conservation Partnership Project (RCPP). Norton played a large part in designing and implementing this groundbreaking program, and Louisiana NRCS, under Kevin’s leadership, has worked closely with DU and USA Rice to bring three RCPP projects to rice producers.

Utilizing national and state RCPP projects, Louisiana NRCS has obligated nearly $5 million over several years to help farmers enhance water resources and wildlife habitat on working rice lands. A third project starts this year and focuses on nutrient management practices to improve water quality in the Mermentau Basin. 

“I am humbled and honored by this special recognition from a conservation organization the caliber of Ducks Unlimited,” Norton said. “I have been blessed throughout my career to work with some of the most passionate and dedicated conservationists of our time, including partners within NRCS, federal and state agencies, private landowners and Ducks Unlimited. Over the years, these partners have been remarkable in their collaboration and passion for natural resource conservation. I am confident that not one of us could have done as much as we all have done together.”    

Ducks Unlimited’s Wetland Conservation Achievement Awards are presented annually in six categories to recognize individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the conservation and restoration of North America’s wetlands and waterfowl. To view a complete list of the 2017 Wetland Conservation Achievement Award winners, visit www.ducks.org/wetlandawards.

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 13.8 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.