Columbia, SC—The Richland Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) recognized J. Kenneth Mullis of Blythewood as the Cooperator of the Year at its annual Awards Banquet on May 17. Among many other accomplishments, Mullis’s work with the Twenty-five Mile Creek Watershed Program set him apart as this year’s awardee.
The Twenty-five Mile Creek Watershed is an area of land in northeastern Richland and western Kershaw Counties that drains into Twenty-five Mile Creek, a tributary of the Wateree River. The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control has identified Twenty-five Mile Creek as having elevated levels of fecal bacteria and an impaired macroinvertebrate community. Many factors, including urbanization and land use changes, failing septic systems, agriculture, and wildlife contribute to these issues.
In 2014, Richland County received Section 319 Grant Program funding to address agricultural impacts on the watershed. Through the program, financial incentives and technical assistance were provided to help farmers install Best Management Practices (BMPs) on pastureland.
Mullis, who lives and farms in the Twenty-five Mile Creek Watershed, participated in the early stakeholder meetings for this project, then helped to negotiate the partnerships between local, state, and federal entities that allowed the project to be successful. Next, Mullis began recruiting participants and installing BMPs on his own pastures. By the end of the project in 2018, Mullis had personally installed 1.7 miles of fencing on two farms, and he was responsible for the participation of several other landowners.
“Commissioner Mullis was the secret ingredient to the success of the Twenty-five Mile Creek Program,” said Richland SWCD Education Coordinator Chanda Cooper. “Thanks to him, conservation practices have been installed throughout the watershed to reduce the amount of sediment, nutrients, and bacteria entering the creek. This is a huge positive benefit to the environment and to the community.”
Mullis serves as the Richland SWCD’s Chairman but was not involved in the award selection process. In addition to his service with the Richland SWCD, Mullis retired from the SC Forestry Commission and is President of the SC Association of Conservation Districts and the SC Forage and Grazing Lands Coalition; Vice President of the Richland County Cattlemen’s Association; Board Member of Richland County Farm Bureau; and Area Director for the SC Horsemen’s Council. He raises grassfed beef cattle and owns a farm business called Blythewood Pasture Services. Mullis is a member of Trinity United Methodist Church and lives in Blythewood with his wife, Sha.
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Conservation Districts are political subdivisions of state government under the local direction of five-member Boards of Commissioners. In South Carolina, Conservation District boundaries conform to County boundaries. The Richland Soil and Water Conservation District promotes the wise use and care of natural resources for long-term sustainability.
Richland Soil and Water Conservation District
2020 Hampton Street, Room 3063A
Columbia, SC 29204
Phone (803) 576-2080
Fax (803) 576-2088