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ECO*AmeriCorps members aid water quality across Franklin County

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For Immediate Release

July 31, 2018


Jeannie Bartlett, District Manager

Franklin County Conservation District

ECO*AmeriCorps members aid water quality across Franklin County

This August marks the third year that ECO*AmeriCorps members have bolstered water quality efforts in Franklin County and throughout Vermont. Members, driven by passion for the environment and curiosity about career paths, bring increasingly impressive expertise from their recent college educations.

Brodie Haenke, a graduate of U-Wisconsin, is concluding his second year of service. His first was with the Missisquoi River Basin Association (MRBA) in East Berkshire, and this year he served with the Franklin County Natural Resources Conservation District and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in St. Albans.

“Brodie has been a tremendous asset for the Conservation District’s water quality work,” said Jeannie Bartlett, Manager of the Franklin County Conservation District. “We’re a small organization, so his enthusiasm to jump right in and even initiate new programs more than doubled our impact.”

Haenke began last fall by taking soil samples on dairy farms and assisting farmers through UVM Extension’s Nutrient Management Planning class. In the winter he surveyed wind damage on maple sugar operations for the USDA’s Emergency Conservation Program.

Haenke also took over implementation of the Conservation District’s study of the nutrient levels in underground tiles used to drain agricultural fields. He reports that so far phosphorus concentrations have generally been low, and that there is variation among the sites. He also noted a spike during spring melt and is curious to see how the rest of the season unfolds.

In April Haenke launched the Conservation District’s first surface water quality monitoring study, which relies on seven volunteers to collect biweekly samples at 26 sites in the Hungerford Brook and Black Creek watersheds. The project builds directly on his AmeriCorps service the year prior, where he led water quality monitoring for the MRBA. He designed the intensive studies of these two watersheds with the consultation of hydrologist Fritz Gerhardt, and plans to rotate the study to other watersheds in future years. Preliminary results are already giving Haenke ideas of where conservation efforts might be most needed.

After two years of AmeriCorps service in Franklin County, Haenke will be hired as the second staff person for the Conservation District this August. “Hiring an experienced AmeriCorps member such as Brodie is perfect for us,” said Bartlett. “With such urgency to improve water quality and support the small farmers who maintain our working landscape, we need more capacity up here. We’re lucky to hire Brodie. He won’t need any additional training; he’ll just accelerate the programs he has already started.”

AmeriCorps members earn a small living stipend paid by their host organizations and VT’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Members also receive health insurance, an education award upon successful completion of their service term, and professional development opportunities. Despite the benefits, members make significant personal and financial sacrifices during their service term.

But Haenke says the experience was well worth the sacrifice: “Serving with the Conservation District taught me so much about agriculture and redefined my thoughts on conservation,” he said. “I’ve learned how to put thought into action, and I cannot thank the Conservation District, NRCS, MRBA and ECO*AmeriCorps enough for this experience. I love Franklin County and have discovered that this is my passion. I am excited that this will actually be my work.”

In September, a new cohort of ECO*AmeriCorps members will begin their service, including Liza Lemieux (UVM ’18) who will serve with Haenke and Bartlett at the Conservation District. ECO*AmeriCorps members will also serve at the Northwest Regional Planning Commission, Franklin Watershed Committee, Friends of Northern Lake Champlain, Missisquoi River Basin Association and other organizations across the state. At their different organizations, they will be monitoring water quality, educating landowners, organizing events, planting trees, making maps, and more.

“I don’t know how else to say it,” says Bartlett, “AmeriCorps members just get stuff done.”

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The Franklin County Conservation District is one of 14 conservation districts throughout Vermont. The District’s mission is to promote land use that supports human livelihoods and sustains ecological function in Franklin County, VT. The Conservation District empowers and convenes landowners and land-users to prioritize and address natural resource concerns, and recognizes water quality and the continuance of our land-based economy as key concerns for Franklin County today.

Information on the Franklin County Conservation District please visit:

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Photo Credit: Lindsey Wight. Caption: ECO*AmeriCorps members celebrate a successful tree planting in North Troy. Left to right: Carlie Wright, Team Leader for the ECO*AmeriCorps program; David Cavagnaro, Friends of Northern Lake Champlain; Eric Thorpe, DEC Waste Management and Prevention Division; Brodie Haenke, Franklin County Conservation District; Heather Murphy, Missisquoi River Basin Association; Jordyn Geller, DEC Watershed Management Division.

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Photo Credit: Hannah Yates. Caption: ECO*AmeriCorps member Brodie Haenke collected water samples from agricultural tile drains right through the coldest weeks of winter.

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Photo Credit: Jeannie Bartlett. Caption: ECO*AmeriCorps member Brodie Haenke samples soils for nutrient analysis on a dairy farm in Georgia.

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