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Hal Clark, from Cimarron County Conservation District, to Receive Governor’s Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Award

The Governor’s Agriculture Awards will be presented during a special ceremony hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry at 2 p.m. March 29 in Senate Assembly Room 535 in the state capitol. The public is invited to attend.


Hal Clark will receive the Governor’s Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Award. For more than half a century, he has managed the Clark Ranch in far northwestern Cimarron County. Conserving the soil has been a priority that sustains this productive ranch. His pasture and rangeland management includes rotational grazing, establishing permanent vegetation and controlling erosion to protect both land and water.

Clark’s education in range management coupled with his family’s history with the Dust Bowl led him to become a member of the Cimarron County Conservation District board of directors in 1966. Since that time, he has dedicated over 47 years to advancing soil stewardship. He helped develop the High Plains Five States Range Camp on his ranch to teach high school students the value of taking care of the land and hundreds of students from Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma have participated.

As a member of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission from 1978-1996, Clark and his fellow commissioners established the Blue Thumb project to provide statewide education on stream water health. He also served on Gov. Keating’s Animal Waste and Water Quality Task Force which authorized a cost-share program to help landowners install conservation practices that improved water quality and limited soil erosion. He helped the conservation district secure no-till drills and low-energy precision application nozzles for irrigation systems to change the way farming is done in the Panhandle.

“In his 84 years, I imagine Hal has tackled just about every challenge that land has to throw at him,” said State Conservationist Gary O’Neill. He points out that Clark continues to get up to check the cows and fences with a smile on his face.


Other awards to be presented include the Governor’s Outstanding Achievement in Agriculture Award to Virgil Jurgensmeyer,  the Governor’s Outstanding Public Service in Agriculture Award to Anna Belle Weidemann and the Governor’s Outstanding Legacy in Agriculture Award to Floyd King.


Wildfire Relief Coming to Three Oklahoma Counties

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is announcing the availability of more than $6 million in funding to implement practices that will help private farmers, ranchers and forest landowners affected by wildfires in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

In Oklahoma, agricultural producers in Beaver, Harper and Woodward Counties will be eligible for wildfire relief assistance. Funding will be delivered through NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and applications will be accepted until April 21, 2017.

“We stand by Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers in their recovery from these devastating wildfires,” said Gary O’Neill, State Conservationist for NRCS in Oklahoma. “I encourage affected producers to take full advantage of our financial and technical assistance.”

NRCS will assist local producers with practices such as restoring scorched grazing land, rebuilding fencing, protecting damaged watersheds and implementing various conservation measures to mitigate losses.

EQIP is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to help plan and implement conservation practices that address priority local and state resource concerns. Producers must submit a complete program application, establish “farm records”, and other documentation to support eligibility to be considered for financial assistance through EQIP. Step-by-step assistance can be found at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted.

Producers in the affected counties are encouraged to check with their local NRCS service centers for additional information.

USDA Seeks Project Proposals to Protect and Restore Critical Wetlands

USDA is investing up to $15 million in technical and financial assistance to help eligible conservation partners voluntarily protect, restore and enhance critical wetlands on agricultural lands. Funding will be provided through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP​), part of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), a Farm Bill conservation program. Proposals must be submitted to NRCS state offices by April 24, 2017. The partnership is administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the leading federal agency for wetland conservation on private lands.

“Restored wetlands improve water quality downstream and improve wildlife habitat, while also providing flood prevention and recreational benefits to communities,” said Gary O’Neill, State Conservationist for NRCS in Oklahoma.

Through WREP, states, local units of governments, non-governmental organizations and American Indian tribes collaborate with NRCS through cooperative and partnership agreements. These partners work with tribal and private landowners who voluntarily enroll eligible land into easements to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their properties.

“These strong, locally led partnerships provide landowners the financial resources needed to voluntarily conserve our lands,” said O’Neill.

Easements enable landowners to adopt a variety of conservation practices that improve the function and condition of wetlands. The voluntary nature of NRCS's easement programs enables effective integration of wetland restoration on working landscapes, providing benefits to farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program, as well as benefits to the local and rural communities where the wetlands exist.

This year, NRCS is encouraging partners to propose projects that focus on improving water quality as well as wildlife habitat on working landscapes. A number of at-risk species including the Northern pintail, whooping crane, little blue heron, and alligator snapping turtles as well as a variety of mussels and amphibians can benefit from restoring wetlands.

More information is available on the ACEP webpage.

Fire Relief Meetings for Producers Affected by Wildfires Scheduled in Buffalo and Beaver

Fire relief meetings will be held in Beaver and Buffalo for producers who have been affected by the recent wildfires.  The meetings will be hosted by the Farm Service Agency and the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Foundation.

"We encourage all producers affected to attend the meetings in order to learn about all of the opportunities for assistance in the recovery process," said Jeff Jaronek, Coordinator of the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Foundation.

The meeting in Buffalo, Okla. is scheduled for 10 a.m., March 20 at the Harper County Fairgrounds.  The meeting in Beaver, Okla. is scheduled for 10 a.m. March 24 at the Beaver County Fairgrounds.

Topics covered will include:  How producers apply and become eligible for disaster assistance; Information about federal programs that producers will be eligible for relative to the wildfire; Fire ant regulation update; and how to apply for the available funds through the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Foundation.

The Oklahoma Cattlemen's Foundation (OCF), is a charitable arm of the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association.  The relief fund was established to help ranchers who have been affected by the recent wildfires in northwest Oklahoma.

"We will coordinate with the Extension offices in each county to organize relief efforts in the area and to identify ranchers that are in need," said Jaronek.

NAP Deadline March 15


March 15 is the deadline to purchase 2017 NAP (noninsured crop disaster assistance program) warm season grasses grazing coverage. There is no late-file provision. Those interested in purchasing NAP coverage must submit an application for coverage by the deadline. In the event that office traffic is so great that an application cannot be completed, a producer may request to be placed on a register for application completion at a future scheduled date. Placement on the register must be requested by close of business March 15, 2017.

For an appointment to purchase NAP coverage, please contact your local Farm Service Agency county office.


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Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Holds 79th Annual Meeting in Oklahoma City

OKLAHOMA CITY, March 1, 2017−The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) held its annual meeting February 26-28, 2017. More than 300 individuals gathered at the Embassy Suites in downtown Oklahoma City to learn about soil, water, air and wildlife conservation efforts, elect new officers to the OACD board and honor conservation leaders.

“The 79th OACD annual meeting was a unique opportunity for district directors, agency staff and agriculture producers to share information about the really great conservation efforts that are happening in Oklahoma,” said Jimmy Emmons, OACD President.

General session speakers included Mike Brown, Executive Director of the National Association of State Conservation Agencies, who spoke about the importance of conservation districts and the role of district directors, Dr. Jim Chamberlain from the University of Oklahoma’s WaTER Center who shared with attendees about how to conserve water across the globe and Jona Tucker who spoke on the Blue River Head Water Protection project.

Conservation District Directors elected new officers for the OACD board including Jimmy Emmons of Leedey, Okla., as President and Bryant Reeves of Willow, Okla., as Vice-President. Also new to the board is Joe Caughlin of Tonkawa, Okla. Bill Jordan of Paoli, Okla., Larry Wright of Weatherford, Okla., Elmer Maddux of Mooreland, Okla., Marty Hern of Westville, Okla., and Dale Jenkins of Holdenville, Okla. all remain on the board, as does immediate past president Steve House of Watonga, Okla.

New to this year’s meeting was a line-up of soil health all stars from across the country during a Soil Health Track on Tuesday February 28. Speakers discussed how to increase farm profits by utilizing soil health practices, managing weeds through plant diversity and how to implement soil health practices on grazing lands.

The following conservation all stars were honored:

Conservation Hall of Fame-Director:  Mike Rooker, Shawnee County Conservation District Director and Conservation Commissioner.

Conservation Hall of Fame - Friend of Conservation Award:  Mike Thralls was honored posthumously for his incredible work in conservation, as was his right hand man, Ben Pollard.

Outstanding Conservation District Cooperator: Dustin Donley of Woodward, Okla.

Outstanding Conservation District Director: Kenneth Salisbury of Vici, Okla.

Employee of the Year: Shirley Hudson of the Ottawa County Conservation District

Mike Thralls Memorial Scholarship:  The second annual scholarships were presented in honor of former Oklahoma Conservation Commission executive director Mike Thralls. Two students each received $500 awards to pursue a degree at Oklahoma State University in the College of Agriculture Sciences and Natural Resources. Recipients were Kaila Williams of Duncan, Okla., and Justin Sawatzky of Clinton, Okla.

 

Steve House turns over OACD presidency to Jimmy Emmons

 
Ben Pollard is entered into the Conservation Hall of Fame
 

Mike Thralls is posthumously entered in the the Conservation Hall of Fame

 
Hal Clark from Cimarron County Conservation District receives 50 year service award
Conservation Districts!  Join “Friends of Blue Thumb” at a special discount rate! 
For a lifetime membership fee of $75, conservation districts can be a part of the “Friends of Blue Thumb” nonprofit organization.  About half of the conservation districts joined this group four years ago, and since that time they have been eligible for grants that focus on conservation education.  This is your chance to be part of an organization that wants to support conservation districts and Blue Thumb volunteers as they strive toward clean streams and rivers.  This offer is good through March 31.  Stop by the Blue Thumb exhibit at the OACD State Meeting for more information.

 
Friends of Blue Thumb is offering mini-grants of $100 to ten "friend" conservation districts this spring.  Districts that will hold a natural resource day, participate in local Earth Day events, or otherwise be a part of a conservation education effort can request the funds. Some type of water conservation or water quality education effort is expected to be part of the deal.  Send a proposal of no more than one page to Cheryl Cheadle if you want to be considered for a  mini-grant.  Checks will be provided to the successful districts after the event has taken place.  More information will be provided to districts upon receipt of proposals, but also do NOT hesitate to email with questions.  Proposals are due by March 17 to Cheryl at [email protected].
Learn more about the Conservation Stewardship Program and Soil Health Producer Network at Feb. 10 Workshop in Carnegie

 ANADARKO, Okla.—Learn what’s new for USDA’s Farm Bill programs, including the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) during a workshop on February 10, 2017 from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. in Red Buffalo Hall, Kiowa Tribal Complex, 100 Kiowa Way, Carnegie.

“There have been a number of updates to USDA programs for 2017. CSP is one we’re really excited to share. New producers to the program will find it easy to jump right in, and producers returning to the program will appreciate how conservation enhancements can be more easily customized to fit local natural resource concerns and their unique operation,” said Danielle Metz, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) District Conservationist for Caddo County.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency, NRCS, National Agricultural Statistics Service and Risk Management Agency will host presentations. There will also be special presentations on the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts’ Soil Health Producer Network, Oklahoma Ag Credit Services and uses for red cedars.

The workshop is free and lunch will be provided. RSVP or request reasonable accommodations by Feb. 6 with Garrett Tartsah at 405-628-6705 or [email protected] or Dr. Carol Crouch at 405-612-9331 or [email protected].
Public Invited to Feb 28th Soil Health Sessions

The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts is proud to welcome the public to attend a one day Soil Health Conference on February 28th. The Soil Health Track @ the OACD State Meeting is an opportunity for agriculture producers, conservation districts and other interested members of the public to hear from experts and each other about the soil health movement in conservation. The Soil Health Track @ the OACD State Meeting is also offering producers the chance to network with each other about what soil health practices they have tried on their own operations. Those interested in attending should RSVP online or by calling Sarah Blaney at 517.763.8609. The cost to attend is $40 and includes lunch.

“These sessions are part of OACD’s commitment to provide conservation districts and the public the resources and partnership opportunities they need to preserve Oklahoma’s natural resources,” said Steve House, OACD Board President.

The Soil Health Track @ the OACD State Meeting will feature speakers from around the United States including Russell Hedrick of JRH Grain Farms from Hickory, N.C., Dr. Randy Anderson of Agriculture Research Services from Brookings, SD, Adam Daugherty of USDA-NRCS from Coffee County, TN, and Dr. Rick Haney of Agriculture Research Services from Temple, TX. The workshop will also feature Dr. Jason Warren from Oklahoma State University, Dr. Cait Rottler from the USDA-Southern Plains Climate Hub and Steve Glasgow from USDA-NRCS. Speakers will cover topics such as managing weeds with plant diversity, assessing the health of your soil, how soil health can increase your farm’s profits and how to apply soil health practices to grazing lands.

 “The soil really is the key to an overall healthier ecosystem for all of us,” said Jimmy Emmons, OACD President-Elect and Oklahoma Soil Health advocate. “On my own operation, I have seen a dramatic difference in the resiliency of my soils over the last five years through implementing practices such as no-till and adding multi-species cover crops.”

As drought, flood and uncertain markets continue to apply pressure on Oklahoma’s farms and ranches, producers are turning to soil health practices in increasing numbers to unlock hidden productivity and resiliency in their operations. OACD and its partners are committed to rebuilding the health of Oklahoma’s soils. To learn more about how OACD is working to save our soils visit www.okconservation.org/healthy-soils.

Applications Requested for Innovative Partner Projects

STILLWATER, Okla.—Gary O’Neill, State Conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Oklahoma, invites potential conservation partners to submit project applications for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) by April 21, 2017. Partners may include private industry, government and non-government organizations, Native American Tribes, water districts and universities. For more information on applying for fiscal year 2018 projects, visit the RCPP website.

Through RCPP, NRCS will award up to $252 million to locally driven, public-private partnerships that improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. Applicants must match or exceed the federal award with private or local funds.

“Partnership has been the backbone of successful natural resource conservation in Oklahoma from the beginning,” said O’Neill. “RCPP magnifies that spirit of partnership and cooperation—it’s a program model that seems custom made to work here.”

Last month, NRCS announced 88 new high-impact projects for fiscal year 2017, including a partnership between Oklahoma and Texas organizations to improve habitat for declining grassland bird and monarch butterfly populations.

In addition to several RCPP projects with project areas that include all or parts of Oklahoma, Oklahoma is identified as the lead state on three RCPP projects. The Grand Lake and Elk City Lake Water Quality Projects are led by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission along with 14 other partners with the goal of implementing conservation practices and conservation education in their respective watershed to improve water quality. The Oklahoma Healthy Soils Project led by the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts and up to 15 other partners is establishing several conservation demonstration farms in the state to share conservation practices with farmers and ranchers that both benefit business operations and the environment.

Created by the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP connects partners with producers and private landowners to design and implement voluntary conservation solutions that benefit natural resources, agriculture and the economy. By 2018, NRCS and its more than 2,000 conservation partners will have invested at least $2.4 billion in high-impact RCPP projects nationwide.

Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $29 billion to help producers make conservation improvements, working with as many as 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect over 400 million acres nationwide, boosting soil and air quality, cleaning and conserving water and enhancing wildlife habitat. For an interactive look at USDA's work in conservation and forestry over the course of this Administration, visit http://medium.com/usda-results.

Conservation Districts Invited to Apply for Excellence in Communication Awards

Oklahoma Conservation Districts are invited to apply for the Excellence in Communications Awards to recognize communications efforts during the past year. Submissions will be accepted for the following awards:
  • Excellence in Communications by a Conservation District
  • Excellence in Innovative Communication
  • Outstanding Press Coverage of Conservation
  • Outstanding Continuing Publisher Support of Coverage


Deadline for 2016 submissions is January 31, 2017. Award winners will be notified by February 10, 2017. Awards will be presented during the awards luncheon at the State Meeting on February 27, 2017.


Download entry form and instructions here.

 
The Oklahoma Press Association partners will be assisting with judging submissions, so just entering the contest is a great way to solicit press interest in your district.  Questions? Contact [email protected] or (405) 521-6797.

Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, Redlands Community College and USDA Southern Plains Climate Hub to host Central Oklahoma Soil Health seminar

As part of their ongoing commitment to help production agriculture in Oklahoma and the Southern Plains region of the United States, The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD), Redlands Community College and the USDA Southern Plains Climate Hub will be hosting the next
Central Oklahoma Soil Health Seminar Thursday, January 19, 2017, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. According to Jack Bryant, President of Redlands Community College, this event will provide agriculture producers an opportunity to learn about some of the tools available to them both to improve the health of their soil and their financial bottom line.

“We are very excited to partner with OACD and the USDA Southern Plains Climate Hub to make this event happen,” Bryant said. “Many new tools, in the form of technology and informational and assistance programs, have become available over the last few years to help agriculture producers both improve their bottom line profitability and better prepare their operations to withstand extreme weather events by improving the health of their soil. It’s our hope that by highlighting some of these options we can help our area’s farmer and ranchers to be better prepared for the future.”

Issues to be discussed at the event include USDA’s Long-Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) network, including the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) in research and farm- and ranchlevel applications; Green seeker technology and its applications in a soil health system; Whole Farm Insurance as a tool for producers interested in soil health; the new changes to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and a panel discussion of farmers and ranchers on technology adoption.

Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP by January 12 online here or by calling Clay Pope at 405-699-2087. There is no charge for the meeting and lunch will be provided.

Registration will begin at 9 a.m. at the Redlands Community College Darlington Chapel located at 5005 Darlington Road, 3 miles north and 3 miles west of El Reno.

For more information contact Clay Pope at 405-699-2087 or Sarah Blaney at 517-763-8609.
OACD Accepting Applications for Mike Thralls Memorial Scholarship
The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts is proud to announce that applications are now being accepted for the second annual "Mike Thralls Memorial Scholarship." A graduate of Oklahoma State University, Thralls served as Oklahoma Assistant Secretary of Agriculture and Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. In his memory, OACD will be awarding two $500 scholarships in February 2017.

Eligibility: In order to be awarded a scholarship, the applicant must meet the following criteria:
  • Current high school senior in Oklahoma that will be pursuing a degree in agriculture or natural resources at Oklahoma State University.
  • Currently enrolled at Oklahoma State University in the College of Agriculture or Natural Resources;and be a graduate of an Oklahoma high school.

Preferred Criteria: In the spirit of Mike Thralls, applicants that are involved in 4-H, FFA, farming and/or ranching and have expressed an interest in conservation are encouraged to apply. Applicants should exhibit outstanding character, professionalism and a commitment to serve their community.

Application Process: Applicants should submit a 500 word essay on a conservation subject of their choice along with their full name, address, telephone number, email address and a copy of their most recent high school or college transcripts to OACD no later than February 1, 2017.

Applications can be mailed or emailed to:
OACD
PO Box 2775
Oklahoma City, OK 73101
[email protected]

Award Notification:
The scholarship will be presented at the 79th annual OACD meeting on Monday February 27, 2017. Scholarship winners will be invited to attend to accept their award. All funds will be paid directly to Oklahoma State University.

Download more information here.
Conservation Stewardship Program Open for Applications

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications for enrollment in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the nation’s largest conservation program. Applications are available in local service centers. NRCS offices will begin processing applications for the program on November 14, 2016, with sign-up running through February 3, 2017.

CSP is for producers who are already established conservation stewards, helping them to deliver multiple conservation benefits on working lands, including improved water and soil quality and enhanced wildlife habitat. Information about CSP, including national and state ranking questions and enhancement descriptions, is available at www.nrcs.usda.gov/csp.

“This year, the Conservation Stewardship Program provides even more opportunities for conservation and greater flexibility at the local level to prioritize resource concerns and conservation approaches,” said Gary O’Neill, NRCS State Conservationist for Oklahoma. “Customized CSP tools for Oklahoma will improve the customer experience during application evaluations.”

Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat—all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land. CSP also encourages the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques such as precision agriculture applications, on-site carbon storage and planting for high carbon sequestration rate and new soil amendments to improve water quality.

NRCS has made several updates to the program this year to help farmers and ranchers better evaluate their conservation options and the benefits to their operations and natural resources. New methods and software for evaluating applications will help producers see up front why they are or are not meeting stewardship thresholds, and allow them to pick practices and enhancements that work for their conservation objectives. These new tools also allow producers to see potential payment scenarios for conservation early in the process.

NRCS has addressed producer and stakeholder input requesting greater flexibility to address local resource concerns. Now, NRCS will more effectively utilize input from farmers, ranchers and partners in State Technical Committees and local workgroups to inform and expand conservation strategies under the program. Producers will be better prepared to apply because they will know these local ranking priorities and targeted resource concerns in advance.

Since 2009, working with as many as 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect over 400 million acres nationwide, USDA has invested more than $29 billion to help producers make conservation improvements, boosting soil and air quality, cleaning and conserving water and enhancing wildlife habitat. For an interactive look at USDA’s work in conservation and forestry over the course of this Administration, visit https://medium.com/usda-results.

Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation to Host Small Grains Variety Demonstrations


OACD Vice President Jimmy Emmons' Farm in Leedey, Okla. Featured on Nov. 10


Early fall-winter forage production is particularly valuable in the Southern Great Plains as it allows flexibility for earlier grazing or increased stockpiling.

The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation will host three variety demonstrations for agricultural producers to see six new varieties, developed by the Noble Foundation small grains breeding program, in the field. All three events will start at 10 a.m. The first event will be on Nov. 10, in Leedey, Oklahoma, at the farm of Jimmy Emmons, OACD Vice President. The second event will be on Nov. 15, in Sherman, Texas. The third event will be on Nov. 17 in Randlett, Oklahoma.

"It's important for producers to see these varieties planted in an environment similar to their own," said Jim Johnson, soils and crops consultant. "The demonstrations will allow producers to see the increased forage production potential of these varieties and talk with plant breeders about how the improved traits can benefit their operations."

The six varieties, which were selected for increased forage yields, are NF101 wheat, NF201 triticale, Maton II Rye, Heavy Grazer II oat, NF402 oat and Bates RS4 rye. The goal of the Noble Foundation small grains breeding program is to develop varieties with improved forage qualities for livestock, better fall production, improved ability to recover after grazing and better overall forage yields.

For directions, please visit http://bit.ly/small-grains-demos. For more information, please contact Dillon Payne, demonstration coordinator, at [email protected] or 580-465-1596.


Download pdf here.

Soil Health Education Workshop for Ag and Science Teachers to be held Nov. 11-12 in El Reno


On Nov. 11-12, a free soil health professional development workshop for high school agricultural and science teachers will be held at the Agriculture Research Service Ft. Reno National Grazing Lands Laboratory near El Reno, Oklahoma.


The workshop will explore how photosynthesis, microbes and other biological workers quietly create the natural infrastructure and land functions that our farms and communities depend on. Teachers will learn ways to engage students of all ages in local projects that use land management, monitoring, and data mapping to create climate-resilient communities and abundant, clean water.


The workshop is primarily for educators, but anyone is welcome. Download a draft agenda here.


Register online here.
Application Deadline for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is Nov. 18

Applications for participation in the current round of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) are due by Nov. 18, 2016. Eligible landowners and agricultural producers should submit inquiries and applications to their local USDA Field Service Center.

EQIP is a voluntary program through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) which provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to plan and implement conservation practices that improve soil, water, air and related natural resources on agricultural land and non-industrial private forest land.

“EQIP continues to help new and established farmers and ranchers address natural resource concerns and make the most of their land,” said Gary O’Neill, NRCS State Conservationist for Oklahoma. “The program is the first step for many producers to achieving conservation success on their land. With a number of special fund pools such as the high tunnel systems initiative, organic initiative and StrikeForce which targets persistent poverty-stricken rural communities, EQIP offers something for every kind of producer.”

NRCS accepts and processes EQIP applications throughout the year. However, application deadlines are periodically set to consider eligible applications for funding. Applications submitted after these dates will be evaluated for funding during later funding opportunities. Producers must submit a complete program application, establish “farm records,” and other documentation to support eligibility to be considered for financial assistance through EQIP.

“EQIP’s strong record of improving soil, water and air quality are proof that voluntary conservation works. I encourage farmers, ranchers and landowners across the state to speak with their local NRCS office about participation in EQIP before the November 18 deadline,” O’Neill said.
Major Dam Upgrade Projects Approved in Latimer and Pontotoc Counties

Oct. 20, 2016—USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has authorized projects to upgrade high hazard flood control dams in Latimer and Pontotoc Counties. Both dams protect several homes, businesses and county roads downstream. The combined cost of the projects is $4.6 million.

A dam classification of high hazard means in the unlikely event of a dam failure, there is a potential for loss of life. This is the case for both dams to be upgraded.

“We’re pleased to announce these dam upgrade projects both for the obvious downstream flood control benefits they provide, as well as the positive economic benefit the construction will have in these communities,” said April Burns, Acting Assistant State Conservationist for Water Resources.

Flood control dam upgrade projects are funded through the Watershed Rehabilitation Program. This program allows for a cost-share partnership between NRCS and local sponsors. The Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Latimer County Conservation District and Pontotoc County Conservation District are the local sponsors for these projects. NRCS will fund $2,057,700 for the Latimer County project and state partners will fund $852,100. For the Pontotoc County project, NRCS will fund $1,254,200 and state partners will fund $507,800.

As part of the upgrades, the dams’ principal spillways and inlet structures will be replaced or modified and the heights of the dams will be raised to allow them to capture more floodwater.

Upon completion of the upgrades, the dams will have an additional 100 years life. The dams were originally designed for a 50 year life.

September Flood Control Benefits
For the month of September 2016, Oklahoma’s 2,107 flood control dams prevented $16.8 million in damage to property downstream. The total damage prevented for 2016 so far is estimated to be $120 million.

Oklahoma Growers Offered Incentive to Attend the Nation's Top No-till Conference Jan. 24-25 in Salina, Kansas


There are numerous reasons to attend the nation’s most popular soil health event, and for Oklahoma growers the incentive just became greater. A Conservation Innovation Grant awarded to Oklahoma State University will reward 25 first-time attendees from Oklahoma who register for No-till on the Plains Winter Conference with a discounted rate. Producers from across the country are invited to attend the No-till events on Tuesday, January 24, through Wednesday, January 25, 2017 at the Bicentennial Center in Salina, Kansas.

 The event, themed “Securing Our Future with Soil Health” is in its 21st year and continues to offer international, national and state experts on topics designed to promote soil health. This year’s Winter Conference features a line-up of more than 35 no-till experts and top line producers, 55 breakout sessions and a special question and answer session with speakers. New this year is a one-day Beginner’s Workshop preceding the Winter Conference. The advanced Agriculture’s Innovative Minds (AIM) Symposium returns this year with the theme of “Building Resistance, Resiliency and Recovery into Your Agriculture Operation.” Certified Crop Advisor Credits will also be available for conference attendees.

Registration for the No-till on the Plains Conference is available now online at no-till.org. The Winter Conference registration price is $275 before November 30 and $325 from Dec. 1 until Jan. 10. Walk-ins are welcome but rates increase closer to the event date. Registration rates are also available in packages for those who want to attend the Beginner’s Session and the Winter Conference together or the Winter Conference and AIM Symposium in tandem. First –time attendees from Oklahoma will receive a $50 discount on any of their registration pricing as long as they are one of the first 25 people from their home state to pre-register.

The speaker lineup features Ray Weil, professor, University of Maryland; Ademir Calegaari, researcher, Agronomic Institute of Parana, Brazil; Allen Williams, president, LMC and founder, Grass Fed Beef, LLC; Odette Menard, regional advisor, Soil Conservation, Canada; Steve Tucker, no-till producer, Venango, Neb.; Jimmy Emmons, no-till producer, Leedey, Okla.; Alan Mindemann, no-till producer, Apache, Okla. and Brian Arnall, associate professor, Oklahoma State University. Nearly 30 additional speakers are also on the roster for the Winter Conference.

Diamond Sponsor for the Winter Conference is Farmers Edge agriculture technology company. Additional Conference sponsors are Green Cover Seed, Eco Ag Solutions, Agro-Liquid Fertilizers, Needham Ag Technologies and Arrow Seed Company.

To meet its mission, No-till on the Plains hosts field events, provides a networking opportunity for producers and manages the annual Winter Conference for producers to gain valuable no-till information. No-till farming systems offer several advantages to producers willing to implement the system. Fewer trips across fields without tillage passes will reduce fuel costs. Increasing crops in rotations breaks weed and insect pest cycles. Increased crop residue and root systems will increase soil organic matter and microbiological activity, thereby increasing the productiveness and fertility of the soil. Implemented in a site-specific systems approach, no-till will, over time, outperform conventional tillage.

Download an agenda here. Visit notill.org or call 785-307-0433 for registration information. Pre-registration online is encouraged.

OACD Auxiliary Accepting Scholarship Applications

The OACD Auxiliary is currently accepting scholarship applications for high school seniors who are children or grandchildren of an Oklahoma Conservation District Director/Manager, Conservation or NRCS Employee. Applicants must have an overall 2.5 GPA and be enrolled full time in a college, university or trade school by fall of 2017.

New to the application this year:
  • Essay theme is "Healthy Soils are Full of Life."
  • Email or mail the application, please do not fax.
  • Applicants are required to submit a brief bio.

Apply by January 23, 2017 for the $300 scholarship award. Download an application here.
 Changes Coming to USDA's Largest Conservation Program

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announces changes are on the horizon for the nation’s biggest conservation program, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

“With a lot of review and input from producers, partners and other stakeholders, we are making important changes to CSP,” says NRCS Chief Jason Weller. “We want to make sure there is every opportunity for America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to take their conservation efforts to the next level.”

Since 2010, farmers and ranchers have enrolled 70 million acres in CSP, of which 4.7 million acres have been enrolled in Oklahoma.

Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, rotational grazing, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat—all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land.

The most popular CSP conservation enhancements among Oklahoma producers include upgraded chemical spray nozzles and GPS targeting systems to improve air quality, improved grazing management practices to promote plant health and enhanced fertilizing and grazing systems to improve water quality.

Changes that producers can expect to see when the program is offered in Fiscal Year 2017 include greater flexibility at the local level to prioritize resource concerns and conservation approaches, more enhancements and almost double the conservation practices offered, and better reporting tools to tell producers the results of their conservation efforts on their land.

“This expanded conservation activity list offers Oklahoma farmers and ranchers more options to address natural resource challenges,” said Oklahoma State Conservationist Gary O’Neill. “New conservation activities include new options for nutrient management, several new soil health options, and enhancements to improve stream health as well as activities that benefit wildlife and pollinator habitat.”

CSP is for producers who are already established conservation stewards, helping them to deliver multiple conservation benefits on working lands, including improved water and soil quality and enhanced wildlife habitat.

The program will be offered in FY17 (Oct. 1-Sept. 30, 2017). Producers interested in the program can find more at www.nrcs.usda.gov/csp or visit their local USDA Service Center.

Eastern Red Cedar Round-up Coming to Lincoln County

Out-of-control spread of eastern red cedar across Oklahoma hurts the economy, public health and public safety. Learn about this destructive plant and what you can do to stop it at the Lincoln County Conservation District Cedar Round-up, Sept. 22 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Verlin Hart Farm, 760344 South 3410 Road, Agra.

The Cedar Round-up is free and refreshments and lunch will be provided. Attendees are encouraged to pre-register by Sept. 16 for lunch and door prizes. For pre-registration or to request reasonable accommodations, please contact Heather Layman at Lincoln County Conservation District at 405-258-5011 or [email protected].

“It’s important for landowners to understand the tremendous negative impact red cedar infestation is having in Lincoln County and across Oklahoma,” said Ed Stinchcomb, District Conservationist for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Lincoln County. “I would encourage anyone who has an interest in improving land productivity and restoring Oklahoma’s landscape to a more natural state to attend.”

Morning sessions will be indoors and focused on the extent of Oklahoma’s cedar infestation with special discussions on cedar impacts to wildlife habitat, soil health and wildfire. Afternoon sessions will feature field demonstrations of cedar removal, prescribed burning (weather permitting) and tours of prescribed burn areas.

Healthy Soils Project Enid Field Day - September 8, 2016


Join Garfield County Conservation District, the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, USDA-NRCS, and Oklahoma State University for a morning field day focusing on the impact of cover crops. Experts will be available to answer questions about soil, seeding rates and mixes, and the economics of cover crops.
 
This workshop is free and open to the public. Attendees should meet at 8:30 a.m. at the Garfield County Conservation District office located at 1216 W. Willow Rd., Suite D in Enid, OK.

Please RSVP by Tuesday September 6 to [email protected] or 517.763.8609

To sponsor the field day, click here.


National Association of Conservation Districts 2017 Annual Meeting to be held Jan. 28-Feb. 2 in Denver

NACD’s 2017 Annual Meeting will be held in Denver, Colorado, at the Sheraton – Downtown Denver from January 28 to February 2, 2017. The room rate is $169 per night plus tax. To reserve a room before January 6, 2017, click here, or call 303-893-3333 and identify yourself as part of the NACD group rate.

If you would like to be considered as a speaker, moderator, or breakout session presenter, complete and send this form to NACD Director of Government Affairs Coleman Garrison by the end of August.

Find more information about the 2017 NACD Annual Meeting here.

Oklahoma Invasive Plant Council Announce Grant Program

The Oklahoma Invasive Plant Council recently announced a Request for Proposals for the organization’s new Small Grants Program.  Grants will be considered for projects that:

  • Promote increased education and awareness of the problem of invasive plant species within Oklahoma
  • Conduct invasive plant surveys and map invasive plant species distributions within Oklahoma
  • Help control or eradicate invasive plant species in Oklahoma
  • Quantify the costs of invasive plant species to Oklahoma’s economy and/or environment


Priority will be given to proposals that focus on plants included on the OkIPC Watch List (see list available on www.okinvasives.org).

The OkIPC has dedicated $5,000 this year to support the funding of this program, which may be disbursed to one or several (up to 7) grantees.  Matching funds are not required.   However, special consideration will be given to those applications that have support from other organizations or institutions.

Grant proposals due by September 1. For the full details go to the OkIPC website to download the Request for Proposals.

Max Cosby of Oklahoma's Harper County Conservation District Awarded NACD South Central Regional Auxiliary Scholarship


The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts is pleased to announce the recipient of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) South Central Regional Auxiliary Scholarship is Max Barrett Cosby from Buffalo, Oklahoma, and the Harper County Conservation District.

Cosby was selected to receive the $350 scholarship among three finalists representing Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana at the NACD South Central Regional Auxiliary meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas. Previously, Cosby was awarded the OACD Auxiliary Scholarship in the amount of $300.

A graduate of Buffalo High School, Max is attending Oklahoma State University. He is the son of Bret and Anita Cosby, and the great grandson of the late Max Barth.

Dewey County Conservation District to Host Soil Health Demonstration August 17

Come learn about and see the results of a project using cover crops to
improve yields by increasing infiltration and retaining more soil moisture.
Attendees will visit fields to look at first year cover crop plants, how
they were planted and see the results firsthand.

Aug. 17, 8:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Start at Vici Community Center
Hwy 34/60 in Vici, OK‐turn North (Blue Awning on East side)

Download flier here.

RSVP by Aug. 15
Dewey County Conservation District
580‐328‐5366/[email protected]/580‐922‐1248
Producers Learn About Continuous No-till Systems at Leedey Field Event

More than 140 agricultural producers experienced working examples of methods to improve soil health during the No-till on the Plains’ Whirlwind Expo July 28 in Leedey, Okla. Attendees visited several sites on the Jimmy Emmons farm to gain practical insights to improve soil health through continuous no-till cropping systems.

 Participants boarded buses to tour field plots, study long-term no-till fields and pollinator field borders, and compare soil structures in soil pits. Afternoon presentations at the Leedey Community Center included a rainfall simulator, which demonstrates raindrop impact and water infiltration on soil samples from undisturbed native prairie, continuous no-till and conventional tillage soils.
 
Featured speakers included Greg Scott, professional soil scientist from Tyron, Okla., who discussed soil quality, soil structure and the positive impacts of continuous no-till on soil health. He also answered questions on continuous no-till and cover crops.

No-till producer Alan Mindemann, Apache, Okla., shared his experience converting fields previously under conventional tillage to no-till, as well as using forages with livestock and cover crops without livestock.

Keith Berns, no-till producer and owner of Green Cover Seed, Bladen, Neb., shared the keys to healthy soils and how the production and consumption of carbon in the soil is similar to the financial economies across the world.

A similar event is scheduled for Aug. 29-30 in Enid, Okla. Visit notill.org or call 785-210-4549 for more information. Pre-registration online is encouraged.

This high-quality education event was funded through a grant from USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and Oklahoma State University Extension with support from Texas A&M Agrilife, the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. Sponsors include Green Cover Seed, Farmers Business Network, CHS Cover Crop Seed Resources and Farm Credit of Western Oklahoma.

No-till farming systems offer several advantages to producers willing to implement the system. Fewer trips across fields without tillage passes will reduce fuel costs. Increasing crops in rotations breaks weed and insect pest cycles. Increased crop residue and root systems will increase soil organic matter and microbiological activity, thereby increasing the productiveness and fertility of the soil. Implemented in a site-specific systems approach, no-till will, over time, outperform conventional tillage.
Oklahoma Flood Control Update: June 2016

July 19, 2016—The month of June 2016 saw state of emergency declarations by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin due to flooding, and the completion of repairs to flood control dams that were damaged during last year’s severe storms. According to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Water Resources Office in Oklahoma, flood control dams prevented $19.3 million in damage in June 2016. In total, dams have prevented $83.6 million in damage this year so far.

In light of the flooding Oklahoma has experienced despite having the most flood control dams in the nation, April Burns, Acting State Conservationist for Water Resources said “It’s important to remember that Oklahoma’s network of 2,107 flood control dams are designed to control and reduce flooding, not prevent it. The damage we suffered would have been much worse were it not for these dams.”

The town of Maysville saw particularly heavy flooding on June 12. Five of the six dams that protect the town along Beef Creek had water flowing through their auxiliary spillways. Auxiliary spillway flow occurs when water from upstream exceeds the capacity of the main spillway and must divert around the dam. Auxiliary spillway flow is an indicator of extremely heavy rainfall.

Throughout the June 12 storm in Maysville, NRCS staff were joined by Garvin Conservation District and Oklahoma Conservation Commission dam inspection staff to monitor the situation at the dams and ensure they continued to function safely.

“I wish I knew how many times those dams were walked across and the depth of water in the spillways was measured that day. It was a lot!” said Brandon Chandler, NRCS District Conservationist for Garvin County.

Repairs to Big Wewoka Dam #22 in Seminole, otherwise known as Sportsman Lake, have been completed. During storms in 2015, rushing water caused severe erosion in the area where the dam releases water downstream. Left untended, the erosion would worsen in future storms, potentially leading to a failure of the dam and loss of life and property downstream. The dam was repaired using funds from the NRCS Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program and Oklahoma State Emergency Fund. EWP pays 75 percent of the cost of repairs and allows states to match the remaining 25 percent with direct funding or in-kind contributions such as labor.

NACD South Central Regional Meeting to be held August 10-12 in Little Rock, Arkansas

The 2016 NACD South Central Regional Meeting is scheduled for August 10-12 in Little Rock, Arkansas. A reception will be held on August 10, followed by an all-day bus tour on August 11 and workshops and sessions on August 12. The conference will be held at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the room rate is $91 per night if booked by July 20. To make a reservation, call The Wyndam at (501) 371-9000 and request a room to attend the SC NACD Regional Conference.


Download conference agenda.


Download registration form.



South Central Regional Auxiliary Scholarship Applications Due August 1

The South Central Regional Auxiliary is now accepting scholarship applications. The award is intended to encourage qualified students to increase their interest in and  awareness of the mission of conservation, as well as to encourage them to pursue a career in their field of endeavor. Applicants must be a child or grandchild of a District Director, Conservation Employee, OCC Employee or NRCS Employee seeking a higher education at a trade school, college or university. Application deadline is August 1, 2016. Download an application by clicking here or contact Dianne Jeans with any questions at 580/628-2223.
McClain County Demonstration Farm to Host Healthy Soils Field Day July 21

Join McClain County Conservation District, the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, USDA-NRCS and Oklahoma State University for a morning field day on Thursday, July 21, focusing on the impact of cover crops. Experts will be available to answer questions about soil, seeding rates and mixes, and the economics of cover crops.

This workshop is free and open to the public. Attendees should meet at 8:30 a.m. in the parking lot of Libby’s Café (111 N. Main Street, Goldsby, OK).

In order to keep the field day workshop free, OACD is seeking local contribution to underwrite the
cost of the workshop. Learn more here.
 
Please RSVP by Monday July 18th to [email protected] or 517-763-8609
Soil Health Field Day Set for July 28 in Leedey, Okla.

Improving soil health through continuous no-till cropping systems is the focus of a field day on Thursday, July 28, in Leedey, Okla. The event is hosted by No-till on the Plains. Producers, crop consultants, media and public are invited to attend.

The event begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Leedey Community Center, 100 N. Main. A field tour will follow at the Jimmy Emmons farm, examining field plots, long-term no-till fields and pollinator field borders, as well as a discussion of soils and soil communities in a soil pit. Lunch will be provided at the Leedey Community Center. Afternoon presentations will feature producers and soil health experts, concluding with a question and answer session
 
Registration is $30 per person for non-members, $15 for members. Pre-register at notill.org by July 26. Limited space is available for walk-ins, with meals not guaranteed.

Featured speakers include Greg Scott, professional soil scientist from Tyron, Okla., will discuss soil quality, soil structure and the positive impacts of continuous no-till on soil health. He also will answer questions on continuous no-till and cover crops.

No-till producer Alan Mindemann, Apache, Okla., will share his experience converting fields previously under conventional tillage to no-till, as well as using forages with livestock and cover crops without livestock.

Keith Berns, no-till producer and owner of Green Cover Seed, Bladen, Neb., will share the keys to healthy soils and how the production and consumption of carbon in the soil is similar to the financial economies across the world.

Visit notill.org or call 785-210-4549 for more information.

This event is funded through a grant from USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and Oklahoma State University Extension with support from Texas A&M Agrilife, the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. Sponsors include Green Cover Seed, Farmers Business Network, CHS Cover Crop Seed Resources and Farm Credit of Western Oklahoma.

No-till farming systems offer several advantages to producers willing to implement the system. Fewer trips across fields without tillage passes will reduce fuel costs. Increasing crops in rotations breaks weed and insect pest cycles. Increased crop residue and root systems will increase soil organic matter and microbiological activity, thereby increasing the productiveness and fertility of the soil. Implemented in a site-specific systems approach, no-till will, over time, outperform conventional tillage.
Bryan County Farm and Ranch Tour to be held June 28

See the latest in feeders, brush control and equipment at the Bryan County Farm and Ranch Tour on June 28. The free tour will include a stop at Blue River Valley Winery, an in-field weed control demonstration and several demonstrations at the Bryan County Fairgrounds, including a presentation by Mesonet. Attendees will also have the opportunity to speak with experts in the fields of conservation, soil health and range management.

The tour will begin at 3:15 p.m. on June 28 at the Bryan County Fairgrounds/OSU Extension Service Office, 1904 South 9th Avenue, Durant, Okla. This tour is free and open to the public, including a meal sponsored by Durant Stockyards. RSVP for the meal by June 24, or request accommodation for persons with disabilities anytime at 580-924-5312.

This event is sponsored by Bryan County Conservation District, Choctaw Nation Agriculture Outreach, OSU Cooperative Extension Service and USDA.

July 11 Soil Health and Grazing Seminar at Redlands Community College

As part of an ongoing commitment to help production agriculture in Oklahoma and the Southern Plains region of the United States, the Oklahoma Land Stewardship Alliance and Redlands Community College will again partner with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the USDA Southern Plains Climate Hub to host a Soil Health and Grazing Seminar from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 11 at the Redlands Community College Darlington Agriculture Campus.

Redlands President Jack Bryant said this event is a wonderful opportunity for agriculture producers to gain additional knowledge about the benefits they can realize on their operations from improving the health of the soil.

“We are very excited to again partner with the Oklahoma Land Stewardship Alliance and USDA to host this event,” Bryant said. “Our slate of speakers will again provide information to agriculture producers on what they can do to improve their bottom line profitability and better prepare their operations to withstand extreme weather events through improving the health of their soil.”

Kim Barker, chairman of the Oklahoma Land Stewardship Alliance agreed.

“Our lineup of speakers will bring unique insights on how farmers and ranchers can improve their profitability and productivity through best management practices designed to improve soil health,” Barker said.

Speakers for the event include Colin Seis, a rancher and crop farmer from New South Wales Australia, who is considered one of the six most influential agriculture producers in the world and the 2014 winner of the prestigious Australian National Bob Hawke Landcare award.  Seis will discuss holistic planned grazing and multi-species pasture cropping.

Also speaking will be Jason Warren, associate professor of Soil and Water Conservation and Management Extension Specialist at Oklahoma State University. Warren will discuss cover crop rotations for grazing. Gail Fuller, no-till agriculture producer from Emporia, Kansas, and host of the “Fuller Field School,” will discuss biodiversity, cover crops and grazing.

Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP by July 5 online or by calling Clay Pope at 405-699-2087.  There is no charge for the meeting and lunch will be provided.

Registration will begin at 8:00 a.m. on July 11 at the Redlands Community College Darlington Chapel located at 5005 Darlington Road, 3 miles north and 3 miles west of El Reno.  

 
National Association of Conservation Districts Urban and Community Webinars:
Call for Presentations


For the past four years, the NACD Urban and Community Resource Policy Group (RPG) has organized and hosted the monthly NACD Urban and Community webinar. NACD is very pleased to announce that The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company has chosen to continue their support as the sole sponsor. These popular webinars have covered a variety of urban and community conservation topics with districts sharing their projects and programs and other entities sharing information and resources. They are held 12 noon-1 p.m. Eastern time on the third Thursday of each month. You can view a full list of the past webinars at www.nacdnet.org/policy/urban/webinars. The site also provides links to the presentations PDFs and recordings of past webinars.

The RPG is now seeking input for the series beginning in October 2016. Please take a moment to:

1.       Offer to give a presentation; send in a brief paragraph describing the program/project that you would like to showcase, and/or

2.      Share the urban and community conservation topics/issues and/or speakers you would like to have covered.

Send your ideas and proposals to Deb Bogar at [email protected]  by July 30, 2016.
World's Muddiest Academic Contest Introduces Students to Soil and Range Health

With mud caked boots, furrowed brows and dusty clipboards, over 500 high school students hushedly sidestep each other through a maze of tiny plastic flags and trenches cut into the bright red soil of the Oklahoma prairie. The peculiar scene has been a May tradition in the outskirts of Oklahoma City for 65 years.

The National Land and Range Judging Contest is the culmination of local and state contests where FFA and 4-H teams use their knowledge of soil science and rangeland ecology to evaluate the land for agricultural and residential uses. At the national level, the best teams from over 30 states compete for the championship trophy. The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, along with several state agencies and organizations including the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), have helped run and officiate the contest from the beginning.

“This contest is an excellent opportunity to introduce youth to the land from a management and technical perspective. For kids who are already interested in natural resources, this gives them a solid scientific foundation to continue pursuing their interests,” says Steve Alspach, NRCS state soil scientist for Oklahoma.

Perhaps no one understands the unique impact of the contest better than Don Bartolina, retired NRCS district conservationist for Oklahoma County. He got involved with the contest when he began working for NRCS as a soil scientist in 1961. By 1985, Don was contest coordinator—responsible for making sure all the moving parts of the contest come together—and he’s never missed a contest.

“The contest was part of my NRCS training,” says Don. “When you’re out there and the kids are asking questions, that’s when you learn.”

In his time with the contest, at least 27,000 students have traveled to Oklahoma to compete, but for him, it’s not just about the competition, it’s about introducing youth to the natural world. He admits many of the competitors won’t go on to be involved in agriculture, but thinks there’s still value in their participation.

“It gives kids an appreciation for the land,” he says. “When you think of all the state and local contests that lead up to this, the number of students and coaches involved, it’s rewarding to know you’ve had some impact on their lives.”

The contest is comprised of three events held concurrently at the same secret location. In the land judging event, contestants enter several three to five foot deep pits to evaluate the qualities of the soil and determine its potential for agricultural production. Range judging contestants rotate through roped off rangeland sites to identify plant species and determine the site’s value for cattle production and quail habitat. Homesite evaluation challenges contestants to determine the value of a site for residential development.

Don is quick to remind people that while he’s the coordinator, it takes the time and resources of numerous organizations to make the contest possible. To touch so many lives every year requires the close cooperation of several public and private partners.

“It’s a labor of love,” says Don. “There’s not another contest with this many people from so many places working for the same thing. I hope it continues and I hope new people can get involved and keep it going.”

With the 65th annual contest, now under his belt, Don can look to other volunteer activities he participates in for Oklahoma County Conservation District and, of course, planning for next year’s contest.
NACD to Provide Technical Assistance to Conservation Districts for Urban Agriculture Conservation Projects
Proposals Due by June 30, 2016

The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) has partnered with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on an initiative to provide conservation technical assistance for urban agriculture activities. Through the Urban Agriculture Conservation Initiative, 20 competitively-awarded grants of up to $50,000 for one year are available to conservation districts in communities where the land is predominantly developed or developing with a special emphasis on underserved populations and areas known as food deserts. NACD is now accepting project proposals through June 30, 2016. Contact Debra Bogar at [email protected]g with any questions.

OACD is happy to help conservation districts with proposals. If you need help brainstorming ideas, proofreading applications or securing partners, let us know by contacting Sarah Blaney at [email protected].

Click to download:

Summer Fire Field Day to Provide Information on Growing Season Burns

Oklahoma State University’s Natural Resource Ecology and Management Extension is hosting a Summer Fire Field Day, Thursday, June 23, near Perry, Okla. The event is sponsored by North Central Range Improvement Association, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and Oklahoma Prescribed Burn Association.

Topics:
  • Will green vegetation burn?
  • Does summer burns kill native grass?
  • Can summer burns kill cedars?
  • What does growing season fire do to sericea lespedeza?
  • Are summer fires good for livestock or wildlife?

Agenda:
9:30-10 a.m.         Registration
10 a.m.-12 p.m.    Intro to burning in the growing season
12-1 p.m.                Lunch provided (no cost)
1-2 p.m.                  Conduct burn (weather permitting)

Location:
18300 Frontier Perry, OK
*From the west-E on hwy 51 to hwy 86, N 8 mi to Frontier, then 8 mi E.
*From the east-N of Stillwater on hwy 177 to Glencoe Rd, W 4 mi to CR 190/Range Rd, N 1 mi to Frontier, 1/4 mi W

Please RSVP by June 16 or for more information contact:
John Weir at [email protected] or 405-744-5442.

Free Plant ID for Soil Health Training Series


The Oklahoma Conservation Commission and Oklahoma Soil Health partners are offering a series of 12 free Plant ID for Soil Health trainings on rangeland across the state. Attend a training near you to learn how to do "Cowboy ID" of common native plants, learn how plants work together, which plants are beneficial for livestock and more about prairie ecosystem dynamics. For more information call 405-522-4739, or to register contact a number on the flyer.

National Land and Range Judging Contest Winners Announced

More than 500 4-H and FFA members from 34 states competed in the 65th annual National Land and Range Judging Contest May 3-5, 2016. After two days of practice at designated sites in Oklahoma City, the official contest was held at the USDA Agricultural Research Service Grazinglands Research Laboratory in El Reno, Okla.

National championship trophies were awarded at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum to team and individual winners in each category of competition: land judging, range judging and homesite evaluation. Each category included FFA and 4-H awards.

The national team championship trophies in land judging were awarded to the Clay County, W.Va. FFA Chapter and the Fairfield, Ind. 4-H Club. National individual championship trophies in land judging were awarded to Jaime Grijalva of the Roswell, N.M. FFA Chapter and Jason Sullins of the Wilson County, Tenn. 4-H Club.

The national team championship trophies in range judging were awarded to the Hamilton, Texas FFA Chapter and the Wessington Springs, S.D 4-H Club. National individual championship trophies in range judging were awarded to Evan Eilers of the Hamilton, Texas FFA Chapter and Jarrett Lardy of the Traill County, N.D. 4-H Club.

The national team championship trophies for homesite evaluation were awarded to the Klondike, Texas FFA Chapter and the Fairfield, Ind. 4-H Club. National individual championship trophies for homesite evaluation were awarded to Patrick Henderson of the Jefferson, W.Va. FFA Chapter and Dalton Howe of the South Dakota 4-H.

Complete contest results can be found at judgingcard.com.

 National contest puts STEM skills to the test

More than 100 FFA and 4H teams from across the country will converge on Oklahoma City May 3-5 for the 65th Annual National Land and Range Judging Contest. Qualifying teams from 34 states will challenge their knowledge of soil and plant science, land management and natural resources conservation in the field. Oklahoma is expected to send 10 teams to the event.

Officiation and on-site technical assistance for all three days of the contest is provided by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oklahoma State University and The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.

“These contestants represent the next generation of farmers, ranchers, conservationists and land managers,” said Steve Alspach, NRCS state soil scientist for Oklahoma. “Events like this are as much an opportunity for us to introduce high school students to a potential career with USDA as it is a STEM learning experience for them.”

STEM is a curriculum focused on the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The contest is comprised of three events: land, range and home site evaluation. Land judging contestants will enter several three to five foot deep pits to evaluate the qualities of the soil and determine its potential for agricultural production. Range judging contestants will visit several rangeland sites to identify plant species and determine the site’s value for cattle production and quail habitat. The home site evaluation event challenges contestants to determine the value of a site for residential development.

During the first two days of the event, teams will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with Oklahoma’s soils and rangeland at two practice sites. The official contest on the third day takes place at a secret location that is revealed the morning of the contest. This ensures all teams are experiencing the official site for the first time.

Contest winners will be announced the evening of May 5 during a banquet at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

Contest sponsors are Oklahoma AgCredit, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, American Farmers & Ranchers, National Conservation Foundation, The Sirloin Club of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Auxiliary, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Wyndham Garden OKC Airport, Catering by Finley, Lee Roy and Sylvia Hudson, Parker Land and Cattle Company, Oklahoma Association of Conservation District Employees, Soil and Water Conservation Society Oklahoma Chapter and Society for Range Management Oklahoma Section.

Supporting governments and agencies are NRCS, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Oklahoma Department of Career & Technology Education, and Oklahoma State University.

Conservation District Candidate Filing Period May 2-13

Local elections will be held on Tuesday, June 7, 2016

April 25, 2016—Citizens interested in running for the position of conservation district board member may file between May 2-13, 2016. Eligible candidates must complete a Notification and Declaration of Candidacy form found on the Oklahoma Conservation Commission’s website or at their local conservation district office. A listing of conservation district offices is available here.

The governing body of a conservation district consists of five directors that are responsible for setting the conservation priorities within their district. Three members are elected by registered voters within the district boundaries and two are appointed by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission upon recommendation by the district board.

An eligible board member candidate is a registered voter within the boundaries of the conservation district (see map below) who has entered or will enter into a Cooperator Agreement with the conservation district. If you do not already have a cooperator agreement with the district you can make application for the agreement.

Local elections will be held on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 in every district where two or more candidates have filed. Polling places will be determined at the close of filing period.

For more information about conservation district board member elections, contact the Oklahoma Conservation Commission at 405-521-4826 or your local conservation district office.
Ranchers invited to apply for USDA habitat and rangeland improvement program

Application deadline: April 29

STILLWATER, Okla., April 15, 2016—USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Oklahoma has opened a second round of signups for participation in the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI). By providing technical and financial assistance for conservation practices, LPCI allows landowners to improve habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken and increase the productivity of grazing land.

LPCI is available in Alfalfa, Beaver, Beckham, Cimarron, Custer, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Texas, Roger Mills, Woodward and Woods Counties. Those interested in participating should apply at their local USDA Service Center by April 29, 2016.

“Conserving and enhancing habitat benefits ranchers and the lesser prairie-chicken alike,” said Steve Glasgow, NRCS Oklahoma State Resource Conservationist. “Conservation work provides better forage and grazing lands for livestock and can improve a producer’s operation and management.”

LPCI helps ranchers remove invasive plants and adopt grazing management systems that provide habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken while sustaining adequate forage for livestock. Grazing management plans also help ranchers select grasses that survive best during drought.

An iconic bird of the prairie, the lesser prairie chicken is found in grasslands and prairies of the Southern Great Plains. Loss and fragmentation of habitat has caused population declines and led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2014. The current range for the prairie chicken is reduced to relatively small and scattered areas totaling about 17 percent of its historic range.

Through LPCI, NRCS works with landowners in five Great Plains states to improve habitat for the prairie chicken and improve sustainability and productivity of grazing lands. NRCS has focused its work on more than 10 million acres of core habitat in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. About 95 percent of prairie chicken habitat that supports populations occurs on privately owned lands.
Conservation Awards Presented at the Oklahoma State Capitol

Oklahoma City, OK - The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) sponsored "Conservation Day at the Capitol" on March 23, 2016. The Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC) cosponsored the event. Several of the state's local conservation districts displayed exhibits at the events along with partner agencies.
 
The exhibits were displayed in the Capitol Rotunda on the fourth floor from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The displays featured critical conservation activities that districts help facilitate, such as, water quality and quantity, air quality and upstream flood control structure maintenance.
 
OACD president Steve House welcomed the attendees including several state representatives and senators stating, "The conservation partnership is essential to the health of Oklahoma. Conservation Districts protect the water, air, and soil on which we all depend. Today, we will recognize those individuals that surpass even the highest of expectations in protecting our natural resources."
 
The awards were emceed by Larry Wright, OACD Vice-President. Oklahoma State Conservationist, Gary O'Neill and Oklahoma Conservation Commission Chairman, Mike Rooker present.
 
Samuel Grant Victor, Jr. of Ottawa County received the Outstanding District Cooperator Award, sponsored by the Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma. He was nominated by the Ottawa County Conservation District. Jimmy Emmons of Dewey County, on the board of directors of the Dewey County Conservation District, received the Outstanding District Director Award, sponsored by the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation. Hughes County Conservation District received the Outstanding District Award, sponsored by Vickie Mackey.
 
Lisa Knauf-Owen, OCC assistant director, emceed as Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association, joined Commissioner Mike Rooker in presenting Excellence in Communication awards. Kay County Conservation District received First Place Excellence in Communication. Deer Creek Conservation District received Second Place Excellence in Communication. Caney Valley Conservation District received Excellence in Innovative Communication. Tina Anderson, General Manager of The Blackwell Journal Tribune, was recognized for Outstanding Support of Conservation by an OPA Member Newspaper. She was nominated by the Kay County Conservation District.

Governor Proclaims March 23 as Conservation Day

Oklahoma City – Governor Mary Fallin has issued a proclamation designating March 23, 2016 as Conservation Day in Oklahoma.

“It is my sincere hope that this proclamation will prompt Oklahomans to find out more about their local conservation district office and its services to the community,” said Trey Lam, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.  According to Lam, Conservation Districts will be exhibiting at the state capitol on this day to feature the diverse conservation activities across the state addressing local natural resource needs.   

Oklahoma’s Conservation Districts are local units of government established under state law to carry out natural resource management programs at the local level.  Conservation Districts provide voluntary, incentive driven approaches to landowners for better soil and cleaner water in the State of Oklahoma.  Private landowners with financial and technical assistance from local conservation districts are implementing a wide variety of conservation practices that prevent soil erosion, improve soil health and water quality.  “Oklahoma’s conservation districts played a vital role in transforming the state’s land resources from the Dust Bowl to a productive state of diversified agriculture” Lam said.  “And the tremendous response to Oklahoma’s state-funded Conservation Cost-Share Program demonstrates how vital district services are today.”

Conservation District staff and directors build partnerships with public and private, local, state and federal entities in an effort to develop locally-driven solutions to natural resource concerns. We work with landowners every step of the way from planning to implementation. Districts supply timely information and practical advice about natural resource management practices, coordinate cost-share programs designed to prevent soil erosion, maintain structures to prevent flooding, play an active role in community affairs and promote conservation at local events.

“We invite all Oklahomans to take the time to visit their local conservation district office this year to get acquainted with the services and information available there,” Lam said.


EPA data confirms Oklahoma’s national water quality leadership

OKLAHOMA CITY, March 23, 2016—Oklahoma has successfully treated water pollution issues on more acres than any other state according to new data collected by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC) Water Quality Division, which is funded by EPA. Since 2007, voluntary conservation by farmers and ranchers has resulted in 55 Oklahoma streams being removed from Oklahoma’s list of impaired water bodies.

“The 55 streams we’ve cleaned up so far drain over 3.9 million acres of land. That’s 1.5 million more acres than any other state,” said Shanon Phillips, OCC Water Quality Division Director.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical and financial assistance for farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices on their land. Among many other benefits, practices such as no-till and cover crops reduce soil and chemical runoff to nearby streams, thereby improving water quality.

“By investing in soil health, landowners have a direct hand in improving our water quality,” said Gary O’Neill State Conservationist for NRCS in Oklahoma. “The tremendous successes we’re seeing in Oklahoma are proof voluntary conservation by private citizens is effective at addressing environmental issues.”

Every year, OCC submits streams which have demonstrated sustained improvement to be considered as an EPA water quality success story. This year’s streams are:
  • Canadian Sandy Creek, Pontotoc and Garvin Counties
  • Caney Boggy Creek, Hughes, Coal, and Pittsburg Counties
  • Delaware Creek, Osage and Tulsa Counties
  • Upper Honey Creek, Delaware County
  • Main Creek, Major County
  • Otter Creek, Kiowa and Tillman Counties
  • Stillwater Creek, Payne County

More information on success stories can be found on EPA’s website.
    
Oklahoma Land Stewardship Alliance, Redlands Community College to host Central Oklahoma Soil Health and Cover Crop seminar

As part of their ongoing commitment to help production agriculture in Oklahoma and the Southern Plains region of the United States, The Oklahoma Land Stewardship Alliance and Redlands Community College will be hosting the Central Oklahoma Soil Health Seminar, Thursday, March 31, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  According to Jack Bryant, president of Redlands Community College, this event represents a great opportunity for agriculture producers to gain additional knowledge about the benefits they can realize on their operations from improving soil health.

“We are very excited to partner with the Oklahoma Land Stewardship Alliance to host this event,” Bryant said. “Hosting soil health pioneers Gabe Brown and Ray Archuleta provides a great opportunity to showcase what agriculture producers can do to improve their bottom line profitability and better prepare their operations to withstand extreme weather events through improving the health of their soil,”

Kim Barker, chairman of the Oklahoma Land Stewardship Alliance agreed.

“There are no two individuals who understand the issue of improving the health of the soil and what that can mean to a producers operation than Gabe Brown and Ray Archuleta,” Barker said.  “We hope folks from throughout the state can join us for this great opportunity to learn how they can help their bottom lines while improving their land.”  

Recognized as one of the pioneers of the current soil health movement, Gabe Brown and his family own and operate a diversified 5,000 acre farm and ranch near Bismarck, North Dakota.  The Browns holistically integrate their grazing and no-till cropping systems, which include a wide variety of cash crops and multi-species cover crops. He has consistently met or exceeded county crop production averages in North Dakota with minimal inputs due to the improvement of the health of his soil.

Ray Archuleta is a Regional Soil Health Specialist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Soil Health Division. He teaches Biomimicry Strategies and Agroecology principles throughout the country for improving soil function.  He has 31 years of work experience with NRCS.

Issues to be discussed at the event include slake and infiltration demonstrations, the makeup of the soil, the tools to regenerate our soil, Oklahoma examples of building stronger soil, Oklahoma cover crop data, rangeland and cropland regeneration examples, how to stack enterprises for regeneration and profit, and ideas on how to incorporate soil health methods into your operation.

Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP by March 25 here or by calling Clay Pope at 405-699-2087.  There is no charge for the meeting and lunch will be provided by Farm Credit of Western Oklahoma.  Additional sponsors for the event include USDA NRCS, USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Natural Resources Defense Council, USDA Southern Plains Climate Hub, and the South Central Climate Science Center.

Registration will begin at 8:30 at the Redlands Community College Conference Center located at 1300 S. Country Club Road in El Reno.

Weather and Climate Communications Survey

A survey to explore concerns, experiences and preferred communications channels in regards to weather and climate is being conducted as part of the requirements for completion of a master’s thesis project by a graduate student in the Department of Communications and Agricultural Education at Kansas State University. The research project is a part of the ongoing grant funded by the USDA’s Southern Plains Regional Climate Hub.

If you would like to participate in this survey, please click here.

If you have questions or problems accessing the survey, please e-mail Cassie Wandersee at [email protected].
Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Hold 78th Annual State Meeting
 
March 2, 2016−The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) held its annual meeting February 28-March 1, 2016. More than 300 individuals gathered at the Reed Center in Midwest City to plan for future projects and honor conservation leaders throughout the state.
 
"The meeting was a great opportunity for district directors, employees and conservation partners to come together to learn about new opportunities in Oklahoma," said Steve House, OACD president.
 
General session speakers included Terry Detrick, president of American Farmers and Ranchers, who emphasized the importance of conservation work on the local level and Bill Buckner, chief executive officer of the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, who spoke about the soil health movement being the next chapter for conservation districts. In addition, Andy Commer from the Army Corps of Engineers provided information for private landowners about the Waters of the United States Act. Breakout session topics included wetlands management, upstream flood control structures and the USDA-NRCS Monarch Initiative.
The following awards were presented at the annual event:
 
Conservation Hall of Fame:
Karl Jett, Beaver County Conservation District Director and Conservation Commissioner.
 
Friend of Conservation Award:
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Natural Resources Conservation District board of directors Ed Mouss, Robin Jenkins and Bob Davis for their creation of a new conservation district and partnership.
 
President's Award:
Kim Farber, Garfield County Conservation District Director and former OACD President.
 
Mike Thralls Memorial Scholarship:
The first annual scholarships were presented in honor of former Oklahoma Conservation Commission executive director Mike Thralls. Two students each received $500 awards to pursue a degree at Oklahoma State University in the College of Agriculture Sciences and Natural Resources. Recipients were Barrett Cosby of Buffalo, Okla. and Kellan Dean Hostetler of Billings, Okla.
 
OACD members elected the following officers:
President - Steve House, Blaine County Conservation District
First Vice President - Jimmy Emmons, Dewey County Conservation District
Vice President - Larry Wright, Deer Creek Conservation District
Vice President - Bill Jordan, Garvin County Conservation District
 
Additional board members include Everett Wollenberg of McClain County Conservation District, Dale Jenkins of Hughes County Conservation District, Bryant Reeves of Greer County Conservation District, Elmer Maddux of Woodward County Conservation District and Marty Hern of Adair County Conservation District.
 
 
 
2015 Conservation Partner Award winners announced

March 2, 2016—USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Oklahoma is proud to announce the 2015 Conservation Partner Award winners. Winners were recognized at the Reed Center on Feb. 29, 2016 during the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts annual meeting. Each winner received a personal letter from Oklahoma NRCS State Conservationist Gary O’Neill.

The annual awards recognize Oklahomans who are committed to natural resources conservation and who are vital to the NRCS mission of assisting private landowners in implementing voluntary conservation practices. The 2015 award winners are:

Outstanding Conservation District Employee: Anita Kaufman, Payne County Conservation District

Outstanding Conservation District Director: Dale Jenkins, Hughes County Conservation District
 
Outstanding Conservation Partner: 
Oklahoma Conservation Commission Watershed Technicians
Dennis Boney, Southeast Region
George Moore, West Region
Johnny Pelley, Northeast-Southcentral Region

Conservation District Watershed Aides:
Chuck Pyka, Murray County Conservation District
Greg Lyons, Garvin Conservation District (Garvin County)
Rusty Adams, Okfuskee County Conservation District
Tony Harrison, Kiowa County Conservation District
Trent Drennan, Grady County Conservation District

Conservationist of the Year: John Dee Butchee, Jackson County Conservation District

 

USDA and Partners to Invest in Three New Targeted Conservation Projects in Oklahoma and Neighboring States

Feb. 12, 2016—The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and partners across the nation together will invest up to $720 million in 84 conservation projects across the nation that will help communities improve water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. Three of these Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects are coming to Oklahoma in 2016. RCPP is a program administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Projects coming to Oklahoma are:

  •      Improving Working Lands for Monarch Butterflies: This partnership lead by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will restore, manage and conserve wildlife habitat for monarch butterflies on agricultural and tribal lands. States within the project area are Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin. NRCS will invest $6 million.
  •     Innovative Tribal Conservation and GHG Management: This partnership lead by the Intertribal Agriculture Council will address the need for conservation stewardship projects on American Indian lands. States within the project area are Alaska, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and South Dakota. NRCS will invest $1.8 million.
  •     Native Grazing Lands Protection in the Plains: By applying conservation easements and practices on the most intact native grazing lands remaining in Kansas and Oklahoma, this partnership lead by The Nature Conservancy will prevent habitat fragmentation and conversion to non-grazing uses, improve wildlife habitat and reduce the spread of invasive species. NRCS will invest $3.6 million.

“We put out a call for innovative and results-focused projects that will deliver the most conservation impact,” said Gary O’Neill, NRCS State Conservationist for Oklahoma. “Our partners answered with creative, locally-led approaches to help producers support their ongoing business operations and address natural resource challenges in their communities, here in Oklahoma, and across the nation.”

Projects are selected on a competitive basis, and local private partners must be able to at least match the USDA commitment. For 2016, USDA received 265 applications requesting nearly $900 million, or four times the amount of available federal funding. The 84 projects selected for 2016 include proposed partner matches totaling over $500 million, more than tripling the federal investment alone.

“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program puts local partners in the driver’s seat to accomplish environmental goals that are most meaningful to that community. Joining together public and private resources also harnesses innovation that neither sector could implement alone,” O’Neill said.

RCPP draws on local knowledge and networks to fuel conservation projects. Bringing together a wide variety of new partners including businesses, universities, non-profits and local and Tribal governments makes it possible to deliver innovative, landscape- and watershed-scale projects that improve water quality and quantity, wildlife habitat, soil health and other natural resource concerns on working farms, ranches and forests.

USDA also invested in three Oklahoma RCPP projects in 2015. Partnering with NRCS, Oklahoma Conservation Commission and Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, these ongoing projects will assist farmers and ranchers with installing conservation practices in the Elk City Lake and Grand Lake watersheds and establish conservation demonstration farms in varied regions of the state.

USDA is committed to invest $1.2 billion in RCPP partnerships over the life of the 2014 Farm Bill. Today’s announcement brings the current USDA commitment to almost $600 million invested in 199 partner-led projects, leveraging an additional $900 million for conservation activities in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.