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The Orangeburg County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Keep Orangeburg County Beautiful initiative celebrated individual efforts to promote conservation in Orangeburg County during their annual awards and recognition banquet at the First Baptist Church Family Life Center.

John Cuttino Jr., director of the Orangeburg County Soil and Water Conservation District, served as emcee for the event. He recognized OCSWCD Board Chairman John Cuttino Sr., who noted that Hugh Hammond Bennett is known as the Father of Conservation because of his efforts to preserve natural flora and fauna during the early to mid-1900s.

Cuttino Sr. introduced a video titled “Soil Stories," which documented Bennett’s life and accomplishments. Cuttino Jr. then introduced Jonathan Wardell, biologist at Orangeburg’s National Fish Hatchery, as the guest speaker.

Wardell said the purpose of the National Fish Hatchery is to conserve, enhance and protect native wildlife by improving fish production, health, expansion and education. The Orangeburg National Fish Hatchery was the first hatchery in South Carolina and it still utilizes the same ponds today as it did when it was established.

Wardell said one his current major projects is the restoration of the Carolina Heelsplitter mussel, which was placed on the endangered species list in 1993. Through the efforts of Wardell and his staff, the Carolina Heelsplitter is being restored to the state's waterways, along with several other species of mussels.

Freshwater mussels are extremely important to water systems in that the average mussel can filter approximately 40 gallons of water per day. Although mussels were once used to make buttons, Wardell said many species are now protected and have very specific propagation needs.

Cuttino Jr. also announced the award recipients for 2018.

Named the Conservation Farmer of the Year was Jordan Patrick, who farms in the Bowman area.

William Amick was named the Conservationist of the Year.

Wilette Jenksin was named the Conservation Teacher of the Year. Jenkins teaches seventh grade at Hunter-Tyler-Kinard in Norway, where she and her classes have planted a garden and fruit trees. The class is able to enjoy the fresh fruits and produce they have grown.

Named the Keep Orangeburg County Beautiful Volunteer of the Year was Lewis Jones, who can often be seen picking up litter from roadways throughout the county.

The Palmetto Pride organization was named the KOCB's Business Partner of the Year.

Orangeburg County Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioners and KOCB board members are Chairman John Cuttino Sr., George Ulmer, B. Louise Hughes, Ewart Irick, Roy Lindsey and Associate Commissioner S.E. "Buddy" Felder.

For more information, contact the Orangeburg County Soil and Water Conservation District at 803-534-2409, Ext. 3 or www.Orangeburgswcd.com.

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