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Oklahoma Flood Control Update: June 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Download conference agenda.


Download registration form.



South Central Regional Auxiliary Scholarship Applications Due August 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 11 Soil Health and Grazing Seminar at Redlands Community College

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Send your ideas and proposals to Deb Bogar at 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.