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NRCS Celebrates 75 Years by Honoring Its Founder

Robert Snieckus (left), National Landscape Architect, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Andree Duvarney (center), Special Assistant to the Chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Brian Symmes (right), “Eight Oaks” plant a progeny of one of the original oaks at “Eight Oaks” the home of Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett the first Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service then the Soil Erosion Service at Dr. Bennett’s home in McLean, Virginia on Friday, October 15, 2010  as part of the celebration for the 75th Anniversary of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The trunk of the oak tree behind has an approximate age of 350 years. USDA Photo 10di1524-4 by Bob Nichols.

Robert Snieckus (left), National Landscape Architect, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Andree Duvarney (center), Special Assistant to the Chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Brian Symmes (right), “Eight Oaks” plant a progeny of one of the original oaks at “Eight Oaks” the home of Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett the first Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service then the Soil Erosion Service at Dr. Bennett’s home in McLean, Virginia on Friday, October 15, 2010 as part of the celebration for the 75th Anniversary of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The trunk of the oak tree behind has an approximate age of 350 years.

Seventy-five years ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Soil Conservation Service, now the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), was established largely because of the efforts of one determined individual—Hugh Hammond Bennett. Bennett served as the agency’s first chief for more than 15 years, tirelessly working to educate others about the seriousness of soil erosion. On Friday, October 15, nearly 20 NRCS employees and friends took time off from work and to be Earth Team volunteers, planting oak seedlings, azaleas and phlox in Hugh Hammond Bennett’s memory at his former home.

While chief of NRCS, Bennett lived in McLean, Virginia, on a two-acre tract of land called “Eight Oaks” after a prominent feature of the property. His landscape also boasted magnificent flocks of rose-colored azaleas and phlox. In the years since, the landscape had changed quite a bit. For example, until Friday, only two oaks remained on the property.

In celebration of NRCS’ 75th anniversary, several NRCS employees initiated a project to honor the man who started it all by restoring his former home’s landscape to its former glory. Andree DuVarney, a special assistant to the chief, lives in Bennett’s former neighborhood. She learned from the current owners that a conservation easement had been placed on the property to protect it from development and that the owners welcomed the idea of a restoration project.

A team consisting of DuVarney, Management Analyst Denise Decker, National Landscape Architect Bob Snieckus and National Plants Materials Center Manager Jeremy West brought this project to fruition. Together, they developed an impressive landscape plan to restore key elements of the landscape that existed when Bennett lived there.

A key part of the restoration plan was for the property to once again showcase eight beautiful white, willow and scarlet oak trees. After the volunteer team had planted the other five new oaks, NRCS Chief Dave White and property co-owner Brian Symmes planted the last oak seedling together as the other volunteers observed. With that final step, the living tribute to Bennett was complete.

Get more information on both NRCS’ 75th anniversary and Hugh Hammond Bennett here.

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Check out other conservation stories on the USDA blog.

Howard Hankin, Agricultural Economist (left), Margaret Spinelli (center), and Lyn Gillespie (right), National Construction Engineer, Natural Resources Conservation Service prune ivy away from trees at “Eight Oaks” the home of Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett the first Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service then the Soil Erosion Service at Dr. Bennett’s home in McLean, Virginia on Friday, October 15, 2010 as part of the celebration for the 75th Anniversary of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Employees and family members of the Natural Resources Conservation Service landscaped, pruned and planted oak seedlings, azaleas and phlox all important elements of the landscape when Dr. Bennett lived at “Eight Oaks.” USDA Photo 10di1523-21 by Bob Nichols.

Howard Hankin, Agricultural Economist (left), Margaret Spinelli (center), and Lyn Gillespie (right), National Construction Engineer, Natural Resources Conservation Service prune ivy away from trees at “Eight Oaks” the home of Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett the first Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service then the Soil Erosion Service at Dr. Bennett’s home in McLean, Virginia on Friday, October 15, 2010 as part of the celebration for the 75th Anniversary of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Employees and family members of the Natural Resources Conservation Service landscaped, pruned and planted oak seedlings, azaleas and phlox all important elements of the landscape when Dr. Bennett lived at “Eight Oaks.”

Jerry Bernard, National Geologist, Natural Resources Conservation Service plants phlox an important element of the landscape when Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett the first Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service lived at “Eight Oaks” his home in McLean, Virginia. Bernard and employees of the Natural Resources Conservation Service performed the  landscaping on Friday, October 15, 2010 as part of the celebration for the 75th Anniversary of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Jerry Bernard, National Geologist, Natural Resources Conservation Service plants phlox an important element of the landscape when Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett the first Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service lived at “Eight Oaks” his home in McLean, Virginia. Bernard and employees of the Natural Resources Conservation Service performed the landscaping on Friday, October 15, 2010 as part of the celebration for the 75th Anniversary of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

One Response to “NRCS Celebrates 75 Years by Honoring Its Founder”

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