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District soil and water conservation awards banquet held

By Victoria Advocate
June 11, 2013 at 1:11 a.m.

Emma Milam, right,  won first place, and Carolyn Conway, left,  won second in the Texas Soil and Water Conservation District conservation poster contest. Carolyn and Emma are shown with their awards.

The Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Region III had its annual banquet at the Spring Creek Place Event Center.

Region III is comprised of 50 counties in South Texas. There were 300 in attendance.

The conservation district had six people who won awards at the banquet.

Lou Womack was recognized as outstanding absentee conservation rancher; Roger Hempel as resident conservation rancher; Sammy Fisher as outstanding conservation business individual; and Chris Lucci and the Wild River Ranch were named outstanding wildlife conservationist for 2012.

Receiving awards in the conservation poster contest were Emma Milam, first place, and Carolyn Conway, second place.

Chris Lucci and the Wild River Ranch were named outstanding wildlife conservationist for 2012.

Lucci owns about 600 acres in Victoria County that joins the San Antonio River. The ranch is about 15 miles southwest of Victoria on Old San Antonio River Road and consists of all native rangeland.

Lucci's work on the ranch included removing unwanted brush, encouraging diversity in the plant community, improving the water quality on the ranch and installing a wetland.

River Ranch also works with various groups for hunting, sponsors youth hunts for children and hosts the Wounded Warrior Program in guided hog hunts. The ranch is also used for night vision training by law enforcement officials.

Sammy Fisher of Helena Chemical Company received outstanding conservation business for 2012.

Fisher is in charge of the Helena Chemical Company store in Placedo. He has been with the company since 1998.

Helena Chemical Company sells fertilizer, seed and crop protection chemicals to area farmers and ranchers.

Fisher, a certified crop adviser, works with customers to find chemical options, works with aerial applicators and provides scouting service to his clients.

Hempel was awarded the outstanding resident conservation rancher for 2012. Hempel owns 140 acres and leases another 3,000 acres of grazing land on five ranches in Victoria County.

Hempel practices conservation on all the land he operates and has a custom hay business. He is a 17 1/2

Womack, of San Antonio, received the absentee conservation Rancher award for 2012.

Womack and her late husband, Jess, acquired their portion of the McFaddin Ranch when it was partitioned to family members in 1990. Together, they managed the ranch until 2005, when Jess passed away. Lou has managed the ranch since with the help of Blanco Farm Manager Craig Webb and longtime ranch employee C.B. Villarreal.

The ranch has 4,300 acres registered in the Wetlands Reserve Program. It is the largest wetlands acreage west of the Mississippi enrolled in the wetlands program.

Womack works with various agencies to maintain and improve the ranch. In addition to the annual bird count done by the Audubon Society, other groups and individuals are allowed to watch birds on the ranch. She also works with the Texas Wildlife Association to have a youth hunt on the ranch every year.

The purpose of the conservation awards program is to recognize and honor Soil and Water Conservation Districts and individuals who have dedicated their time, efforts and talents to making use of renewable natural resources.

Sponsors of the area conservation awards program are the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, The Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the 216 Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Texas.

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