Knutson attends SWCD leadership conference in D.C

CLARKFIELD — Knowing that group dynamics can make or break a project, Yellow Medicine County Soil and Water Conservation District Technical Director Tyler Knutson recently attended a leadership development program in Washington, D.C.

The seminar is one of seven sessions that are part of MASWCD’s Leadership Program led by the University of Minnesota Extension. The year-long program is designed to strengthen the leadership skills and capacity of local natural resource agencies to better serve the public and address the complex natural resource conservation issues found in communities throughout Minnesota.

The program, held Feb. 11-15, was sponsored by the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD), so there were about 23 other SWCD employees and partners who attended this session, Knutson said.

“A lot of folks in our agencies, local, federal and state, have gone through this program,” Knutson said. “Anyone we’ve talked to said they’re proud of it and learned a lot from it.”

He said that he figured if he ever had a chance to do it he would even though the topics sounded like something he wouldn’t need until he was in a management position.

“Bringing people together on a common goal was the main principle, but more in-depth,” he said. “The thing I could implement right way was building a shared vision. Bringing everyone together for a common goal, such as the Yellow Medicine River watershed plan, was like circling the wagons and how to implement the plan successfully.”

Another area of Knutson’s job affected by the classes he took in Washington, D.C., is working on the buffer law requirements with farmers.

“We’ve already seen success in its use,” Knutson said. “The big thing was to get everybody to see that we’re going in a common direction.”

Other experience Knutson gained from participating in this program include the benefits of connection power, or combining what you know with who you know, building shared vision to get things done and bringing forward a clear message of what needs to be accomplished.

“The MASWCD is proud to sponsor a training program that provides leadership development for our members,” MASWCD Executive Director LeAnn Buck said in a news release. “Conservation Districts and our partners work every day with local, state and federal conservation programs and this experience highlights the collaborative process needed to advance public policy at all levels.”

MASWCD is a nonprofit organization which provides leadership and a common voice for Minnesota’s 89 soil and water conservation district; maintains relationships with rulemaking agencies, partners and legislators; and provides educational opportunities for districts so they can carry out effective conservation programs.

Knutson grew up in Granite Falls, graduated from Yellow Medicine East High School and obtained a diploma from Ridgewater College in Willmar in special ag technologies such as GPS and GIS as well as soils sciences. The soils classes and the mapping software studies helped him land the job with the SWCD, he said.