The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service presented its Superior Service Awards, the agency’s highest honors, during a ceremony at the AgriLife Center January 8. Several members of the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences were among those honored.

Ranch Management University earned a team award and Ward Ling received the Superior Service - Extension Program Specialist award.

group of people posing with plaques
Dr. Bob Whitson, Interim Associate Director for State Operations (left) and Dr. Parr Rosson, Interim Director AgriLife Extension (right), presented the awards to Ranch Management University team members Matt Brown, Dr. Larry Redmon, Dr. Jason Cleere, (back row) Linda Francis and Dr. Jim Cathey (front row). Not pictured is team member Dr. David Anderson. (TAMU Soil and Crop Sciences photo by Beth Ann Luedeker)

The Ranch Management University (RMU) team is led by Dr. Larry Redmon, Associate Department Head for Extension in Soil and Crop Sciences. Team members include Dr. David Anderson, economist-livestock marketing; Dr. Jason Cleere, beef cattle specialist; Linda Francis, Soil and Crop Sciences administrative coordinator; Matt Brown, Soil and Crop Sciences program specialist; and Dr. Jim Cathey, Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute associate director.

RMU was established in 2010 to address a growing population of absentee landowners who have grown up in urban environments and lack formal training in the management of natural resources. It is held twice each year, in April and October.

According to the nomination, the five-day course provides basic information regarding economically and environmentally sound management of soil, plant, animal and water resources, and introduces participants to the educational resources available to them through AgriLife Extension.

The workshop combines classroom instruction with field demonstrations in a range of subjects including sprayer calibration, hay sampling, aquatic weed identification and management, soil sampling, beef cattle management, and feral hog control.

To date, attendees have come to College Station from all over Texas and from California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Costa Rica for the workshop.

three people posing at awards ceremony
Ward Ling, center, received the Superior Service - Extension Program Specialist award from Dr. Bob Whitson and Dr. Parr Rosson. (TAMU Soil and Crop Sciences photo by Beth Ann Luedeker)

Program Specialist Ward Ling is the coordinator of both the Geronimo/Alligator Creeks watershed and the Mill Creek watershed.

He joined the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences in 2009 to oversee the development and implementation of a watershed protection plan for the Geronimo and Alligator Creeks watershed, adding the Mill Creek watershed in 2018.

Ling’s primary duty is to educate stakeholders in the watersheds in best management practices for their activities and to encourage the vountary adoption of these practices. He also performs due diligence for projects planned along the creeks to ensure that the creeks are not damaged.

“Before coming to AgriLife Extension, I worked in a regulatory program of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). This job appealed to me because of its voluntary nature,” Ling stated.

Protection of a watershed is a long term committment by stakeholders within that watershed. It took three years for Ling and the stakeholders to develop the watershed protection plan (WPP) and get it approved by the TCEQ. Now he is implementing programs to educate stakeholders, both agricultural landowners and urban residents.

“My job is to increase awareness and to educate people so they want to adopt these practices,” he said. “They are not building any more creeks and rivers so we need to protect what we have.”

Ling’s programs include septic system maintenance, water well management and creek clean-ups.

“We started doing annual watershed clean-up along the Alligator and Geronimo creeks in 2013 and usually have between 150 - 200 people participate,” he said. “In the six years of the project we have had 1,120 volunteers and taken 16,000 pounds of trash out of the watershed.”