Environmental protection -- down and dirty

The Harford Soil Conservation District has named Dave Davis, of C.D. Davis Excavating, its Conservationist of the Year for his work with wetlands and stream banks, pond restoration, wildlife habitat restoration and erosion and containment control.

Davis, who grew up on a dairy farm and lives in Pylesville, was awarded the honor in front of nearly 200 friends, family, government officials and staff from conservation districts around the state Thursday night during the Harford district's annual conservation banquet held at the Level Volunteer fire hall.

His work can be seen at several sites in Maryland and Pennsylvania, including the farm wetlands at Swan Harbor in Havre de Grace, Eden Mill's wetlands, the Hope Valley farm horse arena in Street and a restored pond at Grimmel Farm in Jarrettsville.

One aspect that made Davis stand above the rest is his ability to "make an effort to communicate with the farmer," as told during a presentation describing his work.

Davis also works to preserve his own farm, creating grass waterways and converting land to wildlife habitats.

While he didn't prepare a speech, Davis very briefly thanked everyone for the award and joked that his wife encouraged him to write something for that night.

Sen. Barry Glassman, Del. Wayne Norman, the county executive's office, county council president Billy Boniface, Councilman Chad Shrodes and Dion Guthrie all presented Davis proclamations, recognizing his achievement.

Rob McAfee, from the National Resources Conservation Service, told a story of how he followed district conservationist Cliff Bienko on the drive to the firehouse and "right turn after right turn" figured out that Bienko was taking McAfee through Harford's scenic route.

"That's what makes the partnership here in Harford County so important," McAfee said about preserving the county's beautiful land. McAfee awarded Davis a plaque and Bienko gave him a golden shovel.

Five students and their director from Harford Christian High School were also honored for their performance in the Harford County Envirothon. One student was not in attendance.

The competition is open to high school students and "combines classroom training and in the field hands-on training," according to the conservation district's website, in wildlife, forestry, soils, aquatics and a fifth environmental issue that changes from year to year.

For the sixth year in a row, Harford Christian won the annual competition on the county level, but came in second behind St. Mary's County on the state level.

Ada Stambaught, the director of the Envirothon team, said the students, and herself, learned from their mistakes and "won't let it happen again next year," hoping to bring home a state-level victory in 2012.

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