Soil & Water Conservation District
Next Meeting: – Tuesday, November 20, 2018 3 PM BOARD OF SUPERVISORS MEETING
in Conference Room at Bert Harris Agriculture Center
About Highlands SWCD
To provide leadership to help people conserve, improve and sustain the natural resources and environment of Highlands County, Florida
Conservation Districts were created nationwide, generally one per county, as a response to the Dust Bowl that occurred in the late 1930′ and early 1940’s. The Dust Bowl was a result of non-sustainable farming practices that heavily impacted the land and therefore soil conservation became the focus of these local groups, as well as the newly created federal agency, the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), known today as the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Conservation districts were formed in Florida as a subdivision of state government under the Florida Conservation law of 1937 to implement locally led conservation. Conservation Districts and the NRCS work closely with each other, sharing resources and personnel, and usually office space, to accomplish the goal of conservation at a local level. The actual work performed by a conservation district depends on local needs. The work is directed by an elected board of supervisors who meet monthly to discuss and direct District activities. Traditionally the board of supervisors (for Districts nationwide) has been composed of members of the agricultural community, though more recently District boards are comprised of members from diverse backgrounds, particularly in urban areas.
Conservation Districts and the NRCS are NON-REGULATORY agencies functioning to provide assistance to farmers and the public in general to accomplish conservation goals.
Go here to view a list of Statutes
Soil & Water Conservation Districts are governed by Chapter 582 of the Florida Statutes.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the State entity that oversees the Soil & Water Conservation Districts statewide.
The Soil & Water Conservation Districts are considered special districts in the State of Florida; Chapters 189 & 190 of the Florida Statutes address Special Districts and have legislation to govern ALL special districts.
The Highlands County Soil and Water Conservation District was created in 1942 and originally was known as the Istokpoga Soil Conservation District, covering only the area south and east of Lake Istokpoga. Katherine Waggaman was instrumental in the creation of the Istokpoga Soil Conservation District and as a board supervisor, she was the first woman Conservation District supervisor in the United States. The District was expanded in 1946 to cover the entire county and was then renamed the Highlands Soil and Water Conservation District.
Early District activities followed along the lines of activities occurring throughout the state to reroute water and drain lands for development. The first watershed project was the East Placid Chain of Lakes, which began construction in 1956 and was completed in 1958. Additional watershed projects include canal and structure construction on Fisheating Creek, Upper Josephine-Jackson Creek and in the Istokpoga Marsh. The projects were conducted primarily to ease flooding concerns around homes and in agricultural lands. The Istokpoga Canal was also constructed through the Conservation District. All of these projects were accomplished with engineering support and assistance provided by the Soil Conservation Service with co-sponsorship by the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners.
The Highlands Soil and Water Conservation District has developed a long-range plan to address several sets of specific goals:
maintain and improve youth and adult educational programs
apply for grants that further various conservation education programs
develop and maintain good media relations to inform the public regarding water quality and natural resource issues
publicly recognize the contribution of volunteers
conduct youth contest and land judging contests annually
Goals specific to agriculture:
assist in the implementation of irrigation water management, providing free irrigation evaluations to agriculture systems
assist in incorporation of nutrient and pest management to Conversation Plans planning and implementation of Resource Management Systems on range and pasturelands
assist with implementation of best management practices
serve as the fiscal agent in a partnership with FDACS-Office of Ag Water Policy to assist agriculture producers with the implementation of best management practices
Natural resource protection and water quality goals:
promote resource protection through land use and land management, presenting information to interested groups
participate in a working group of experts in water quality and quantity from the public and private sectors to develop a long-term regional approach to solving water quality and quantity issues
participate in a working group of experts in water quality and quantity from the public and private sectors to develop a long-term regional approach to solving water quality and quantity issues
Political leadership goals:
promote the wise use of natural resources through leadership with special emphasis on resource protection, land use and land management
formulate plans to interact with other state and local agencies and boards to cultivate cooperative funding opportunities
participate in rallying political forces to protect the natural resources of Highlands County and local control over their use
devise and implement programs and projects to minimize loss of our waters to other regions of the state and to protect and enhance local water quantities
Susie Bishop began her position as the sole staff member for the District in October, 2012 and brings with her years of experience in agriculture, public government affairs and public communication.
Previously to taking this position Susie was the Business Development Manager for Atlanticblue/Blue Head Ranch, where she was instrumental in the successful adoption of a Large Scale Comprehensive Plan Amendment for the protection of 50,000 acres of Blue Head Ranch. Prior to her role at Atlanticblue, Susie was the Business Development Manager for Glades Electric Cooperative, Inc., and the Area Director for the Highlands County Division of United Way of Central Florida.
She has always enjoyed giving back to her native community and feels this position will enable her to continue that passion while helping to sustain agriculture production and conserving natural resources. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from Warner University and is a recent graduate of the University of Florida Wedgworth Leadership Institute.
Susie and her husband of 32 years, Nick, reside in Sebring. They have two grown sons, Roland & Drew, a daughter in law, Ashley and grandsons, Hayden & Landon
Board of Supervisors
New to the Board of Supervisors in January 2015, Scott Kirouac brings a to the Board a vast amount of knowledge of soils and ornamental landscape nursery production. A graduate of Sebring High School and a former EMS Technician, Scott decided to follow his passion of the agricultural industry by developing, owning and managing Big Sky Growers, Inc. – an Ornamental Landscape Nursery in Sebring. Supervisor Kirouac also works in the wholesale side of the peat industry for a local bulk peat company located in Highlands County – Hillary Peat Company, Inc.
Although being in agriculture production requires much more than the typical 40 hour work week, Kirouac finds time to be an active community citizen in our County. He currently serves as a director on the Highlands County Farm Bureau Board, having held officer positions as Chairman and Treasurer in the past. Also, he currently serves on the American Farm Bureau Issue Advisory Committee for Pest & Invasive Species as a Chairman/Member; a Director on the Heartland Ag Coalition; Past President and current Treasurer/Director for the Highlands Heartland Chapter of the Florida Nursery Growers & Landscape Association; member of the Highlands County Overall Extension Advisory Committee and the Highlands County Horticulture Advisory Committee. A program which benefits under-privileged children during the Christmas holidays, Ag Angels, Inc., was founded and is chaired by Kirouac.
Scott resides in Sebring, has two daughters and six grandchildren.
Serving Seat # 3 – Term 2014-2018
320 Kite Ave., Sebring, FL 33870
Dr. John H. Causey. DVM
Supervisor Dr. John H. Causey, DVM grew up in Palm Beach County. After receiving a degree from University of Florida, he continued his education at Auburn University where he earned a degree in Veterinary Medicine. Upon graduation Causey served in the United States Air Force Veterinary Corp stationed in SE Asia.
When discharged from the military, he returned to Florida to practice Veterinary Medicine in Stuart, Belle Glade, and settled in Lake Placid. For 32 years Causey practiced veterinary medicine and surgery at Citrus Animal Clinic in Lake Placid.
He and his wife of 42 years, Jessie Ann Sheffield of Pahokee, have two grown children; Joanna, a CPA living in Valrico, Fl and Kathryn a commercial real estate broker in Birmingham, Al. They have been blessed with four grandsons. Even though Dr. Causey isn’t practicing anymore, he stays busy managing a family citrus and cattle operation in Hardee, Desoto, and Highlands counties. He has served on the District Board for several years and is also active in the Highlands County Cattlemen’s Assoc., and the Heartland Agriculture Coalition.
Serving Seat # 2 – Term 2016-2020
108 Lake June Road, Lake Placid, FL 33852
As of April 2015, Doug Deen was appointed to Seat 1 on the Board of Supervisors. He is a graduate of Avon Park High School. After graduation, Doug worked as a mechanic for a local Chevrolet dealer where he received extensive training in automotive computer training. During this time, he earned an AS degree in Industrial Technology from SFCC. Doug also served as an adjunct professor at SFCC in Specialized Electronics Training.
While in high school, Doug was involved in FFA and gained a great deal of respect for agriculture. So, after years at the Chevrolet dealership, Doug was given the opportunity to work for Coca-Cola Foods/Minute Maid in their citrus division. While working for Coca-Cola, he began working on a business degree at Webber College. After a short time in the Avon Park division, Doug was promoted to shop superintendent of the Indiantown grove. His job was to oversee all the equipment used to take care of 8,000 acres (5,000 of which was citrus), and the equipment used to control the Indiantown water district and waterways. Eventually, Coca-Cola Foods was sold to Running W Citrus and Doug was promoted to assistant area manager and harvesting superintendent.
In 1994, Doug left Running W and returned to Avon Park where he began working with Barben Fruit Company. He is still with Barben Fruit and his duties include fruit procurement, overseeing harvesting operations and all of the equipment involved with harvesting. Doug is very dedicated to agriculture and eager to see it thrive.
Doug is a member of Avon Park Lakes Baptist Church; serves on the Highlands County Cattlemen’s Association; and is also on the Highlands County Fair Jr. Livestock Committee. He and his wife of 20 years, Stacia, have two sons; Bo (14-years old) and Ben (10-years old).
Serving Seat # 1 – Term 2016-2020
P.O. Box 242, Avon Park, FL 33826
As a citrus grower from the Lake Placid area, Pam Fentress possesses a deep passion for Highlands County and its agriculture industry. As a Supervisor for the Highlands SWCD she holds the position of Secretary/Treasurer and serves the Association of Florida Conservation Districts as its current Secretary/Treasurer. As a member of the USDA Farm Service Agency’s County Committee Fentress serves as the Committee Chairman. Fentress sits on the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Assoc. Board and the FFVA’s Water and Land Use and Advocacy Committees. In addition to her agriculture interests, Pam serves as the Treasurer of the Lake Placid Elementary PTO.
As her numerous board positions reflect, she has always given back to her community by serving; she has received deserved recognition for her dedication: Farm Credit of Florida Leadership Award; Wedgworth Leadership Program for Agriculture & Natural Resources Honorary Director Award; Dal Hall Memorial Award, the Chamber Charger Award and Outstanding Service Award from the Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce; Service Award from Highlands County Citrus Growers, as well as being a past HCCGA Board member. Pam is proud to be a Past-President of the Highlands County Farm Bureau, but equally honored to have served as a Past-President for the Lake Placid Jaycees. Having served on SWFWMD’s Governing Board and Chairman of the SWFWMD Peace River Basin Board for a four year term, Pam brings a wealth of water experience and knowledge to the HSWCD.
Pam is a graduate of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture & Natural Resources (Class II) and holds a BS Degree in Management & Marketing. Supervisor Fentress prides herself on serving the citizens of Highlands County with respect, trust, honor, fairness and well thought-out discussion as she works with the District Board to conserve our natural resources and sustain agriculture production for future generations. Pam resides in Lake Placid with her ten-year old daughter Tressa.
Serving Seat #4 2014-2018
300 Lost Lake Drive, Lake Placid, FL 33852
Steve "Smitty" Smith
As a 4th generation Highlands County cattle rancher, Steve Smith brings a lifelong passion for agriculture and appreciation for our natural resources and was elected in 2016 as the newest Supervisor to join the Board of the Highlands Soil & Water Conservation District.
Following his graduation from Sebring High School, Steve attended and graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelors Degree in Agriculture Operations Management. After college, Steve began his career in Agriculture with Super Sweet Farms as a producer of watermelons, followed by joining the Florida operation of Newton Crouch and currently works for Howard Fertilizer in the Sales Division. Steve is an active member on the Board of the Highlands County Cattlemen’s Association and recently served as its Board President. “Smitty”, the name the locals call him, resides in Lorida with his wife of 16 years, Sharla, and their two boys; Joel who is 10 years old and Waylon who is 6 years old. The Smith family is active in Youth Baseball, enjoying the outdoors and attending First Baptist Church of Avon Park.
Serving Seat # 5 – Term 2016-2020
What We Do
Established by the Florida Legislature, the Highlands County Soil & Water Conservation District, a governmental subdivision of the State of Florida, was established October 9, 1950 under Florida Statutes 582 by local residents for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the wise use, management and general conservation of the County’s soil, water and related natural resources. The District is committed to preserving and enhancing the quality of life in Highlands County through conservation of its natural resources.
The Highlands County Soil & Water Conservation District works closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) creating ways to conserve water, prevent soil erosion, convert irrigation systems and inform the public about conservation problems.
A Code of Ethics has been adopted by the district. For Code of Ethics Information. View Code of Ethics Here.
The Highlands County SWCD operates under Florida Statutes 582 under the Florida Legislature.
The Highlands County Soil and Water Conservation District serves all of Highlands County in the area of the conservation and stewardship of our natural resources.
Assist land owners in their efforts to secure financial assistance through Farm Bill Programs to implement conservation practices
Conservation education, programs and information
Assist growers with development of low volume irrigation systems
Develop and update irrigation water management plans
Soil surveys and historical maps
- Local government advice and assistance
- Youth education
- Invasive plant control
The Highlands County Soil and Water Conservation District sponsors a number of programs that serve the Highlands County communities. Through community support and fundraising efforts, the district is working to build the number of services we are able to offer.
The annual Envirothon, Poster & Speech Contest and Land Judging are some of the educational programs with which we are currently involved.
If you are interested in volunteering for any of these programs, in having a district supervisor work with you on a project or in offering your support for our work, please contact:
The Regional Envirothon is a problem-solving, natural resource education program for high school students. It is a unique outdoor competition that requires teamwork and the application of knowledge in the five areas listed below:
- Aquatics – water ecology, water chemistry, water quality, and aquatic life.
- Current Environmental Issues – annually selected topics such as energy sources, ground water, Gulf of Mexico environmental concerns or other current issues.
- Forestry – tree identification, tree ecology, insects, and timber.
- Soils – classification, formation, soil properties, profiles, and site suitability.
- Wildlife – habitat, identification, food, disease, and management.
Each team consists of five students. Schools can enter more than one team, but no more than six teams. The five-member teams are led by an advisor in studying prepared resource materials in the five areas including a selected current environmental issues.
Schools can enter more than one team, but no more than six teams. During the competition, the students will rotate to the five testing stations. The contest brings together soil scientists, wildlife experts, foresters, park and recreational leaders, and other environmental specialists to challenge students to learn about our natural resources.
The annual National Conservation Poster Contest provides kindergarten through twelfth grade students an opportunity to convey their thoughts about soil, water and related natural resource issues through art. It also highlights the educational outreach efforts of conservation districts and their state conservation associations, auxiliaries and agencies. The poster contest theme follows the annual Stewardship theme. The contest is co-sponsored by the National Association of Conservation Districts and the NACD Auxiliary.
Each year, the poster contest starts at the district level. Individuals and teachers with questions regarding district contests should contact their local district. To locate your local district search our state directory. District winners advance to the state level. For questions regarding state competitions, districts should contact their state association. Finally, state winners advance to the National Contest. National winners are recognized each year at the NACD Annual Meeting.
**PLEASE NOTE: Check your state poster contest sponsoring group to determine deadline and theme topic and correct poster size. Each state coordinates their own contest. Posters must follow your state’s guidelines to be eligible for the national contest.
Go here for more information.
Bradford County Soil and Water Conservation District sponsors an annual speech contest, which is designed to develop leadership and stimulate interest in conserving natural resources.
Check back for more details coming soon.
Land Judging is an exciting 4-H and FFA contest in which Middle and High School students in observe and interpret the soil in order to make wise land use decisions.
The skills the teens use at the contest involve principles that can be valuable in career fields like environmental and agricultural management, natural resources conservation, home building, engineering, and construction. Students can compete at the local, state, and national levels.
The Bradford Soil & Water Conservation Districts host local middle and high school students in FFA and 4-H to test their knowledge by judging soils from four pits that are selected by a Soil Scientist with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
In each class (Middle 4-H, High 4-H, Middle FFA, High FFA) the local county winner may compete at the state contest in that respective class.
Top placing teams in the state contest are eligible to compete at the National Land Judging Contest held at the end of April.
Click here to view the Highlands Soil & Water Conservation District Annual Financial Report filed with the State of Florida Department of Financial Services.
Fiscal Year is October 1 – September 30
Get in Touch!
Highlands Soil & Water Conservation District
4505 George Blvd
Sebring FL 33875
Office Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.