Land Manager Shawn Soliday Honored with Commissioner’s Award for Public Service

Shawn Soliday

Shawn Soliday, one of four DNR employees honored this year for their public service efforts

Shawn Soliday is one of four DNR Northeast Region staff who received the Commissioner’s Award for Public Service this year. The awards are presented annually by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark to recognize DNR employees for outstanding job performance. Shawn and his colleagues were honored for always answering the call to fulfill DNR’s wildfire mission. In the nomination submitted by a DNR Northeast Region assistant manager, the four deserved special recognition for “taking initiative and acting decisively and competently on several adverse and demanding Type 3 wildfires last year.”

Shawn wears two hats at DNR, dividing his time between the leasing program and fire control, where he serves as a Type 3 Fire Team Incident Commander, instructor, and in a number of other fire positions for the region which oversees DNR activities in Ferry, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Spokane and Stevens counties and the northern half of Lincoln County. He’s worked at DNR since his teens, when he was first hired as a seasonal firefighter. This year will be his 35th fire season. Over the years, Shawn has also worked as a forester and rangeland manager, and for the last 15 years, as an agricultural and grazing land manager.

“I’m that thing known as Institutional Knowledge,” he says with a laugh.

Soliday says his two favorite parts of the job are working with his DNR colleagues, and working with farmers and ranchers.

“I have some great lessees,” Shawn says. “They are good managers willing to do what it takes to care for the bunch grass community.”

He said DNR and ranchers share the goal of keeping rangelands healthy and productive. Experts and ranchers alike know that sustainable management of grazing land is both an art and a science.

Shawn credits the lessees for using adaptive management to find the right duration and intensity of grazing, which has resulted in highly productive, sustainable range lands. Shawn is especially sensitive to the fact that many of the operators leasing state trust parcels know the land far better than he does.

“I respect their skills and history with the land when explaining the science of resource management,” he says.

It’s been a tough few years in the region. At the same time that Northeast Region experienced back-to-back record fire seasons, Shawn has taken on the management of additional leases.

“It’s overwhelming sometimes,” he notes, adding that he appreciates the support and friendships with other DNR staff, whom he refers to as his DNR brothers and sisters.

“The best part of my job is my work family and the relationships we’ve built,” Shawn says.

Despite the challenges, Shawn Soliday approaches both fire control and land management duties with the same positive attitude, diligence, and dedication. Thanks for all you do Shawn!

By Kathleen Beach, Natural Resources Specialist, Agriculture Administration Unit, DNR Southeast Region

Cropping Systems Field Day in Douglas County

Rochelle Wickwire, a Washington State Department of Natural Resource (DNR) summer intern, and I had the opportunity to attend the 2016 Cropping Systems Field Day in Douglas County on May 24. This field day was sponsored by Washington State University, USDA-Agricultural Research Service and Central Washington Grain Growers. This is the second year that I’ve attended the tour and it was exciting to see what our lessees are participating in and the variety of farm practices being implemented.

Tom Poole

The 2016 Cropping Systems Field Day began with a stop at the farm of Tom Poole. Photo: Cindy Preston/DNR.

The first stop of the day was at Tom Poole’s farm north of Mansfield. Mr. Poole presented the topic of winter canola as a rotation crop. Douglas County producers are expanding their planting of canola as a rotational crop. He also discussed sunflowers and how they fit as a rotational oilseed crop for the Douglas County area. The use of canola as a cover crop is also increasing on state lands along with experiments using different cover crops planted with direct seed methods.

Douglas Poole

Douglas Poole describes cover crops used on his ranch.

At the next stop Douglas Poole discussed the topic of spring forage triticale and 2015 and 2016 cover crop endeavors on his ranch. Multiple farmers in Douglas, Lincoln and Okanogan counties have participated in cover crop trials with Leslie Michel of the Okanogan Conservation District.

Ian Burke, WSU associate professor

Ian Burke, a WSU associate professor, describes weed management. Photo Cindy Preston/DNR.

After lunch the group looked at some winter peas at a site north of Waterville and heard Howard Nelson from Central Washington Grain Growers discuss what he likes about this crop.

At the last stop of the day, Dr. Ian Burke presented the topic of chem-fallow and weed management. The field day also included a presentation and discussion about upcoming herbicide trials planned for the area.

If you have the opportunity to attend one of these field days you will find that it is educational and well worth your time.

by Cindy Preston, Natural Resources Specialist, Agriculture Leasing Unit, DNR Southeast Region

Leasing Washington State Trust Lands

DNR-managed trust land

This DNR-managed trust land parcel in Kittitas County has multiple leases for different uses.

There’s more to state trust lands managed by Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) than leasing for grazing, irrigated and dryland agricultural activities. Trust lands are used for a wide variety of other revenue-producing purposes authorized through special use and commercial leases. For instance, the parcel pictured here, in Kittitas County, is leased for use as a communication site, grazing land and wind power generation.

Special events uses also are possible to authorize on trust land. DNR considers a wide variety of proposals for the use of state land, provided the use is in the best interest of the trust’s beneficiaries.

If you would like to explore opportunities to lease state lands or have questions about use authorization, contact a DNR Region office to speak with your local DNR land manager.

Find more information, including an online lease opportunity viewer, on the DNR Leasing State Trust Lands for Agriculture and Grazing web page.

by Chad Unland, Manager, Agriculture Administration Unit, DNR Southeast Region