Farm families to be honored for conservation work

Earth Day celebrations include awards for work done to preserve habitat along Dry Creek.

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WALLA WALLA -- Earth Day will be a special day for two Walla Walla farm families.

The families of Jim and Jeff Schulke will be presented with the state's conservation stewardship award for their work to protect fish habitat along Dry Creek. The award is in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the federal Conservation Reserve Program.

Travis Martin, executive director of the Walla Walla County Farm Service Agency, said the Schulke families have used Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program -- an offshoot of CRP -- projects for many years to plant a riparian buffer along the creek, which is home to steelhead, a fish listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Jeff Schulke said the families began their first CREP project in 2002-2003. "We've added to the acreage in about a five-year cycle," he said. "Essentially we've added to the acreage until every stream border was buffered."

The total now covers about 200 acres on family farmland northwest of Walla Walla, he said.

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in partnership with Washington state. Its goals are to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality and provide wildlife habitat by planting native plants and grasses along stream borders.

Along with the Schulkes, those invited to attend Friday's ceremony will include representatives from the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources and Conservation Service, the Walla Walla Conservation District, the Washington state Conservation Commission, Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife and members of the 16th Legislative District.

Friday's ceremony will take place at the CREP site on the Schulke's farmland. Attendees will meet at 10:30 a.m. at the USDA Service Center, 325 N. 13th Ave., and drive to the site from the service center.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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