(September 4, 2019) Catherine Read sits down with Elaine Tholen, Director of the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District and candidate for FCPS School Board. Soil and water conservations districts were established after the dust bowl by the US Department of Agriculture to create local teams of people working on the ground with private landowners to ensure best practices for farming and agriculture.
The Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and its Educational Foundation, a 501(c)(3), provides and promotes leadership in the conservation of natural resources through stewardship and education programs. It coordinates conservation efforts statewide to focus effectively on issues identified by local member districts. Their mission is to serve and strengthen soil and water conservation districts in the stewardship of natural resources. There are 47 soil and water districts in Virginia.
The board consists of five members; two of who are appointed and three are elected. They work together, in conjunction with the chairperson, to carry out local efforts to promote good environmental practices, as it applies to land and water. They help private landowners with everything from establishing safe water runoff, preventing flooding, creating rainwater gardens and helping with storm water management.
An important part of their work is to educate the public on environmental issues. The Youth Conservation Leadership Institute attracts young people who are interested in learning more about the environment. Students who are accepted into this program run their own project to explore an issue that is meaningful to them. They then present their findings at the annual conference that is held at George Mason University.
Catherine speaks with Sitara Sastry, a youth leader who conducted a project testing drinking water at Oakton High School. At the time that she did her project the school was under construction, and there was a lot of “chatter” about weather or not the water was safe to drink.
Sitara learned quite a bit about the water at the high school, where it came from and the different uses (drinking water vs. HVAC cooling water for the air conditioning). She really enjoyed having an opportunity to get hands-on experience, and is now interested in pursuing environmental science, or environmental engineering, in college.
Elaine has really enjoyed the many years she has spent at the head of the Soil and Water District, but has decided this year to run for the Dranesville District School Board position. With a background in teaching in FCPS when she was younger, and parent of two boys who graduated through the public schools, she looks at this as an opportunity to continue to serve her community. You can learn more about Elaine on her website. Elections for School Board, Supervisors, all 140 seats in the General Assembly, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Sheriff and the Soil and Water Conservation Board will be held on November 5th.