RC&D Awards and Recognition
Bitter Root RC&D Sweeps Western Awards and Comes Home With New Western Regional RC&D Officers
The Bitter Root Resource Conservation and Development Area, Inc. (RC&D) is pleased to announce their latest award winners. At the 2012 Western Regional RC&D Association Conference held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Bitter Root RC&D received 3 regional awards. The Western RC&D Association covers 10 states and 80 RC&D Councils. The Bitter Root RC&D 2012 award winners are:
Angie Zito: Program Assistant of the Year.
Angela (Angie) Zito has been Bookkeeper with the Bitter Root RC&D for 17 years and has dedicated her energy to making sure that the financial housekeeping was in order. She has had a close working relationship with the Council Treasurer and has always attended quarterly council meetings to address questions or concerns that the board might have with the financial status; she has never failed to be able to provide answers to detailed inquiries even when she was away from the computer bookkeeping system. She is responsible for grant tracking and financial reporting for multiple on-going projects, and she is able to meet deadlines and to treat the grantors with respect and efficiency. With over 50 community projects in Mineral, Missoula and Ravalli Counties, this is no light duty. Funding comes from a variety of collaborative partners through grants and project fiscal management.
Youth of the Year – Amanda Zito.
During the national campaign to get RC&Ds back on the federal funding table with a petition to get 5000 signatures, Amanda Zito took it upon herself to help with that national effort by creating a video that she used to market the benefit of RC&D across the country. This video was shared across the National Association of RC&D Councils listserv and across school campuses as well as FaceBook, YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iocRN0Xs4Sk) and other social media. It was her understanding on a personal level of the broad community benefit of Bitter Root RC&D that spurred her interest to help RC&Ds across the country. Amanda gained an understanding of the various RC&D projects in her community through her own experience participating in RC&D projects and working as an RC&D intern in high school.
Partner of the Year – NeigborWorks® Montana
The partnership between NeighborWorks® Montana and Montana RC&Ds developed in the late 1990s and has been a strong alliance since that time. Maureen Rude, Director of Operations, stated that she works closely with RC&D councils in providing the training and support that creates viability for both organizations. She works with RC&D Board Chairs, Executive Directors and Housing Counselors to make sure that the needs of all are met. “I am very dedicated to the idea
that our partnership is what makes us stronger” said Maureen, “and I make sure that the RC&D is recognized in all media that we generate.”
NWMT works with local service partners throughout the state to provide homebuyer education, homeownership planning, foreclosure prevention, one-on-one housing counseling, loans for downpayment and closing costs, due-on-sale loans for “gap financing” and development of new owner-occupied homes. Six out of the eight Montana RC&Ds have a service partner agreement with NWMT to provide First Time Homebuyer and Foreclosure Prevention education for reimbursement. In Fiscal Year 2011, NeighborWorks® Montana allocated over $82,500 to their RC&D partners.
Western Regional Officers:
The Bitter Root RC&D was one of the first RC&D Councils established in the country. The mission of the Bitter Root RC&D is to promote conscientious development of the area’s natural and human resources, while maintaining or improving the quality of those resources and the quality of life in Mineral, Missoula and Ravalli Counties, Montana.
As a result of this deep history, the Bitter Root RC&D is providing a strong leadership role at both the national and regional levels. Pam Gouse, Council Secretary, has been named as the Montana State Association President. There are 8 RC&D Councils in Montana. In addition, at the Western RC&D Meeting, Pam was elected as the Western RC&D Secretary.
We are proud to announce that Sue Sutherland was elected as the Western RC&D President. Sue is new to the Bitterroot Valley but has 15 years acting as RC&D Coordinator with RC&D Councils in Utah and Libby, Montana. Sue is married to Kit Sutherland who was the former Bitter Root RC&D Coordinator and they reside in Corvallis.
RC&D helps people and organizations with community projects. Bitter Root RC&D encourages local residents to volunteer and/or bring forward projects.
Contact us as 363-5450.
What Makes the Council Sustainable
Bitter Root RC&D is one of the best known Councils inside and outside the RC&D community due to its longevity (founded in 1965) and its impressive array of projects, including the well known Fuels for Schools program. It provides valuable lessons for us all about Council sustainability in these challenging times. Earlier this year, Bitter Root RC&D was named the 2011 National Council of the Year.
Many RC&D Councils are struggling to figure out how to continue without federal funding. Bitter Root experienced a minor bump in the road, made a smooth transition, and continues to make strong progress while supporting their local communities. What are the keys to the Council’s success? Becki Koon, Bitter Root’s Executive Director, outlined the following points.
Diversity and Number of Projects: Bitter Root currently has 50 active projects; the key is that it has not put all of its eggs in one basket. The variety of projects include the arts, recycling, energy, agriculture, public safety, fuel reduction, youth, and Native American, just to name a few. Bitter Root has a long-standing history of supporting the grassroots efforts of local citizens. Every effort is made to provide a solution or avenue for every community project that walks in the door. This enables the Council to develop and maintain partnerships that are critical to its sustainability.
Reputation: Bitter Root handles each project with an emphasis on customer service and integrity. As a result, the Council is widely trusted and known as the “go-to place” for community grassroots efforts. A pivotal event occurred in the year 2000 when wildfires consumed over 400,000 acres and 100 homes and other structures were lost. Bitter Root was able to provide a creative response to this emergency by hiring over 300 employees and meet an array of community and partner needs. This opportunity raised the Council’s profile and spurred it forward into a decade of great work.
Leadership and Continuity: Bitter Root was very fortunate to be able to take advantage of retired US Forest Service employees in leadership positions. Jim Freeman chaired the Council for 20 years and retired as the Director of Timber. Tom Coston, a retired Regional Forester, made the Fuels for Schools program happen. Byron Bonney, a retired Fire Management Officer, developed the Hazardous Fuels programs that brought millions of dollars to Montana to create defensible fire space. Combine this leadership with the skills and vision of Kit Sutherland (retired Coordinator), Nan Christensen (US Forest Service), Becki Koon (Council Executive Director), and Allen Bjergo (Council Chair), and you have over 110 years of rich RC&D experience. This team developed a common vision and need for their communities. According to Ms. Koon, “Key events and key people came together and allowed us to move forward. We were able to develop a team that established a track record of success that caused people to gravitate to RC&D.”
Finances: Bitter Root currently has significant administrative income ranging from 7% to 10% of government grants for some large multi-year projects for hazardous fuels reduction, as well as smaller amounts from other projects. However, the Council realizes that it needs to develop a fundraising campaign to maintain support for basic RC&D functions. A year-end campaign consisting of both direct mail and email is now being created; the strategy is to link the “ask” to small, positive outcomes (for example, asking for help replacing computers or adding a staff member) rather than project a negative message by saying that the Council needs to replace tens of thousands of dollars lost through government cutbacks. Overall, the Council is excited about the future and the new ability to seek out and support programs that were “outside the box” in the previous organizational structure.
The Council’s latest venture, Wood for Haiti, combines taking advantage of local wood resources to meet the pressing need in Haiti for residential and community structures following the devastating earthquakes that struck the country last year. The project is now in the start-up phase, but its ultimate goal is to raise $2 billion to transport wood from the western US to Haiti, construct 180,000 homes and 500 community centers, and train 40,000 Haitians in new construction techniques.
The bottom line is that Bitter Root RC&D has allied itself with people and partners who are passionate about raising the quality of life within their communities. Council Chair Allen Bjergo says, “As a non-profit, we are pleased to be able to provide a valuable service to our communities. It is important for us to be part of a nationwide community that makes grassroots efforts a priority.”
Article taken from the National Catalyst and can be read in full by going to:
Hamilton, MT, March 23, 2011. Most who are familiar with the Bitter Root Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council know it’s a treasure for our region, but it’s worth was proven recently when members of the Ravalli, Missoula and Mineral County Council were recognized as the 2010 RC&D Council of the Year by the National Association of RC&D Councils.
The National Association recognized the outstanding efforts of the Bitter Root RC&D at a National Leadership Conference in Washington, DC on February 14, 2011 and subsequently presented the award to the Bitter Root RC&D at the Western RC&D Association Conference in Lewiston, Idaho on March 16th.
Resource Conservation & Development Councils from the ten states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming met in Lewiston as part of their annual meeting and training.
Allen Bjergo, President of the Bitter Root RC&D along with retired Coordinator Kit Sutherland, Administrative Assistant Becki Koon, Bookkeeper Angela Zito, and Secretary/Treasurer Pam Gouse were on hand at the Western Conference to receive this prestigious award from Western Association President Bruce Kroetch. Allen noted, “To be acknowledged as number one out of the 375 RC&D Councils across the country is an honor that we do not take lightly and we are very proud of the team of staff and volunteers who work so hard to make the Bitter Root RC&D not only a local community asset but a national mover and shaker as well”.
The Bitter Root RC&D also employs the Western Association 2011 Outstanding Program Assistant of the Year, Becki Koon. Becki was presented the award by Joe Leichtnam, 2nd Vice president of Western and Awards Chair. Becki has been with the Bitter Root RC&D for 10 years and has been instrumental in assisting the organization through program development, grant writing, administration and office management. “The Bitter Root RC&D is an organization that operates for the benefit of their area’s community and I have always believed in what they do. It is an organization with heart and it is an honor to work with all the wonderful people who comprise the Bitter Root RC&D” said Becki.
The RC&D nonprofit efforts are guided by a board/council of volunteer community members. The Bitter Root RC&D has been in existence for 46 years and has facilitated over 1500 projects. Key accomplishments of the Bitter Root RC&D include additional water storage capacity at Lake Como, First Time Home Buyers Classes, epic private land restoration work following the fires of 2000, ongoing financial and technical assistance for private landowners wanting to reduce hazardous fuels, the Darby and Victor Fuels for Schools projects, the popular Healthy Kids~Healthy Forests program engaging youth in outdoor “connections”, and support to numerous locally designed activities such as Community Gardens, Farmers Market Voucher Program, local Food Banks and youth programs.
Other Montana award winners at Western were; 2011 Partner Organization of the Year, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and 2011 Council Member of the Year, Chris Malgren of Northwest Regional RC&D.
Bitter Root RC&D (BRRCD) receives 2010 Outstanding Council of the Year from National Association of RC&D Councils. Left to Right Bruce Kroetch, Western RC&D Association President, Angela Zito, BRRCD Bookkeeper, Allen Bjergo, BRRCD President, Becki Koon, BRRCD Special Projects/Administrative Assistant, Kit Sutherland, retired BRRCD Coordinator, not pictured Pam Gouse.
Joe Leichtnam, Western RC&D Association 2nd Vice President and Awards Chair, presents Becki Koon with the Western RC&D Association 2011 Program Assistant of the Year award.
For additional information about these awards or the Bitter Root RC&D, please contact Allen Bjergo or Becki Koon at 406-363-1444 x 5.
Article by Perry Backus - Ravalli Republic
Forty-six years ago, a small group of forward-thinking folks in the Bitterroot Valley had an epiphany following a trip south to visit a fledgling organization helping Pueblo Indians and Latino farmers.
They found there one of the very first Resource Conservation and Development Councils in action.
These county commissioners and members on the local conservation districts liked this idea of local people working together to promote conscientious development of natural resources, while improving the quality of life for their neighbors.
And so they decided to give something similar a try in Ravalli, Missoula and Mineral counties.
None probably could have imagined what that leap of faith would yield over the next 46 years.
The list of projects, reports, activities and organizations the Bitter Root RC&D has helped over the last 20 years fills four pages of single-spaced entries.
In Ravalli County, the RC&D Council helped form the first Wildland Urban Interface Task Force eight years before the fires of 2000. It facilitated meetings for creation of the Bitterroot Aquatic Center. RC&D officials helped get the grants needed to start biomass heating projects at schools in Darby and Victor. They provided fiscal management and support to the Valley Veterans Service Center.
"People often ask me what we do," said Bitter Root RC&D President Allen Bjergo. "I tell them our tentacles reach wide into the community. We have the ability to work with private individuals, non-profits, and local, state and federal government and create conduits so they can all work together."
Bjergo said it happens in all sorts of different ways.
Someone with a good idea for a non-profit venture can apply for grants under the RC&D's umbrella. Some non-profits need help managing their fiscal affairs. RC&D staff can do that too.
Other times, the RC&D takes the lead... Read more
Hamilton, MT, March 12, 2010. Most who are familiar with the Bitter Root Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) Council know it’s a treasure for our valley, but it’s worth was proven recently when members of the Ravalli County based RC&D swept a recent 10-state awards competition.
Conservation & Development Councils from Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming met in Missoula last month for their annual conference. As awards were announced, those affiliated with the Bitter Root RC&D received recognition as Western RC&D's Coordinator of the Year, Employee of the Year, Council of the Year and Partner of the Year. In addition, outgoing president Jim H. Freeman received recognition for his 20 years of service.
Reflecting on the many awards associated with his nonprofit, Freeman noted, “The Bitter Root RC&D has a national reputation for developing and implementing innovative solutions that address challenges faced not just by the three counties we serve, but by many people throughout the West and the nation.”
Kit Sutherland, Coordinator of the Bitter Root RC&D and recipient of the Western RC&D's Outstanding Coordinator of the Year Award, was quick to credit that national reputation to the people with whom he works, explaining “this nonprofit is able to accomplish all that it does only because of the caliber of people who invest their time for their community’s benefit. I’m pleased these folks received this recognition for their tremendous contributions.”
Resource Conservation & Development Areas are nonprofit organizations that receive limited federal dollars through the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. The RC&D nonprofit efforts are guided by a board/council of volunteer community members. Over the past two decades, key accomplishments of the Bitter Root RC&D include additional water storage capacity at Lake Como, First Time Home Buyers Classes, epic private land restoration work following the fires of 2000, ongoing financial and technical assistance for private landowners wanting to reduce hazardous fuels, the Darby and Victor Fuels for Schools projects, the popular Healthy Kids~Healthy Forests program engaging youth in outdoor “connections”, and support to numerous locally designed activities such as the Community Gardens, the Bluegrass Festival, the Farmers Market Voucher Program and local Food Banks.
Other award recipients included Byron Bonney, Western RC&D's Outstanding Employee of the Year; the Bitter Root RC&D council members, Western RC&D's Outstanding Council of the Year, and Nan Christianson, Western RC&D's Outstanding Partner of the Year.
Byron Bonney received the Western RC&Ds Outstanding Employee of the Year
Kit Sutherland received Western RC&Ds Outstanding Coordinator of the Year
James H. Freeman, Past-President, holding the Western RC&Ds Outstanding Council of the Year
Nan Christianson received Western RC&Ds Outstanding Partner of the Year
For additional information about these awards or the Bitter Root RC&D, please contact Kit Sutherland or Becki Koon at 406-363-5450 x 5