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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 sarahblaney@okconservation.org or 517-763-8609
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 deb-bogar@nacdnet.org  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 Deb-Bogar@nacdnet.org 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 sarahblaney@okconservation.org.

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 john.weir@okstate.edu 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 wande@ksu.edu.
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.

USDA in Oklahoma Seeks to Enroll 450,000 More Acres in Conservation Stewardship Program to Improve Working Lands

Application deadline for 2016 participation is March 31.
 
Feb. 4, 2016—USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Oklahoma plans to add an estimated 450,000 more acres to the rolls of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) during fiscal year 2016. NRCS Oklahoma State Conservationist Gary O’Neill encourages farmers, ranchers and landowners to submit applications by March 31 to their local USDA service center to ensure they are considered for enrollment in 2016.

This follows Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement today of $150 million in funding available through CSP nationwide. CSP is USDA’s largest conservation program that helps producers voluntarily improve the health and productivity of private and Tribal working lands through more than 100 different land enhancements.

“The Conservation Stewardship Program is one of our most popular programs with producers because it results in real change on the ground by boosting soil and air quality, conserving clean water and enhancing wildlife habitat,” O’Neill said. “With this investment, we’ll be able to build on the already record number of acres enrolled in USDA’s conservation programs, enabling producers to achieve higher levels of conservation and adopt new and emerging conservation technologies on farms and ranches.”

Participants with existing CSP contracts that will expire on Dec.31, 2016 have the option to renew their contracts for an additional five years if they agree to adopt additional activities to achieve higher levels of conservation on their lands. Applications to renew are also due by March 31.

NRCS also makes CSP available to producers as an additional opportunity to participate in regional landscape-level conservation efforts including the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative and Ogallala Aquifer Initiative.

Funding is available for more than 100 kinds of enhancements nationwide to help participants:

  • Improve soil quality through use of cover crops, conservation crop rotations and other activities that increase soil productivity.
  • Use water wisely and improve water quality through enhancements such as more efficient irrigation systems and weather monitoring.
  • Restore habitat for wildlife and pollinators such as the lesser prairie-chicken and monarch butterfly through the use of better grazing systems and improved plant management. 

A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is compatible with their operation. As part of the application process, applicants will work with NRCS field personnel to complete a resource inventory of their land to determine the conservation performance for existing and new conservation activities. The applicant’s conservation performance will be used to determine eligibility, ranking and payments. Through CSP, NRCS in Oklahoma has provided more than $224 million since 2009 in assistance to farmers and ranchers to enhance conservation on more than 5.9 million acres. For more on technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.

NACD Honors Conservation Leaders at 2016 Annual Meeting


The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) honored conservation leaders at an awards banquet on Feb. 2 during the 2016 NACD Annual Meeting in Reno, Nevada.

The NACD/NRCS Olin Sims Conservation Leadership Award was presented BY NRCS Chief Jason Weller and NACD President Lee McDaniel to Larry “Skip” Ahlgren and Diane Ahlgren of Winnett, Montana.  The Ahlgren’s were recognized for their superior service to the conservation community and commitment to promoting and leading conservation on private lands. Diane serves on the Rangeland Resources Executive Committee for the Montana Department of Natural Resources. Larry serves as Secretary/Treasurer for the Grass Range Grazing District, as one of the Directors of the Williams Coulee Grazing District, and on the Board of Directors for the Montana Association of State Grazing Districts.  The Ahlgrens ranch and produce cattle on their land in Eastern Montana.

The NACD President's Award was presented to Joe Lomax, NACD Board Member from New Jersey. Lomax currently serves on NACD’s Natural Resource Policy Committee, is Chairman of the Coastal Resource Policy Group and is a member of the Human Resources committee.
 
The NACD Friend of Conservation Award was presented to Chris Wible representing Scotts Miracle-Gro. Scotts Miracle-Gro has been a long-time supporter of NACD and continues to be an active and consistent supporter of NACD and our member districts.  They teamed up with the Ohio Federation and Ohio state conservation agency to create high-quality outreach materials for districts on “Lawns and the Environment,” and then made them available to all districts at no cost through NACD.  Scotts Miracle-Gro has also provided financial sponsorship of numerous NACD events such as the NACD Annual Meeting, the Spring Fly-In, and the NACD Summer Meeting.  In 2011, an extra special donation of product and expertise was directed towards the NACD Service Project for the Tennessee School for the Blind where students planted a garden and had a tree planting ceremony. Scotts Miracle-Gro’s most impactful donation to date is their sole sponsorship of the monthly NACD Urban and Community Conservation Webinar since its inception in September 2012.  Through these webinars, NACD has reached over 1,100 district and partner representatives, many repeatedly, showcasing what is and can be done to address natural resource concerns in developed and developing areas.

The NACD Distinguished Service Award was presented to Debbie Moreland, Program Administrator for the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts (AACD) in Little Rock, Arkansas. Debbie has been an integral part of conservation districts over the past two decades, but her greatest service to Arkansas conservation has been in her role as Program Administrator for AACD where she has championed collaborative conservation efforts throughout the state.  Debbie has been the catalyst for many successful conservation partnerships. Her effectiveness can be measured in the accomplishments of the Arkansas Conservation Partnership, including the many successful Mississippi River Basin Initiative projects and her coordination of popular educational field tours.

During the banquet, First Vice President Brent Van Dyke of New Mexico was sworn in as President-elect and Gary Moyer was sworn in as the new Southwest Region Executive Board Member. NACD also recognized outgoing Southwest Executive Board Member Shaun Sims, for his years of dedication and service and had a special recognition for Charles Holmes, NACD Board Member from Alabama for his nearly 30 years of service.

Earlier in the day, NRCS Chief Jason Weller and NACD President Lee McDaniel announced the winners of the 2015 Earth Team Awards: the Buffalo Conservation District from Marshall, Arkansas and the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology High School (AACT HS) of Reno, Nevada.  Individually recognized were Samantha Antipa and Monique Renteria from AACT HS.  The Earth Team is the volunteer workforce of NRCS, serving as an integral part of the conservation partnership.


Photos from the entire meeting are posted on the NACD Flickr site, at: www.flickr.com/photos/nacd.
 
The 2016 NACD Annual Meeting is sponsored by the following partners: Agri Drain Corporation; Bayer CropScience; Bob Warner; Case IH; John Deere; Monsanto; National Farmers Union; Scotts Miracle-Gro; Soil Health Institute; Syngenta; U.S. Forest Service; U.S. Sugar; and Verdesian.

Redlands Community College to Host Central Oklahoma Soil Health Field Day

As part of their ongoing commitment to help production agriculture in Oklahoma and the Southern Plains region of the United States, Redlands Community College in El Reno, Okla. will host the college’s first ever Central Oklahoma Soil Health Field Day at their Darlington and Royce Ranch agriculture campuses on Thursday, Feb. 18 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  According to Jack Bryant, president of Redlands Community College, this event will be a great chance for agriculture producers from throughout the region to gain additional knowledge about the benefits they can realize on their operations from improving soil health.

“We are very excited to host this event to help showcase the work that Redlands Community College is doing along with our partners to help provide additional information on 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,” Bryant said.  “Our demonstration efforts are geared toward providing useful information that can help farmers and ranchers determine what approach to improving soil health works best for them in this region and we hope this first field day will give us a chance to showcase this ongoing work.”

Speakers at the event include Dr. Fred Provenza, Professor Emeritus, Department of Wildlife Resources at Utah State University who will discuss the connections between soil health, animal health and human health. Dr. Hailin Zhan, Regents Professor of Soil Health at Oklahoma State University who will speak on soil health testing in Oklahoma and Jimmy Emmons from Leedey, Oklahoma who will discuss the impact no-till and cover crops are having on his farming and ranching operation. Additional presentations will be made by representatives of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, and Sure Crop Liquid Fertilizers.

Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP online by February 15 or by calling Clay Pope at 405-699-2087.  There is no charge for the meeting and lunch will be provided by Oklahoma AG CREDIT.  Additional sponsors for the soil health project include Johnston Seed, USDA NRCS, USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Natural Resources Defense Council, USDA Southern Plains Climate Hub, Oklahoma Wheat Commission, The Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma, Western Equipment, Wheeler Brothers Grain Inc., Sure Crop Liquid Fertilizers, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Plains Grains Inc. and Oklahoma Genetics Inc.

Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Redlands Community College Darlington Chapel located at 5005 Darlington Road, three miles north and three miles west of El Reno.  For more information, download the event flyer here, or contact Clay Pope at 405-699-2087 or at claypope@pldi.net.                                                       
 
Conservation Districts Invited to Apply for Excellence in Communications Awards

The Oklahoma Conservation Commission invites Oklahoma conservation districts to apply for the annual Excellence in Communications Awards. Awards will be presented in the following four categories:
•    Excellence in Communications by a Conservation District
•    Excellence in Innovative Communication
•    Outstanding Press Coverage of Conservation
•    Outstanding Continuing Publisher Support of Coverage

Deadline for submissions is Feb. 19, 2016. Award winners will be notified by March 1, 2016 and awards will be presented during Conservation Day at the Capitol on March 23, 2016. Download the application form and instructions here. For questions, contact Lisa Knauf  Owen at lisa.knauf@conservation.ok.gov.

16 counties to receive emergency funds for critical flood control dam repairs

 Jan. 14, 2015—Oklahoma’s rainiest year on record, 2015, left over 60 of Oklahoma’s flood control dams severely damaged. Following authorization by Governor Mary Fallin to transfer $1.8 million from the state emergency fund to qualify Oklahoma for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) emergency funds, 16 counties will receive critical repairs to their flood control dams, says the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.

Affected counties are: Atoka, Caddo, Carter, Coal, Custer, Garvin, Grady, Hughes, Kiowa, Latimer, Love, McClain, Pittsburg, Pontotoc, Seminole and Stephens.
“Lives and property across the state depend on the safe function of these small flood control dams,” said Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC) Executive Director Trey Lam. “Even during challenging budget years, we must make provisions to keep our citizens safe. We are grateful for Governor Fallin’s wise and prudent decision.”

In 2015, Oklahoma’s flood control dams collectively prevented $280 million in flood damages. By comparison, the average annual cost of maintaining them is $2 million. Major infrastructure such as Interstate-35 and regional population centers such as Seminole and Wilburton enjoy the protection and economic security they provide. Were the dams around Seminole to go unrepaired, for example, portions of US-270, OK-3E and OK-56 could be washed away during another major rainfall event.

“These small flood control dams act as a network,” said NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Water Resources Bill Porter. “Together, they can capture fast moving flood water over a wide area and slowly release it downstream. If dams begin to deteriorate, the pressures on downstream towns and infrastructure increase.”

In the case of Eufaula Lake and its surrounding communities, 297 small flood control dams capture flood water and sediment upstream before reaching the large Eufaula Dam. Many of these flood control dams are including in the upcoming emergency repairs.

 “It’s important that we not lose sight of the larger operation, maintenance, and upgrade issues surrounded Oklahoma’s flood control dams,” said OCC Conservation Programs Division Director Tammy Sawatzky. “The emergency funds are for immediate repairs where lives may be in direct jeopardy. They do not alleviate the ongoing upkeep needs of all 2,107 flood control dams managed by conservation districts.”
OCC and NRCS officials, including NRCS National Watershed Team Leader Kevin Farmer, survey 12-20 feet deep erosion cuts formed by rushing water during storms in 2015 in the auxiliary spillway of Caddo Creek Dam 27.
 

OCC Executive Director Trey Lam, who is over six feet tall, stands in a channel cut by flood waters in the Caddo Creek Dam 27 auxiliary spillway.

Gov. Mary Fallin Authorizes Transfer of Emergency Funds for Flood Control Repairs

January 12, 2016—Governor Mary Fallin approved the transfer of $1.8 million from the state emergency fund so Oklahoma could qualify for federal funds needed to repair flood control structures damaged last year.

“These structures are absolutely vital to protect Oklahomans and their property should the state receive record rainfall again like it did last year,” said Fallin.

Fallin praised U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, for his help in securing additional funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“The devastating floods throughout Oklahoma last year emphasized the importance of maintaining and repairing dams and watersheds throughout our state,” said Lucas. “Every dollar devoted to these critical rehabilitation projects will have an extraordinary impact in protecting the lives and property of Oklahomans.”

The agency’s emergency watershed protection program will help repair more than 60 structures in 16 counties damaged by last spring’s floods.

Oklahoma has more than 2,100 small watershed upstream flood control dams, a number that is tops in the nation, to slow flood waters in streams and creeks. Those impoundments prevented more than $91 million in flood damages last May, when the state was beset by torrential rains, according to USDA figures.


Flood control dams are designed to capture and slowly release water within part or all of a watershed. Oklahoma’s $2 billion flood control infrastructure costs $2 million annually to maintain. The state's Operation and maintenance of these dams is primarily the responsibility of local conservation districts, with the support of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. Learn more about Oklahoma's Watershed Upstream Flood Control Programs here.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Association of Conservation Districts President Lee McDaniel offered support for the fiscal year 2016 (FY16) omnibus appropriations bill released last week that contains many important funding priorities for locally-led delivery of conservation assistance.

"After weeks of intense debate, I am pleased that lawmakers have finally reached an agreement on a spending bill for the remainder of the fiscal year," McDaniel said. "The investments Congress is making in conservation will enable conservation districts and our partners to provide cleaner water, improved soil health and wildlife benefits through locally-led delivery of conservation assistance to landowners."

"We are pleased to see that lawmakers are listening to conservation districts on key programs and initiatives tied to appropriations funding and the federal budget, but there is a lot of work yet to do in conveying the importance of all of these programs," McDaniel said. "Lawmakers need to understand the critical importance of programs like EQIP, and NACD will continue to work closely with legislators to advocate for the highest level of funding for priority programs."

While the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a critical mandatory farm bill conservation program, was cut there were several provisions in the bill worth highlighting:

  •     an increase in Conservation Operations funding to $850,856,000;
  •     an increase in funding for State and Private Forestry to $237,023,000
  •     an increase in funding for wildland fire management to $816,745,000;
  •     continuation of current funding for the enrollment of 10 million acres in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP);
  •     continuation of current funding levels for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 319 grants ($164,915,000);
  •     and an allotment of $271,000,000 for emergency conservation funding programs including the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, the Emergency Conservation Program and the Emergency Forestry Restoration Program.
Applications Being Accepted for Mike Thralls Memorial Scholarship

The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts is proud to announce that applications are now being accepted for the first annual "Mike Thralls Memorial Scholarship." Thralls was an unwavering steward of the land who loved Oklahoma and was committed to preserving her natural resources. Thralls was a graduate of Oklahoma State University who went on to serve as Oklahoma Assistant Secretary of Agriculture and Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. In his memory, OACD will be awarding two $500 scholarships beginning in February 2016.


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, 2016.  Find more information here.

Applications can be mailed or emailed to:
OACD
PO Box 2775
Oklahoma City, OK 73101
sarahblaney@okconservation.org


Award Notification:
The scholarship will be presented at the 78th annual OACD meeting on Monday February 29, 2016. Scholarship awardees will be invited to attend to accept their award. All funds will be paid directly to Oklahoma State University.

Conservation Districts Invited to Submit Nominations for OACDE Employee of the Year

OACDE is now accepting applications for the Conservation District Employee of the Year. The recipient will be recognized at the OACD State Meeting February 28 - March 1, 2016, at the Reed Center in Midwest City. Please submit nominations by Jan. 15, 2016 to Coleta Bratten, Dewey County Conservation District,
PO Box 36, Taloga, OK  73667. Download a nomination form here. Questions? Contact deweyccd@conservation.ok.gov.
Oklahoma Agriculture Producers Invited to Participate in Healthy Soils Project

Dec. 2, 2015– The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) is now accepting applications from Oklahoma agriculture producers to participate in a soil health project. The Oklahoma Healthy Soils Project is a voluntary effort to conserve the natural resources of Oklahoma by encouraging agriculture producers to implement proven conservation practices. The project will focus on incorporating cover crops on croplands in four regions of the state in 2016 by establishing demonstration farms of at least 80 acres in size on privately-held lands through a voluntary process. The goal of the Healthy Soils Project is to ascertain the feasibility of incorporating cover crops into no-till systems in Oklahoma.

“Many producers are skeptical about incorporating cover crops due to moisture loss,” Jordan Shearer, OACD Project Director said. “Although we know cover crops use moisture, much of the moisture that producers believe they are saving through a fallow system is lost to evaporation.”

Through the Oklahoma Healthy Soils Project, 10 producers will be selected to plant cover crops on 80 acres at no cost to the producer. The producers selected to participate in the pilot project will receive up to $115/per acre for seed cost, fair rental rate compensation, technical assistance and testing/monitoring equipment. After implementation, cash crop yields from the cover crop acres will be compared to yields from fallow systems to evaluate economic impact as well as environmental benefits. Participating producers will also be paired with a conservation mentor in their area to provide qualitative support for the project duration.

Eligible producers must qualify for EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) as defined by the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill and submit a full Healthy Soils Project application to OACD by Friday January 15, 2016.

The OACD Healthy Soils Project is funded USDA-NRCS's Regional Conservation Partnership Program and underwritten in part by ITC Great Plains and the Williams Companies.

To learn more about the areas for the first phase of the demonstration project and to download an application, please visit okconservation.org/healthy-soils.org or contact your local conservation district.

OACD to Help Sponsor Southern Soil Health Conference Jan 12-13 in Ardmore, Okla.


The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts is pleased to help sponsor the Second Annual Southern Soil Health Conference Jan. 12-13 at the Ardmore Convention Center.

Hosted by Green Cover Seed, Southern Soil Health Conference is an educational opportunity for agricultural producers and landowners to learn more about soil health and the importance of cover crops.

Groups partnering to bring this event to Oklahoma include the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Farm Foundation, No-Till on the Plains, Southern SARE, Texas Grazing Land Coalition, Dixon Water Foundation, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Sand County Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Out on the Land.

Focusing solely on soil health, cover crops and Graz2, the conference will feature keynote speakers including animal scientist Dr. Allan Williams who is the founding partner and president of LMC, an agriculture and food industry consulting firm that specializes in enhanced farm and food company sustainability and profitability, as well as no-till producers Steve Tucker of Nebraska, John Heerman of Colorado and Darin Williams of Kansas.

In addition, Texas and Oklahoma producers including Jimmy Emmons, Craig Watson, Yates Adcock and Max Martin will share their individual experiences with soil health and how it has affected their farming operations.

Noble Foundation Tour
On Monday, Jan. 11 from 3-6:30 p.m. the Noble Foundation will host a tour of the beautiful Noble Foundation campus including the plant pathology lab and the greenhouse and also provide an overview of the Noble Foundation history and the agricultural consultation program.

Registration
Cost of registration through Nov. 30 is $125 per person, increasing to $150 from Dec. 1-31 and $175 after Dec. 31. Learn more and register online here.

“This Land is Your Land” Workshop Explores Connection between Good Citizenship and Conservation

On October 21, 2015, the Oklahoma Blue Thumb Association together with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts will host “This Land is Your Land – Discovering a Sense of Place” at Fort Reno in El Reno, Okla. from 8:30 a.m.-4:15 a.m.


The experimental workshop will delve into the spirit and meaning of citizenship and will highlight the value of digging a little deeper into places that are important to you.

The workshop will feature presentations from conservationists, teachers and historians who have a passion to guide participants to a better understanding of their community and encourage them to explore issues such as:


•    How can I encourage good citizenship within my community?
•    What can I do to conserve local resources?
•    What does my community need from me?
•    Is there a trick to blending sustainability and citizenship?

Participants will also learn about Fort Reno’s cultural history and its surrounding natural resources including the North Canadian River, prairie ecosystem, wildlife and local citizens.

The cost of the workshop is $25, which includes lunch and materials. Registration deadline is Oct. 9. To register, visit thislandisyourland.eventbrite.com or download a registration form here. For questions or more information, please contact Cheryl Cheadle at 918-398-1804 or cheryl.cheadle@conservation.ok.gov.

Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Auxiliary Accepting Scholarship Applications

Oklahoma high school seniors who are children or grandchildren of Conservation District directors, managers or employees or NRCS employees are invited to apply for the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Auxiliary Scholarship. The $300 award is intended to encourage qualified students to increase their interest and  awareness of the mission of conservation. Qualified applicants must have an overall GPA of 2.5 or greater and be enrolled in a college, university or trade school as a full-time student by the fall semester of 2016.  Application deadline is January 22, 2016. Contact Dianne Jeans with any questions at 580-628-2223. Click here to download an application.

Conservation Districts Featured on "Out on the Land" on RFD-TV


RFD-TV will be featuring conservation districts, soil health and NRCS in two upcoming episodes of Out on the Land.  The first episode will air Tuesday, September 8 at 6 p.m. CST and will be rerun December 8 also at 6 p.m. CST.
 
This episode will take a look at Jimmy Emmons' farm in western Oklahoma. In the episode, Emmons, a board member for the Dewey County Conservation District and the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, discusses how he changed his farming methods to incorporate more soil health practices and principles and how it has ultimately improved his bottom line.  The episode also features a visit to Emmons' farm by NRCS District Conservationist Paul Clark, who discusses cover cropping with Emmons and his neighbors. The episode is capped off with a vignette about the history of conservation districts and information about how they can assist present landowners and managers.


The second episode serves as a part two and picks up where the first one left off on Emmons' farm.  This episode features a discussion between Out on the Land host Dr. Jerry Butler and Emmons about the incorporation of livestock grazing on Emmons' cropland and how it has benefitted the health of his soil and his crop yields.   Also featured is Steve Alspach, NRCS State Soil Scientist in Oklahoma, who discusses soil health benefits and the formation of partnerships across Oklahoma between conservation districts, NRCS, local landowners and others to increase awareness and adoption of soil health practices.  The episode concludes with a brief look at the National Association of Conservation Districts and our mission and work.  This episode will air Tuesday, September 15 at 6 p.m. CST and will rerun on December 15 at the same time.

No-­till on the Plains to Celebrate 20th Anniversary at Winter Conference January 26-27


The world’s leading experts in continuous no-till will honor the history of soil health and share their roadmaps for the future at the 20th annual No-­till on the Plains Winter Conference Jan. 26-­27, 2016, in Salina, Kan. The Agriculture’s Innovative Minds (AIM) Symposium will follow the conference on Jan. 28.

This  special  anniversary  celebration  features  a  new  format,  starting  with  pre-­conference  events  Tuesday  morning.  Beginning  no-­till  producers  can  exchange  ideas  and  ask  questions  during  a special session with experienced no-­tillers. A rainfall simulator will demonstrate water infiltration and raindrop impact on soil samples from no-­till and conventional tillage fields. Industry Morning Marketplace  will  include  refreshments  and  presentations  on  the  latest  no-­till  innovations  and  technology from exhibitors.

Keynote  speakers  will  take  the  stage  Tuesday  afternoon,  followed  by  the  popular  Beer  and  Bull  networking event where attendees can exchange ideas with speakers, exhibitors and producers.

On  Wednesday,  attendees  can  choose  from  22  breakout  sessions  from  forward-thinking  no-­till  producers and leading no-­till researchers. The conference concludes with keynote speaker Dwayne Beck, research manager at Dakota Lakes Research Farm.  

“For less than the cost of a bag of seed, you can get up to three days of intensive training, discussion and  networking,”  said  Steve  Swaffar,  executive  director  for  No-­till  on  the  Plains.  “This  year’s  speaker  lineup  is  the  best  you’ll  find  in  one  place.  It’s  well  worth  the  investment  considering  the volume  of  expert  insight  you’ll  receive  and  the  impact  on  your  bottom  line  once  you  apply  these  concepts.”  

The Agriculture’s Innovative Minds (AIM) Symposium will follow the conference on Jan. 28 with the theme,  “Plants,  Bugs,  and  Microbes:  Do  You  Hear  What  I  Hear?”  This  advanced  workshop  will  examine  how  plants,  insects  and  the  soil  communicate  by  releasing  chemicals  to  send  messages. This  communication  can  benefit  plants  in  need  of  resources  or  protection.  Speakers  include  Jill  Clapperton,  principal  scientist  and  co-­founder  of  Rhizoterra  Inc.;  Jonathan  Lundgren,  research entomologist  for  USDA  ARS;  and  Jack  Schultz,  director  of  the  University  of  Missouri’s  Bond  Life  Sciences Center. The trio will offer an in-­depth look at what communication means for soils, crop production and bottom lines.  

The list of topics and speakers is being updated regularly at notill.org.

Early bird pricing ends Sept. 30 and offers up to $150 in savings with the winter conference priced at $275, AIM is $250 and the combination is $450. Prices are per person. To register, visit notill.org. 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.

No-­till on the Plains offers field events, networking opportunities and the annual Winter Conference to provide crop producers with valuable no-­till information. For more information, visit notill.org.

ITC Great Plains Invests in Oklahoma Healthy Soils Project

July 21, 2015 - ITC Great Plains, a transmission-only utility operating in the Southwest Power Pool region and a subsidiary of ITC Holdings, Corp., the nation's largest independent electricity transmission company, is joining forces with the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) by investing in the Oklahoma Healthy Soils Project.

"ITC is pleased to support OACD's Healthy Soils Project as both of our organizations are committed to the long-term sustainability of our natural resources," Brett Leopold, ITC Great Plains president stated, "Upgrading our nation's outdated power grid is critical to keeping the United States economically competitive and provides the infrastructure to develop renewable energy."

ITC Great Plains currently operates 436 circuit miles of transmission lines in Oklahoma and Kansas. The company is currently in the process of constructing new transmission lines throughout the southern plains to reduce system congestion, provide more efficient and cost-effective transmission of energy and increase access to a broader range of generation resources.

"Investments in transmission lines is a huge benefit to all Oklahomans," said OACD President Steve House. "These investments will yield dividends for generations to come as cleaner grid is something that benefits the environment and provides huge opportunities for rural economic development. We are excited to partner with ITC to promote conservation of our state's natural resources through the Oklahoma Healthy Soils Project"

The Oklahoma Healthy Soils Project is designed to encourage agriculture producers to implement agronomic practices that naturally benefit the biology of the soil. Throughout the next five years, the project will establish 10 demonstration farms across the state that will plant cover crops during the fallow period and implement no-till cropping systems. Economic analysis will be conducted to demonstrate the feasibility of cover crops in Oklahoma.

"Our soils have been tilled for a hundred years and are lacking in organic matter and natural nutrients and cover crops are one way we can simultaneously sequester carbon and foster the microbial community of the soil," said House. "If we are going to be able to clothe and feed a growing population, we need to make production agriculture as resilient as possible, which is why we are grateful for ITC's support of the Healthy Soils Project."

The OACD Healthy Soils Project is partially funded through a five-year grant awarded in 2015 by the United States Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service. For more information, visit www.okconservation.org/healthy-soils. The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts is a nonprofit organization representing Oklahoma's 86 conservation districts to provide leadership, resources and partnership opportunities for those who manage the land to enhance our natural resources for a better Oklahoma. 

ITC Great Plains

ITC Great Plains, LLC is a transmission-only utility operating in the Southwest Power Pool region. The company currently owns and operates approximately 436 circuit miles of transmission lines in Kansas and Oklahoma. ITC Great Plains maintains regional offices in Dodge City, Topeka and Wichita, Kansas and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. ITC Great Plains is a subsidiary of ITC Grid Development, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of ITC Holdings Corp., the nation's largest independent electric transmission company.

National Association of Conservation Districts Accepting Presentation Proposals for Annual Meeting

The National Association of Conservation Districts is currently accepting presentation proposals for the NACD Annual Meeting, January 30-February 3, 2016 in Reno, Nevada from districts, state associations, conservation partners, and professionals. Deadline for proposal submissions is Friday, July 31, 2015.

NACD offers a number of informational sessions during the meeting, focusing on the work of districts and their partners across the country. Sessions address natural resource issues as well as operations, funding, technologies, and partnerships. They typically run one hour, and in most cases, showcase several presentations at 20-30 minutes each. These are some of the most popular activities among attendees at the annual meeting! To see presentations given at the 2015 Annual Meeting, click here

If you are interested in submitting a proposal, please complete the form here and return to Katie Stump by email (katie-stump@nacdnet.org) or fax (202-547-6450) by no later than Friday, July 31.

All presenters are responsible for their own travel, hotel, and registration costs; however, if you are planning to attend only the day of your presentation, no registration is required.

For the latest details on the 2016 NACD Annual Meeting, click here.
Farmers Study Soil Health at Apache, Okla. No-till Field Day

Soil health was the focus of a field day hosted July 14 by No-Till on the Plains at Mindemann Farms near Apache, Okla. More than 65 farmers and agricultural professionals attended to learn how continuous no-till cropping systems can reduce inputs, control pests and weeds, and increase soil nutrients for enhanced soil fertility.  

During a rainfall simulation and soil demonstration, Steve Alspach from Oklahoma Natural Resources Conservation Service, demonstrated raindrop impact and water infiltration using soil samples from no-till and conventional tillage fields.

In a pit dug in a no-till field, attendees studied soil horizons and signs of life beneath the surface. Greg Scott, soil scientist from Tyron, Okla., showed how continuous no-till improves soil quality and structure, pointing out root structures, organic matter and the effects of microbiology.

Guests visited fields where host Alan Mindemann grows cover crops to improve soil health. The group also examined a pollinator plot, which features a variety of flowering plants to attract bees and other beneficial insects.

Afternoon sessions took place at Caddo Kiowa Technology Center in Fort Cobb, Okla. Randy Taylor, Extension Ag Engineer for Oklahoma State University, discussed how machinery has evolved for increased capacity and effectiveness with no-till practices.

Matt Alig, no-till farmer and livestock producer from Okarche, Okla., shared his experience with grazing livestock on cover crops in no-till fields. Jimmy Emmons, no-till producer from Leedey, Okla., concluded the day with a discussion on incorporating cover crops to improve soil health. He emphasized the importance of protecting and regenerating soil for future generations.

The event received support from Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, Oklahoma State University Extension, Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service. Event sponsors included Chisholm Trail Farm Credit and Green Cover Seed.

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.

No-till on the Plains offers field events, networking opportunities and the annual Winter Conference to provide crop producers with valuable no-till information. For more information, visit notill.org.
County Flood Control Dam Benefits Tallied

June 15, 2015—Flood control dams prevented $91 million in flood damages to land and property in May 2015 according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The federal agency has released a list flood control projects and the damage each prevented in May.

The top five watersheds with the most damage prevented for May 2015 were:

1.       Spring Creek watershed, Caddo County, 4 dams, 16.4 inches of rain, $7 million in damage prevented

2.      Sugar Creek watershed, Caddo County, 51 dams, 16 inches of rain, $5.4 million in damage prevented

3.      Wildhorse Creek watershed, Carter, Garvin, Murray and Stephens Counties, 107 dams, 15.7 inches of rain, $4 million in damage prevented

4.      Rush Creek watershed, Garvin, Grady and Stephens Counties, 54 dams, 15.6 inches of rain, $3.2 million in damage prevented

5.      Big Wewoka Creek watershed, Hughes and Seminole Counties, 41 dams, 18.4 inches of rain, $2.4 million in damage prevented

For a full list of flood control systems by watershed and the counties they benefit, visit the Oklahoma Conservation Commission website here.

Flood control dams are designed to capture and slowly release water within part or all of a watershed. The Bitter Creek flood control system in Grady County, for example, consists of 22 dams along the tributaries of Bitter Creek. By capturing the water that flows to the small creek, the dams reduce flooding locally, but also reduces the amount of water flowing into the Washita River downstream. In this way, the small system helps reduce flooding in communities along the river such as Chickasha.
No-Till on the Plains Whirlwind Expo July 14 in Apache

No-till on the Plains, Inc. will host a field day for producers to gain a better understanding of the importance of soil health by utilizing continuous no-till cropping systems. Members of the media and the general public are also invited. This high-quality education event is funded through a Conservation Innovation Grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded to Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission

The Whirlwind No-till Expo will take place on Tuesday July 14, beginning promptly at 9:00 a.m. Morning field activities will take place at Mindemann Farms located at 17022 County Road 1450,  mile north and 1 1Ž2 miles east of Apache. Morning events include a rainfall simulator demonstration discussion of soils and soil communities in a soil pit and a field tour. Lunch will be provided at the Caddo Kiowa Technology Center, 1415 7th St in Fort Cobb, Okla. A full afternoon of knowledgeable speakers and presentations will follow lunch. A $30 registration fee is required by July 7 for attendance.

Featured speakers are Greg Scott, professional soil scientist and from Tryon, Okla; Oklahoma State University extension machinery specialist Dr. Randy Taylor, continuous no-till producer Matt Alig from Okarche, Okla and Jimmy Emmons, no-till producer from Leedey, Okla.  Dr. Taylor will discuss some of the latest innovations in no-till planting equipment. Matt Alig will talk about his unique system of no-till planting and harvesting for livestock production; and Jimmy Emmons will show the audience the improvement he has made on his farm using cover crops.

 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.

Each year No-till on the Plains hosts field events and the annual Winter Conference for producers to gain valuable no-till information. “We’re striving to meet our mission to be a primary resource for no-till information and provide a support network for producers”, says Ryan Speer, No-till on the Plains President.

In addition to our partners, the event is also sponsored by Green Cover Seed and Chisholm Trail Farm Credit. For more information on the Whirlwind No-till Expo or to pre-register by July 7, contact No-till on the Plains, Inc. at 785-210-4549 or register online at www.notill.org.

Oklahoma Conservation Districts to Begin Damage Assessment of Flood Control Infrastructure


June 2, 2015—All of Oklahoma’s flood control infrastructure suffered wear and tear during a month of historic rainfall. As floodwaters recede, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission reports that crews are inspecting the 2,107 dams operated by conservation districts for damage.

“It’s impossible to say the extent of damage caused to the dams until the water goes down—that is taking some time,” said Tammy Sawatzky, Oklahoma Conservation Commission Conservation Programs Division director. “Preliminary inspections indicate the cost of repairs may run in the millions of dollars.”

Heavy rain caused the grass covered auxiliary spillways of 133 dams to flow with water. This design feature prevents water from overtopping the earthen dams and threatening structural integrity. Of these 133 dams, 21 incurred damage; of which 4 suffered significant damage.

Damages observed include cuts into the base of dams from backward flowing water, dislodged spillway pipes and heavy erosion in auxiliary spillways.

“Minor repairs can cost between $1,000 and $5,000, while more serious repairs can cost up to $75,000,” said Sawatzky. “Multiply that by 2,107 dams, and the repair cost is potentially quite high.”

Some funding for repairs is expected to come from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Emergency Watershed Protection Program. The program allows conservation districts and similar entities to secure emergency repair funding on a cost-share basis. NRCS covers up to 75 percent of the repair costs and the remaining 25 percent must come from a local source. Local contributions may come in the form of in-kind contributions such as labor and equipment.

Oklahoma’s $2 billion flood control infrastructure costs $2 million annually to maintain. This maintenance cost comes in addition to emergency repairs such as those needed now. In exchange, the dams provide an average $88 million in flood damage prevention annually. For the period of April 18-May 31, the dams prevented an estimated $101.2 million in flood damage to property, businesses and other infrastructure according to NRCS Water Resource Office.

New USDA portal enables farmers, ranchers to request conservation assistance online

May 28, 2015 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners can now do business with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through a new online portal.  With this week’s launch of Conservation Client Gateway, producers will have the ability to work with conservation planners online to access Farm Bill programs, request assistance and track payments for their conservation activities.

“What used to require a trip to a USDA service center can now be done from a home computer through Conservation Client Gateway,” Vilsack said. “USDA is committed to providing effective, efficient assistance to its clients, and Conservation Client Gateway is one way to improve customer service."

Conservation Client Gateway enables farmers, ranchers and private landowners to securely:
•    Request NRCS technical and financial assistance;
•    Review and sign conservation plans and practice schedules;
•    Complete and sign an application for a conservation program;
•    Review, sign and submit contracts and appendices for conservation programs;
•    Document completed practices and request certification of completed practices;
•    Request and track payments for conservation programs; and
•    Store and retrieve technical and financial files, including documents and photographs.

Conservation Client Gateway is entirely voluntary, giving producers a choice between conducting business online or traveling to a USDA service center.

“Our goal is to make it easy and convenient for farmers and ranchers to work with USDA,” Vilsack said. “Customers can log in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to electronically sign documents, apply for conservation programs, access conservation plans, report practice completion, or track the status of conservation payments. Through Conservation Client Gateway, producers have their conservation information at their fingertips and they can save time and gas money by reducing the number of trips to USDA service centers.”

Conservation Client Gateway is available to individual landowners and will soon be extended to business entities, such as Limited Liability Corporations. It is part of the agency’s ongoing Conservation Delivery Streamlining Initiative, which will feature additional capabilities in the future.

The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) praised the new online portal in a statement released following its rollout.

"The Conservation Client Gateway is an exciting new tool that will save precious time and money for farmers, ranchers and private landowners, by providing them the ability to manage online and on their own time a number of administrative functions that could previously only be handled in-person at a USDA service center," said NACD President Lee McDaniel.

For more information about Conservation Client Gateway, visit: www.nrcs.usda.gov/clientgateway.

Spring Flood Damage Prevention Exceeds Annual Average

May 27, 2015—Due to heavy rainfall, Oklahoma’s 2,107 flood control dams have exceeded their annual average damage prevention value in less than two months.

On average, the dams prevent $88 million in flood damage annually. For the period of April 18-May 25, the dams prevented $96.3 million in flood damage to land, homes and businesses, according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Water Resource Office. NRCS estimates an additional $21.4 million in damage would have been avoided if 331 dams planned, but not built, were in place.

For Memorial Day Weekend alone, flood control dams provided $35.4 million in damage mitigation. Were the 331 planned, but unfunded, dams in place, an additional $6.1 million in damage would have been avoided.

Note: Damage mitigation values for specific watersheds are available with 24 hours’ notice by contacting Robert Hathorne at 405-437-9171 or robert.hathorne@conservation.ok.gov.
From Drought to Flood: The Hammon Story
Story provided by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission

May 26, 2015—One town, two droughts, two floods, two very different results.

Straddling the boundaries of Roger Mills and Custer Counties in a river bend where the Washita River joins Big Kiowa Creek, sits the small town of Hammon. During the Dust Bowl, Hammon baked beneath crushing drought. Crops withered and herds dwindled. Poor land management left the soil hard, erodible and, most cruelly, nearly impervious to water.

When rain finally came to Hammon in April 1934, the hard ground was ill prepared to accept the 14 inch downpour. When its tributaries flooded, the Washita River swelled two miles beyond its banks. The flood that swept through Hammon stole 17 lives and caused $53 million dollars in damage adjusted to today’s dollars. Families, homes, roads, bridges, railroads and crops all suffered.

After four years of drought, spring 2015 has again brought rains to the town of Hammon. The area received 26 inches of rain between April and May—twice that received in the same period in 1934.
 
“The dams are making the difference,” said Nena Wells, Upper Washita Conservation District manager. “We’d likely be underwater if it weren’t for them.”

Wells is referring to the 143 flood control dams constructed in Roger Mills County since the 1950s. This network of dams, built along tributary streams of larger rivers, is designed to capture and slow the flow of water as it moves downstream. Compared to zero percent flood control in 1934, the dam network has captured 58 percent of floodwater upstream of Hammon this, according to USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Water Resource Office estimates. As a result, damage in town was minimal.

During Memorial Day weekend, watershed experts with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC), the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts and the National Watershed Coalition surveyed flood control structures from a helicopter.

“We are seeing damage—flooded fields, washed out roads, but nothing like the devastation witnessed in the 1934 floods, and certainly much less that what we would see if the dams weren’t in place,” said Trey Lam, OCC executive director. “Our most important observation is that the dams are functioning as designed.”

Continuous investment in dam maintenance by OCC and conservation districts has kept the structures in peak condition to handle the workload they have been dealt over the last several weeks. To assure the dams’ continued safe function in the future, regular maintenance must remain an ongoing priority.
Floodwater looms behind a dam upstream of Elk City.
Turkey Creek dam 4 holds back floodwater north of I-40.
Cattle graze beneath a functioning dam in Western Oklahoma.

Photos provided by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.
USDA to Invest Additional $21 million in Water Conservation, Resilience across Drought-Stricken States Including Oklahoma

May 18, 2015 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest approximately $21 million in additional Farm Bill dollars to help farmers and ranchers apply science-based solutions to mitigate the short and long term effects of drought. These investments will focus financial and technical assistance in the most severely drought-stricken areas in eight states to help crop and livestock producers apply conservation practices that increase irrigation efficiency, improve soil health and productivity, and ensure reliable water sources for livestock operations.

"Since the historic drought of 2012, dry conditions have persisted in many parts of the country, particularly in the West," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "Every day, NRCS conservationists work side-by-side with agricultural producers and help them conserve water and increase resilience in their operations. Today's investment will provide additional resources in drought-stricken areas to help farmers and ranchers implement solutions to mitigate the impacts of sustained drought."

Today's announcement expands on the substantial efforts already underway to help producers conserve water, improve soil health and build long term agricultural resilience into their operations. Already this year, NRCS state offices have targeted significant portions of their fiscal year Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) allocations to address water conservation, soil health, and resilience. In California, for example, more than $27 million of fiscal year 2015 EQIP funding is directed towards beneficial drought management practices.

With today's announcement, NRCS will provide an additional $21 million in technical and financial assistance through EQIP to target areas that are experiencing either exceptional or extreme drought conditions as of the May 5, 2015 U.S. Drought Monitor, which includes parts of California, Kansas, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Utah. The EQIP funding will allow NRCS to help producers apply selected conservation practices to better deal with the effects of drought in their operations, including prescribed grazing, livestock watering facilities, cover crops, nutrient management, irrigation systems, and other water conservation practices. On average, farmers and ranchers contribute half the cost of implementing conservation practices.

Between 2012 and 2014, NRCS invested more than $1.5 billion in financial and technical assistance to help producers implement conservation practices that improve water use efficiency and build long term health of working crop, pasture, and range lands. These practices include building soil health by using cover crops and no-till, which allow the soil to hold water longer and buffer roots from higher temperatures; improving the efficiency of irrigation systems; and implementing prescribed grazing to relieve pressure on stressed vegetation.

NRCS is also leveraging partner investments through the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to put further resources toward projects that foster water conservation and resilience. In the first round of RCPP funding last year, NRCS committed more than $84 million in 35 projects that address water conservation and soil health. These funds will be matched dollar-for-dollar by our partners, resulting in a total investment of nearly $190 million in water conservation and resilience across the country. In May, Vilsack announced a second round of RCPP funding availability that will make up to $235 million available for targeted conservation, highlighting drought and water conservation as a resource concern for potential projects.

Earlier this month, NRCS announced $6.5 million in additional drought-related funding through the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative. This investment will support targeted, local efforts to protect the quality and extend the availability of water from the Ogallala Aquifer, which underlies about 225,000 square miles of the Great Plains and supports nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle produced in the United States.

Through the creation of the National Drought Resilience Partnership, launched as part of the President's Climate Action Plan, federal agencies are working closely with states, tribes and local governments to develop a coordinated response to drought. For information on USDA's drought efforts, visit USDA Disaster and Drought Information. And to learn more about how NRCS is helping private landowners deal with drought, visit the NRCS' drought resources. View information by state.

Producers and landowners are encouraged to visit the NRCS website or stop by their local NRCS office to find out if they are eligible for this new funding. Learn more about and EQIP and other NRCS programs.

Today's announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life.

2015 NACD South Central Regional Meeting to be held in Tulsa, Okla.


The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts will host the 2015 National Association of Conservation Districts South Central Regional Meeting, August 9-11 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa, Okla. The three-day meeting, "Rock'n for Conservation," will include educational tours, informational speakers and a jammin’ social scene.

Hotel Reservations:

Rates: $83.00 per night plus 8.35% sales tax and 5% occupancy tax.

Online at www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com. Be sure to enter your Group Code "OACDAug2015."

By phone at 1-800-760-6700 and reference “NACD South Central Region Meeting 2015."

Deadline to reserve rooms:  Sunday, July 19, 2015.

 

Meeting Registration:

To register for the meeting, download a registration packet here.

Please complete a separate form for each registrant. Payment is required prior to processing registration and attendance. A credit card processing fee of 4% applies to all credit card purchases.
Pre-registration is defined as registrations received on or before midnight CST on July 19, 2015.
Registration is defined as registrations received after midnight on CST on July 19, 2015.


Questions? Contact Sarah Blaney at sarahblaney@okconservation.org.

OACD Auxiliary Now Accepting Scholarship Applications

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 July 31, 2015. Download an application by clicking here or contact Dianne Jeans with any questions at 580/628-2223.

Millions in damages prevented by dams, conservation practices during historic May rainfall
 
May 12, 2015—Oklahoma’s network of 2,107 flood control dams and voluntary conservation practices prevented an estimated $22.57 million in flood damages from the May 1-9 storms according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Water Resource Office.

“The flood control network was designed to protect farmland, roads, bridges, homes and lives, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen over the last week of rainfall,” said Trey Lam, Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC) executive director. “Like any form of infrastructure, operation and maintenance of these dams is critical if we hope to continue reaping the benefits they provide.”

According to Oklahoma Mesonet, May 2015 is so far the wettest since 1921. Some of the hardest working dam clusters over the last 10 days include:

-Fourche Maline Creek watershed, Latimer County, 14 dams, 9.97 inches of rain, $819,272 in damage prevented.

-Upper Clear Boggy Creek watershed, Coal, Johnston, and Pontotoc Counties, 49 dams, 10.1 inches of rain, $1,029,641 in damage prevented.

- Sandy Creek watershed, Garvin and Pontotoc Counties, 29 dams, 8.11 inches of rain, $764,362 in damage prevented.

-Okfuskee Tributaries, Okfuskee and Okmulgee Counties, 29 dams, 7.89 inches of rain, $693,985 in damage prevented.

Rainfall averages from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“Local conservation districts and the private landowners they work with also deserve credit for this success,” said Gary O’Neill, NRCS state conservationist. “It’s important we not lose sight of the other side of the coin—soil health. Healthy soils achieved through voluntary conservation practices are crucial to halting the extensive flood and wind related erosion witnessed in this state during the 1930s and ‘50s.”

Practices such as no-till farming and stream bank fencing mean stabilizing ground cover is in place when floodwaters rise. Due to higher levels of organic matter above and within the soil, healthy soil withstands flooding, erosion and drought better than bare or plowed soil.

“High residue, no-till and cover crops build soil that is more resilient to climate extremes—both flood and drought.” said Greg Scott, OCC soil scientist. “Organic matter, earthworms and roots hold soil in place and provide pathways through the soil for water to infiltrate. Bare soil seals off, crusts over and can be almost as ineffective as concrete at absorbing water, especially in flood events.”

Resolution Recognizes Value of Locally-Led Soil and Water Conservation Efforts

A bipartisan, concurrent resolution recently introduced in the U.S. Senate and House recognizes the value of locally-led soil and water conservation and the role of conservation districts within those efforts across the nation.
 
"We're pleased to see a bipartisan group of representatives in Washington voicing their support for our nation's soils and locally-led natural resource conservation, and their critical value to our nation's economic and food security," said National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) President Lee McDaniel. "Providing for a projected world population of nine billion by 2050, while preserving our precious natural resource base, will require a coordinated, voluntary, incentive-based approach to private land conservation with participation from local, state and federal stakeholders."
 
The Senate resolution, S. Con. Res. 10, was introduced by Agriculture Committee members Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN), John Boozman (R-AR); the House resolution, H.Con.Res.30, was introduced by the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee's Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee Representatives Glenn Thompson (R-PA-5) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM-1), and Representatives Gregg Harper (R-MS-3) and Walter Jones (R-NC-3). The resolution is also supported by the Soil Science Society of America.
 
Specifically, the resolution expresses support for: the designation of the year of 2015 as the "International Year of Soils," public participation in activities celebrating the importance of soils, and soil conservation through partnerships with the nation's 3,000 locally-led soil and water conservation districts. It also encourages landowner participation in federal conservation programs including the Conservation Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, and the Small Watershed Program. In passing this resolution, Congress will also be recognizing the 80th anniversary of the Soil Conservation Act of 1935 which created the Soil Conservation Service (now the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service) and the conservation district movement in the U.S.
 
Soil health has been a top priority for NACD in recent years. "The nation's conservation districts are well positioned to help lead one of the most important conservation movements of our time," McDaniel said. "The soil health movement continues to gain momentum across the nation; conservation districts are at the forefront of these efforts, working in close partnership with local, state and federal partners to assist producers and landowners in the education, planning and implementation of soil conservation at the local level."
 
NACD is urging all members of Congress to sign on as cosponsors to show their support for soil health and the value of locally-led soil and water conservation efforts.
Hundreds Dig in for National Land and Range Contest

More than 100 FFA and 4H teams representing 34 states will converge on Oklahoma City for the 64th annual National Land and Range Judging Contest May 5-7. This outdoor contest challenges participants to apply their knowledge of soil and plant science, land management and natural resource conservation in practical scenarios.

“Contestants are gaining skills that can be directly applied to a career in natural resource conservation,” said Steve House, President of Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, a contest sponsor. “Then there’s the economic benefit of having nearly 1,000 contestants and coaches spending three days in Oklahoma City. It’s a win for everyone.”

Tuesday, May 5 - Thursday, May 7, 2015
8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

WHAT:         
Outdoor contest where participants are challenged to judge the quality of soils and rangeland for agricultural and residential development purposes.

WHERE:     
- Best place to speak with teams is Arcadia Lake practice site on Tuesday and Wednesday.
- Event headquarters at Biltmore Hotel, South Ballroom, 401 S. Meridian, OKC.
- Official site location is need-to-know for contest integrity.

WHO:          
FFA and 4-H teams representing 34 states
Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts
Oklahoma Conservation Commission
 USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
 Oklahoma State University

For more information, contact Robert Hathorne at robert.hathorne@conservation.ok.gov or 405-437-9171.
Filing Period for 86 Local Conservation District Positions Opens May 1

April 27, 2015—Citizens interested in running for the position of conservation district board member may file from May 1-14, 2015. Eligible candidates must complete a Notification and Declaration of Candidacy form found on the Oklahoma Conservation Commission’s (OCC) website here or at their local conservation district office. A listing of conservation district offices is available here.

An eligible candidate is a registered voter within the boundaries of the conservation district and has entered or will enter into a Cooperator Agreement with the conservation district. Local elections will be held on June 2, 2015 in every district where two or more candidates have filed. Polling places will be determined at the close of filing period.

Conservation district boards are made up of five directors responsible for setting the conservation priorities within their district. Three members are elected by registered votes within the district boundaries and two are appointed by OCC upon recommendation by the district board.

For further information about conservation district board member elections, please contact OCC at 405-521-4826 or your local conservation district office.

Banks flooding on Washita River, flood control dams fully functional

April 20, 2015 - Upper Washita Conservation District in Roger Mills County reports flooding along the Washita River. The district reports flood control structures are functioning as designed—trapping large volumes of water and slowing it as it makes its way downstream.
 
Over six inches of rain from April 12-17 has challenged the region’s drought damaged soil. According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), one inch of rain is equal to about 27,154 gallons of water per acre. Extremely dry soil is highly erodible and absorbs water much slower than healthy soil.

Roger Mills County is home to 143 flood control structures. In total, Oklahoma’s conservation districts operate and maintain 2,107 flood control structures across the state. Prior to their construction beginning in the 1950s, many parts of Oklahoma flooded regularly.

Oklahoma’s flood control structures provide $82 million in annual benefits which include flood water impoundment, water supply, recreation, wildlife habitat and firefighting.

The Washita River is shown spilling over
its banks north of Cheyenne, OK in Roger Mills County.

Fast flowing flood water captured by Upper
Washita Dam #59 is slowly released downstream by the principal spillway.

Dust Bowl Survivors to Tell Their Story on Black Sunday 80th Anniversary

Ernest Herald recalls a rabbit hunt cut short by stinging gales of dust, forcing him to lay face down in a field until the storm passed. Betty Ann Lam's family was driving to church when they saw the black dust cloud chasing them down the highway. Pauline Hodges remembers her father’s words: “the worst part about the Dust Bowl, is that I helped cause it.” He was a farmer from the Panhandle.

On the 80th Anniversary of Black Sunday, join us in recording the memories and lessons of those who survived this vital period in our nation’s history.

WHEN:        Tuesday, April 14, 2015, 9 – 10 a.m.
 
WHAT:          Panel discussion with Dust Bowl survivors to commemorate their harrowing ordeal and recognize what citizens and conservation districts are doing today to ensure Oklahoma never again succumbs to the dust.

WHERE:      Oklahoma State Capitol, Second Floor, Blue Room    

WHO:            30-50 Dust Bowl survivors
                        Governor Mary Fallin (invited)
                        Members of the Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives
                        Trey Lam, Executive Director, Oklahoma Conservation Commission
                        Gary O’Neill, State Conservationist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
                        Jordan Shearer, Project Director, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts

Note: Many of our Dust Bowl survivors are happy to speak with the media. To arrange on or off-site interviews, contact Robert Hathorne at 405-437-9171 or robert.hathorne@conservation.ok.gov.

Black Sunday, April 14, 1935, was a massive dust storm that blackened the sky over many states. It began in the Oklahoma Panhandle and, days later, was settling dust upon window sills in Washington, D.C. and ships 300 miles off the East Coast.

Awards Presented During Conservation Day at the Capitol


March 24, 2015 - The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) sponsored “Conservation Day at the Capitol” on Monday March 23, 2015. The Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC) co-sponsored the event. Several of the state’s local conservation districts displayed exhibits at the event along with partner agencies and organizations. 


The exhibits were displayed in the Capitol Rotunda on the 4th floor from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The displays featured diverse conservation activities across the state and addressed local natural resource needs. 

Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese, Oklahoma Conservation Commission Executive Director Trey Lam, Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma Executive Director Mike Fuhr, 2015 Outstanding Landowner/Cooperator Danny Shepherd and OACD President Steve House.

Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese, Oklahoma Conservation Commission Executive Director Trey Lam, Billy Cook with the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, 2014 Outstanding District Director Walt Freese and OACD President Steve House.

Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese, Oklahoma Conservation Commission Executive Director Trey Lam, Tom Robins with Chesapeake Energy Company, representatives from the 2014 Outstanding Conservation District - Kay County and OACD President Steve House.
Senator Ron Justice welcomed the conservation districts at an awards ceremony held in the State Senate Chamber and said, “OACD and the conservation partnership works to promote voluntary conservation that is not just helping agriculture producers, but all Oklahomans.”


Representative Leslie Osborne and Secretary of Agriculture, Jim Reese were also present.


OACD Board President, Steve House, and Vice-President, Dan Herald, emceed the awards ceremony. Dr. Dan Sebert, Vice-President of the OACD Board presented Western Farmer’s Electrical Cooperative with the “Friend of Conservation” award for their work on the Oklahoma Carbon Program. Kent Fletcher, Environmental Specialist at Western Farmer’s accepted the award.

The Outstanding Landowner/Cooperator Award was sponsored by the Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma and was awarded to Danny Shepherd. Shepherd was nominated by the Kay County Conservation District. The Outstanding District Director Award is sponsored by the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and was awarded to Walt Freese. Freese was nominated by the Noble County Conservation District. The Outstanding District Award is sponsored by Chesapeake Energy and was awarded to the Kay County Conservation District. 


Lisa Knauf-Owen, OCC Assistant Director, and Mark Thomas, Executive Vice-President of the Oklahoma Press Associated presented the Excellence in Communications awards. Deer Creek Conservation District received first place and Kay County Conservation District received second place in the Excellence in Communications category. The Excellence in Innovative Communication was awarded to the Woodward County Conservation District and second place was award to the Caney Valley Conservation District. Carla McBride of the Anadarko Daily News was recognized for the Outstanding Support of Conservation by an OPA Member Newspaper. McBride was nominated by the South Caddo Conservation District. Scott Cloud of the Newkirk Herald Journal was recognized as the Outstanding Continuing Publisher Support of Conservation Coverage. Cloud was nominated by the Kay County Conservation District. 


John Weir with the Oklahoma Prescribed Burn Association presented the Carrying the Torch award to Harry Fritzler, retired NRCS Range Management Specialist. The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and the Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma were both awarded the Friend of Fire for their efforts to promote, raise awareness of, and use prescribed fire.

Oklahoma Tops EPA Charts for Pollution Reduction to Waterways
 
March 23, 2015— Oklahoma ranks second among the states for protecting waterways from harmful nutrients according to new EPA data. This is the sixth year in a row Oklahoma has ranked in the top five states for nonpoint source (NPS) pollution reductions.
 
Oklahoma ranks second for phosphorus reduction (358,469 pounds) and third for nitrogen reduction (856,906 pounds) to streams. These nutrients are major contributors to algal bloom issues in the state’s reservoirs which can challenge water treatment facilities, lead to fish kills and, in rare cases, pose a risk to human health.
 
Oklahoma receives less than two percent of EPA Clean Water Act Section 319 funds, yet meets between 20-30 percent of EPA’s national NPS reduction goals annually. The state’s NPS reduction numbers are based solely on the voluntary implementation of conservation practices by farmers and ranchers across the state—no regulation is involved. “This success is proof that voluntary, incentive based conservation is the best method of protecting our soil and water resources,” said Trey Lam, Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC) executive director.
 
Conservation practices that promote soil health such as no-till farming, and allowing natural vegetation to grow along stream banks can drastically reduce the amount of runoff that flows into streams. Oklahoma’s model allows local conservation districts to determine conservation priorities, then addresses those priorities with resources rather than regulations. This local approach has been successful since reversing the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.
 
OCC will build on Oklahoma’s success with a number of new initiatives in 2016, including two Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects in partnership with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Focusing on the Elk City Lake and Grand Lake watersheds, these projects will fund conservation practices along streams to improve water quality in the reservoirs downstream. Learn more about these projects here.
 
“We’re very fortunate to have a legislature that funds NPS water quality monitoring,” said Shanon Phillips, OCC Water Quality Division director. “Not only are we able to provide the public with resources to implement conservation practices with Section 319 funds, we can scientifically verify results through state funded professional monitoring—Oklahoma is unique in this regard.”
 
Monitoring results are viewable on Oklahoma’s Interactive Stream Health Map. Currently in beta, the map offers nearly a decade of water quality data from over 200 monitoring sites: bit.ly/StreamHealth. More sites and years of data will be added in the coming months.

Conservation Day at the Capitol set for March 23, 2015; Press Conference to Announce Oklahoma Ranks Among Nation’s Best for Water Quality Improvement
 
Drought mitigation, food production, access to clean water—healthy soils and streams are vital to a resilient and prosperous Oklahoma. On March 23, learn why the Oklahoma model of locally-led, non-regulatory conservation is the proven best way to protect our soil and water resources. Everyone is invited to join local conservation districts and their agency, tribal, non-profit and private partners for a celebration of the voluntary conservation legacy that began in the Dust Bowl.

In addition, join us at 10:45 a.m. in Room 432 B for a press conference to announce the EPA’s latest Nonpoint Source Pollution Program load reduction numbers and commentary from the experts who understand the Sooner state’s continued success. New EPA data shows Oklahoma is once again a national leader in reducing pollution runoff into our state’s waters.
 
Conservation Day Agenda
Oklahoma State Capitol

Exhibits: Fourth Floor Rotunda, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Awards Ceremony: Senate Chamber, 9:30 – 10:30 a.m.
Press Conference: Room 432 B, 10:45 – 11:10 a.m.
Presentation, Youth Volunteers in Action: Fourth Floor Rotunda, 11:15 – 11:45 a.m.
 
 To arrange on or off-site interviews with any of the partners listed above, contact Robert Hathorne at 405-437-9171 or Robert.Hathorne@conservation.ok.gov.