by Angela Parker, AICP, of Fairbanks, Alaska, and Dan Pava, AICP, of Santa Fe, New Mexico
More than 150 planners from across the West attended the joint Western Planner/Montana Association of Planners conference in Great Falls in early August. Each year, The Western Planner recognizes and awards accomplishments during the conference.
Planner of the Year
The Planner of the Year award is given to an individual who is recognized as a practitioner and outspoken advocate for planning in the West. This year, the award was given to Jayna Watson, AICP, City of Spearfish, SD.
Joe Neeb, City Administrator for Spearfish said, “Jayna is a valued, indispensable member of our leadership team for the City of Spearfish. Over the past year, she has proven to be a strong leader who is gifted and has the proven ability to resourcefully manage and prioritize multiple projects.”
Watson recently received her AICP certification, further demonstrating her pursuit of excellence and commitment to the planning profession. She also shared her expertise with another community by helping them develop a comprehensive plan. Watson has been president of the South Dakota Planning Association for four years; during that time she has helped to educate South Dakota planners and inspired others to educate themselves. She also serves on The Western Planner Editorial Board.
Sheldon D. Gerber Merit Award for Excellence in Environmental Planning
Taos County was recognized for the plans they have put in place to integrate wildland fire and watershed protection, resiliency and sustainability. Taos County received the Gerber environmental excellence award for the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) 2016 Update. The principle author and project coordinator for this plan is Ron Gardiner of Questa, New Mexico. Gardiner runs the Land and Water Clinic, and also prepared the original 2009 Plan. He was assisted in this recent effort by a host of folks but primarily organizers and activists Hannah Miller of Taos, and Toni Hippeli of Ranchos de Taos who gave generously of their time and creativity volunteering to edit and publish the 2016 CWPP. The plan builds on work completed in 2015 by the Taos Valley Watershed Coalition, representing nearly three dozen stakeholders, who all signed off on the Landscape Restoration Strategy white paper.
This wildfire planning is linked directly to forest health and resiliency planning: the communities downstream are impacted and benefit directly from the forests on the mountains above.
The 2016 CWPP notes that, “As landscape-scale fires have spread across the West, there is an increasing awareness of the importance of upland watersheds to downstream security. Water captured, stored, and slowly released to downstream communities and farmland by intact forests guarantees dependable well water supplies, consistent stream and acequia flow, stable mountain soils, healthy fisheries, and a host of other values that contribute directly to the quality of life where people live.”
Western Planning Resources (WPR) Board member Dan Pava, AICP, emphasized that, “This is primarily a citizen-supported planning effort cast in the finest traditions embodied the intent of the Western Planner Sheldon Gerber environmental planning award.”
Gardiner said, “My message is that the process of the CWPP plan draws the stakeholders into a coordination and collaboration that raises the likelihood of a plan being implemented.” He then added, “This document became significantly better with the excellent editing and revision writing by these two citizen planners, Toni and Hanna. It reads much better to the public.”
Citizen Planner Award
Gardiner also received the Citizen Planner Award. He was recognized for his long-standing efforts advocating wildfire and watershed protections in northern New Mexico.
Indeed, Gardiner follows in the footsteps of many of his Western Planner colleagues, emulating what Sheldon Gerber would do. In 2011, UNM Taos bestowed an honorary doctorate of sciences degree on Ron, stating, “Few individuals living in New Mexico have looked at water from as many different angles as Ron Gardiner. Gardiner has seen water with oars in his hands as a river guide and in boots and saddle at the start of the hydrologic cycle in the headwaters as a wilderness ranger and ski patroller. Unlike many resource professionals, Gardiner has the perspective of his subject from a hands-on user and outdoors man to a legislative theorist. It’s a rare combination he brings the state of New Mexico...As a field biologist, watershed technician and wilderness ranger, Ron has traveled on all public watersheds and wilderness areas in the upper Rio Grande Basin. He has performed wildlife and wilderness inventories and worked on five forest service districts along the Sangre de Cristos.”
Rural Innovation Award
The Rural Innovation award was presented to the ASU/Navajo Nation Project Team for the Navajo Nation Handbook for Updating Community-Based Land Use Plans. This project, a handbook for those who prepare land-use plans for the Navajo Nation, provides citizen planners an easy-to-follow guide for the entire planning process from start to finish. The award is given to a small town or rural community that may normally be overshadowed by larger communities in competition for awards. The handbook contains tailor-made planning processes molded to the cultural standards of the Navajo Nation and the unique challenges experienced by the people.
Stan Steadman’s People’s Choice Award for Article of Year
The article “Solar power expands across the West: Potential development impacts and how to respond” by Scott Harmstead, AICP, received the People’s Choice Award. The article published in the February/March 2015 Issue highlights common impacts encountered in regulating utility-scale solar power facilities and solutions. Harmstead, of Bismarck, North Dakota, is an Associate Planner with SRF Consulting Group, Inc. He has over eight years of diverse experience in the land use planning and zoning field. He most commonly works with city and county governments to develop comprehensive and other long range plans and zoning code updates.
This award is given to an individual who has experienced unusual and possibly humorous events that represent Western planning at its finest. This year, the award was presented to Donna Bye, a planner from North Dakota. According to WPR board member Larry Weil, a fellow North Dakota planner, Bye has experienced additional workload and upheaval in her job that he felt qualified her for this unusual award.