2014-02-04 / Front Page

Owen County Soil & Water Conservation District Welcomes New Executive Director Kelsey Thetonia

Staff Report

The Owen County Soil & Water Conservation District recently welcomed new executive director, Kelsey Thetonia. (Staff Photo) The Owen County Soil & Water Conservation District recently welcomed new executive director, Kelsey Thetonia. (Staff Photo) The Owen County Soil & Water Conservation District introduced its new executive director, Kelsey Thetonia, during the district’s annual meeting held January 25th at the Owen County Fairgrounds in Spencer.

Hailing from Rhode Island, she now makes her home in Bloomington. She holds two master’s degrees from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), a Master’s of Public Affairs and a Master’s of Science in Environmental Science, concentrating in water resources.

“I have a background in science and that is my passion,” Thetonia told the Spencer Evening World. “That is what got me interested in soil and water conservation.”

She worked with the Indiana Clean Lakes program, which conducts water sampling all throughout the state. She spent time in the lab processing samples and learning about water chemistry and the biology of water ecosystems. She then moved on to studying soils. She sampled on a farm field in Newton County, studying what the effects of agriculture are on soils.

“This job is pretty much exactly what I wanted to do,” she explained. “Anything that brings me outdoors, educating people about why it’s important to be up-to-date on the latest research about soil health… why we need to conserve our resources. I think it’s very important that I get our message out there. That’s what brought me here and I’m very, very thankful that Owen County welcomed me in. Everyone that I’ve met here so far has been extremely nice and wonderful.”

According to Thetonia, she took over this position, filling a directorship that had been vacant for five months. She has reaching out to nearby districts, trying to meet as many people as she can.

“I’m trying to find out what other directors are doing with their districts and to shape my position to better suit Owen County,” she said. “It is a very unique area.

“Carrying over from last year, we have a CWI (Clean Water Indiana) grant that focuses on Mc- Cormick’s Creek and we also have our LARE (Lake and River Enhancements) grant. The LARE grant is for Limestone Creek and the Lake Hollybrook area. That is what we will be doing this year. We are also in the process of applying for a 319 grant and that is a very big deal. It is a big undertaking for me and the beginning of this position. That will focus on the lower White River watershed… a large area, pretty much our whole county. That would give us a lot of funding and a lot of opportunities, but it is very competitive.”

With the 319 federal dollars, Thetonia would like to implement the watershed plan and that would entail public education and would address agriculture needs including soil erosion, forestry and agricultural urban issues.

According to Thetonia, soil and water conservation districts were formed during the dust bowl days when soil health was very poor. Now that soil health is good for the most part, the role of SWCDs has changed to natural resources conservation, water health and making soil health even better.

At this time, she is focused on tailoring her work to how she wants to run the district. She wants to be hands-on and get to know and form good relationships with the local farmers and county officials.

This spring she plans to be knocking on doors and definitely wants feedback from and to form partnerships with local farmers. If you are interested in meeting Thetonia, she can be contacted via email at kelsey-thetonia@iaswcd.org or by calling 829-2605. The Owen County SWCD office is located at 743 East Franklin Street, on the north side of the Farm Bureau building in Spencer.

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