Oklahoma Association
of Conservation Districts

Click here to edit subtitle


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sustainability of our natural resources," Brett Leopold, ITC Great Plains president stated, "Upgrading our nation's outdated power grid is critical to keeping the United States economically competitive and provides the infrastructure to develop renewable energy."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.

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

- 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.

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.

Oklahoma Invasive Plant Council and  Oklahoma Pest Action Council to Host Comprehensive Invasive Species Conference 

The Oklahoma Invasive Plant Council and Oklahoma Pest Action Council are co-hosting a comprehensive invasive species meeting Friday, March 13 at the National Weather Center in Norman.

The full day conference will incorporate a variety of invasive species issues important to our state, such as: crop weeds and pests, invasive species management, successful biocontrol of invasives, and information on many different invasive species, including invertebrates, pathogens, plants, and mammals.  The effect of invasives on crops, natural areas, and urban systems will be covered.

Registration fee will include full day conference participation, resource bag, lunch, and break snacks and beverages. In-service credits and CEUs will be offered.

Learn more and register online here.

Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Primed for 77th Annual State Meeting

February 19, 2015−The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) is primed and ready for its annual meeting starting Sunday afternoon, February 22 and running through Tuesday, February 24.  The meeting will take place at the Reed Center in Midwest City.

“This is a great time for the state’s leaders in conservation to get together and chart our course forward for the coming year,” said Kim Farber, OACD President.  “The meeting theme is “Back to the Future” to honor our rich history of accomplishments, while also bringing attention to pressing conservation needs in Oklahoma.”

The meeting will be both entertaining and educational.  The keynote speaker Monday morning will be Oklahoma’s Second District Congressman Markwayne Mullin.   Other topics to be covered include improving soil health, water quality and maintaining upstream flood control dams.

“Its important for everyone to realize that without the diligent work of conservationists over the past eight decades, we would be smack dab in the middle of another dust bowl as we enter our fifth year of crippling drought,” said Farber.    

For more information including meeting agenda and registration information, click here.

Lucas and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Commemorate
One-Year Anniversary of 2014 Farm Bill
On Jan. 30, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) joined U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, in El Reno to discuss the 2014 Farm Bill and its impact on the state of Oklahoma. The legislation has strengthened several agricultural programs, such as crop insurance, while increasing accountability by repealing direct payments and tightening eligibility requirements. The event at Redlands Community College marked the one-year anniversary of the enactment of the 2014 Farm Bill.
“I am glad to be in Oklahoma today to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Farm Bill,” said Secretary Vilsack. “The Farm Bill has already created jobs, helped farmers reach new markets at home and abroad and boosted the country's economy. This bill has provided much needed disaster relief and reformed programs to better help farmers manage risk. It has also helped families secure home loans, extended credit to small businesses, and invested in innovative research and conservation partnerships in every state. I want to thank Chairman Lucas once again for his hard work in getting this bipartisan bill through Congress and to the President's desk.”
“I appreciate Secretary Vilsack joining me in this forum to discuss the Farm Bill and address the legislation’s implementation with constituents,” said Congressman Lucas. “In addition to saving taxpayers $23 billion, this Farm Bill provides a true safety-net to producers in Oklahoma and the rest of the country. As I stressed during the creation process, the Farm Bill is not written for the good times, but for when times aren’t so good. I am proud of the work we did and look forward to working with the Secretary in continuing to effectively implement the important reforms included in this Farm Bill.”

The 2014 Farm Bill includes $57.6 billion for conservation programs throughout the next 10 years that benefits both agricultural producers and the environment including the NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) that is helping to fund three conservation projects in Oklahoma. In addition,  it includes several disaster assistance programs that provide financial assistance to eligible agricultural producers for losses due to agricultural disasters including drought, flooding and other extreme weather.