The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 26, 2013

Mueller named acting state conservationist


Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — John Mueller has been named acting state conservationist for the USDA-Natural Resources Conser-vation Service in Oklaho-ma.

He assumed the duties Jan. 14 after being appointed by Jason Weller, acting NRCS chief in Washington, D.C. Mueller replaces Ronald L. Hilliard, who retired after 36 years of service. Mueller is expected to serve until a permanent state conservationist is named.

Mueller returns to Oklahoma with a strong conservation ethic and a career in watershed development, rehabilitation and conservation structures de-sign spanning over 27 years in four states.

Mueller grew up on a small ranch in DeWitt County, Texas. After graduating from Texas A&M with a degree in agricultural engineering, he joined NRCS and has held positions in four states, including Oklahoma. His first assignment in Oklahoma was as field engineer at Duncan, where he served three years. He was named geotechnical engineer at the state office in Stillwater, and was later promoted to assistant state engineer for Oklahoma. After serving in Stillwater for eight years, he returned to Texas in 2002 as the NRCS Texas state engineer.

Mueller designed and engineered the first Sugar Creek geomorphic drop structure at Gracemont in Caddo County. That design proved so effective it was duplicated many times up and down Sugar Creek. As a result of his extensive work on the Sugar Creek Watershed, he was honored by the South Caddo Con-servation District for his efforts. He also assisted sponsors on a site known as North Deer Creek 1M and was praised for his ability to interact with those project sponsors and work together with diverse stakeholders.

Mueller will oversee the delivery of conservation programs to agricultural producers through a combination of technical and cost-share assistance programs that are provided by the farm bill.

In Oklahoma, NRCS maintains field offices with professional staff that serve the state’s 77 counties. NRCS works with county conservation districts and producers to deliver conservation practices most needed in each county that are determined through a locally led public meeting process.

In 2012, Oklahoma NRCS provided more than $38 million in assistance to producers to improve conservation on more than one million acres.

“I am pleased to have an opportunity to serve in this capacity, and to work with the various conservation partnerships to protect and enhance the state’s resources,” Mueller said. “I look forward to meeting other people that are now involved in conservation partnerships.

“Oklahoma is well known nationally for its locally led partnership approach to place conservation on the land. The recent Ken Burn’s documentary on the Dust Bowl came at an appropriate time since Oklahoma is in the worst drought since the 1930s.

“As a result of the drought and the documentary, conservation has become a hot topic at coffee shops in rural towns all across Oklahoma.”