Denver, Colo. — September 18 :Larry Gabriel, Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, was awarded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Achievement Award for superior leadership in protecting the environment through the cooperation, support and growth of livestock production agriculture in South Dakota. The award was presented by Lawrence D. Grandison, director of the Office of Communication and Public Involvement in EPA’s Region 8 office.
In his position with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, Gabriel worked to grow the state’s livestock industry, particularly dairy. With more and larger operations proposed in areas of sensitive environmental conditions and public concern, a strengthening of public confidence in the environmental regulations was needed. Gabriel used a weekly newsletter, appeared at many public meetings and participated in radio spots to address the public’s fears and promote the fact that agricultural development and the protection of the water and soil could be accomplished simultaneously.
With 182 existing large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations signing Notices of Intent to Obtain General Permit Coverage by September 2005, funding was a crucial element for operator compliance. Through the efforts of the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, led by Gabriel, Environmental Quality Incentives Program funds were prioritized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s State Technical Committee to help cost-share the construction of manure management systems at many of the existing operations. State funds to cover the engineering expenses for the existing operations were also provided by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and DENR.
"Working together, the South Dakota Departments of Agriculture and Environment and Natural Resources have provided many opportunities for the growth and development of agriculture in South Dakota, but not at the expense of the environment," said Grandison. "That was possible because of Larry Gabriel’s leadership. He never hesitated to impress upon the state’s congressional delegation and federal agencies what was important to both agriculture and the environment in South Dakota.
Because of the success of bringing so many operations into environmental compliance, Gabriel encouraged DENR to put forth legislation to continue the requirement that all Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in South Dakota to be permitted. In light of the federal 2nd Circuit Court’s decision limiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to require permits, Senate Bill 9 was introduced in the 2007 South Dakota Legislature. Senate Bill 9 was supported by agricultural producer groups and environmental groups alike; it was passed and adopted into law.
Gabriel has served as a county commissioner for Haakon County and a State Legislator, serving in the House of Representatives for sixteen years, six of those as the House Majority Leader. Following his legislative career, Larry was appointed as the Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, where he served until his retirement.
EPA Region 8 presents awards in four categories to individuals and groups external to the regional office. This award recognizes significant achievements in protection of public health or the environment, or in advancing the Agency’s current strategic goals. Among the criteria is an outstanding contribution to environmental protection through a single action, or by an ongoing action over an appreciable period of time.