Healthy forests yield clean water. Water quality regulations, laws and guidance, coupled with education and proactive outreach on best management practices help keep working forests healthy. Actions for protecting the quality of water resources can include encouraging effective streamside management zones (SMZs), working to advance the implementation of erosion and sedimentation control measures and ensuring N.C. Forest Service (NCFS) wildfire control efforts are carried out in a manner that protects our streams and waterbodies. For their passion for clean water and dedication to improving logging jobs in Surry County, N.C. Forest Service rangers Janet White and Elizabeth Edwards are the recipients of the 2023 Moreland Gueth Water Quality Award.
Established in 2010, the Moreland Gueth Water Quality Award pays tribute to its namesake, who served as the NCFS’s water quality and wetlands staff forester from 1995 to 2004. Gueth took a firm stance on protecting water quality but remained fair, and used a common-sense approach when working with loggers, woodland owners and other forestry stakeholders. Gueth epitomized what it means to be a public servant and was a well-respected member of the N.C. Forest Service family.
“Moreland was a great man with a kind heart and a passion for water quality,” said White. “Receiving an award for water quality protection is a privilege but to have an award with Moreland’s legacy attached to it is a great honor. I am truly humbled to have been chosen alongside Elizabeth for this award.”
White graduated from Western Carolina University in 2000 with a degree in parks and recreation, concentrating on recreation resource management. She joined the N.C. Forest Service as assistant county ranger for Surry County in October 2019 and was promoted to county ranger just three months later. Shortly after White’s promotion, Edwards, a 2019 graduate of Appalachian State University, assumed the role of assistant county ranger. Over the next three-and-a-half years, the number of water quality inspections in Surry County increased significantly. In 2023, White and Edwards conducted 65 initial inspections for 1,697 acres.
“Water quality sustains the entire ecosystem, impacts all species in that environment and supports human communities,” said Edwards. “Not only does water quality impact the animals and plants that live within the water, but humans rely on water in forested areas to provide ecosystem services like maintaining water storage that is accessible for human use and keeping it clean for consumption.”
Equally as important as the extensive knowledge, advice and technical assistance that White and Edwards share with the Surry County forestry community, both alluded to the relationships they’ve developed with private woodland owners, logging contractors and other cooperators as critical components to seeing forestry best management practices being effectively used to keep Surry County’s waters clean .
“I enjoy helping landowners reach their goals,” said Edwards. “There is no better feeling than when you’re discussing a forest management practice with a landowner, who might be unsure of how to go about reaching their forest management goals, and seeing them light up and say, ‘that’s exactly what I need and want to do with my woodlands.’”
Not that they need an additional source of devotion to the county in which they serve, but as Surry County residents themselves, White and Edwards have one anyway.
“I have the privilege of working in my home county and it provides me the opportunity to serve the people in my own community,” said White.
“It means a lot to make a difference and protect the land in the place you call your stomping grounds. This allows me to help those in the area where I was raised,” added Edwards.
Surry County is one of the busiest counties in terms of the number of logging sites that occur in the NCFS District 10 area, which includes a total of 10 counties.
Just as Moreland Gueth did before them, White and Edwards have embraced close working relationships with forestry stakeholders that can help achieve successful water quality protection. Their passion for retaining high quality water, particularly in the headwater portions of many of the region’s notable waterways, has enhanced the water quality not only for Surry County but for all of North Carolina.
“I have seen the water quality program in Surry County improve drastically through Janet’s and Elizabeth’s dedication to ensuring the streams in Surry County are protected,” said Nancy Blackwood, district forester for NCFS District 10.
To learn more about forestry-associated water quality regulations, laws, guidance and recommended best management practices to help keep forests working for North Carolina, visit www.ncforestservice.gov/water_quality/water_quality.htm.