Sorensen awarded Hugh Hammond Bennett Award for conservation excellence
WASHINGTON — The Soil and Water Conservation Society awarded the prestigious Hugh Hammond Bennett Awardto American Farmland Trust Senior research adviser, Ann Sorensen, PhD, for her 50 years of service to the conservation of natural resources. Building upon the work of legendary soil conservationists Hugh Hammond Bennett and Norm Berg, Sorenson has contributed significantly to advance soil conservation and land protection, both through pioneering research and transformative public policy.
“Ann embodies the spirit of Bennett and other award winners. Her lifelong dedication to advance conservation of our natural resources helps everyone working on the issue, including farmers, advisers, researchers, agency officials and policy makers. She knows that when we lose our productive farmland and healthy soil, we lose an opportunity to heal the planet and its people. She has worked passionately for over 50 years to develop and share solutions that protect the land, conserve the soil and build a brighter future for agriculture and the environment,” said former AFT presidents Ralph Grossi and John Scholl and current president John Piotti in their nomination letter to SWCS.
The Hugh Hammond Bennett Award is the highest honor bestowed on an individual by the society. It is given for extraordinary accomplishments in the conservation of soil, water, and related natural resources. No more than one award may be presented per year.
Sorensen is in good company with past award winners Norm Berg, Aldo Leopold, Rattan Lal, Rich Rominger, Jerry Hatfield, Wayne Honeycutt and others.
“I am honored and grateful to have received this award alongside so many whom I respect and admire for work I enjoy and about which I feel so passionate,” said Sorensen. “I am appreciative for the support I have received from my very talented colleagues at American Farmland Trust and from AFT’s leadership over the past 30 years. Ralph Grossi, John Scholl and John Piotti, AFT presidents under which I have served, recognized that research, policy advocacy and on-the-ground implementation was crucial to achieving the land and soil conservation needed to protect our nation’s agricultural resources and helped make the underlying research possible.”
Sorensen dedicated her career to conserving natural resources by pursuing the twin strategies of protecting the land and soil. She understood that people cannot conserve soil and protect natural resources without first protecting agricultural land from development. She also understood that individuals cannot implement critically needed conservation planning without first overcoming barriers to adoption. Sorensen advanced the science, policy and implementation of conservation through applied research, innovative pilot projects, farmer engagement and science-based advocacy.
Understanding the value of sound research in the public policy process, Sorensen’s work directly shaped public policy at a level rare for researchers. She led studies that catalyzed the creation or expansion of over two dozen state farmland protection programs, as well as the current federal agricultural conservation easement program (ACEP-ALE) and its precursor (FRPP). Her early work was also crucial in the dramatic expansion of the Conservation Title in the 2008 farm bill. In so doing, Sorensen demonstrated how sound research can drive policy decisions and improve agricultural policymaking.
Sorensen led research efforts at AFT for nearly 30 years, including a groundbreaking series of projects on farmland loss in America. The original Farming on the Edge report was released in 1997 and our Farms Under Threat work continues today. Our 2020 Farms Under Threat: State of the States report documented that 2,000 acres of agricultural land are converted daily in the United States; and that much of that land is the country’s best — most productive, versatile and resilient — farmland. Even though partly retired, Sorensen continues to be involved in the Farms Under Threat research with the next phase of the report was released June 29.
Sorensen holds a B.A. from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. She was assistant director, Environment and Natural Resources Division, for American Farm Bureau Federation. She has published over 95 refereed research publications, numerous research reports and four book chapters and has made over 400 invited presentations.
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