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, Billy Cook with the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, 2014 Outstanding District Director Walt Freese and OACD President Steve House.
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
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.
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.
Governor Mary Fallin announced on January 23, 2015 the appointment of Deanna LeGrand to the Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC).
LeGrand succeeds Dean Graumann, who resigned. She will serve the remainder of his five-year term, which expires in June 2019. Her appointment requires state Senate confirmation.
LeGrand is a board member of the Upper Washita Conservation District and, with her husband, Roy, owns LeGrand Farms in Reydon.
“Deanna LeGrand’s background in farming and ranching give her a breadth of knowledge and resources that will be helpful on the Conservation Commission,” said Fallin. “As someone with a career in agriculture, she sees the need for good conservation practices every day. I appreciate her stepping up and taking on this role.”
LeGrand has served on the Upper Washita Conservation District board in Roger Mills County since March 2008. The district has 143 watershed dams, one of the greatest concentrations in the state. In recent years, the district has focused on making local farms and ranches more resilient to drought by offering cost-share assistance to install livestock water tanks and drill water wells. The district also rents out pro-soil health farming equipment such as no-till drills.
“We couldn’t be happier to have such a dedicated conservationist joining the commission,” said Trey Lam, OCC executive director. “Ms. LeGrand’s part of the world has suffered greatly during this latest drought. It’s heartening to know someone who cares so deeply about the land in western Oklahoma will be in a position to help those lands heal.”
LeGrand will represent Conservation Area IV which covers Beckham, Caddo, Comanche, Cotton, Custer, Grady, Greer, Harmon, Jackson, Jefferson, Kiowa, Roger Mills, Stephens, Tillman and Washita counties and portions of Blaine and Canadian counties.
Blue-green algae blooms and low water levels at Elk City Lake, June 2014.
are encouraged to attend one of the Farm Bill Informational Meetings
being held across the state. Discussion items at each meeting will
include Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC), Price Loss Coverage (PLC),
ARC/PLC Decision Tools, Base Reallocation and Yield Update, Supplemental
Coverage Option (SCO) and other USDA programs authorized by the 2014
Meetings currently scheduled include:
El Reno - Dec. 8 - 1:00 p.m. - RCC, Darlington Campus
Pryor - Dec. 9 - 5:30 p.m. - Northeast Tech Center
Sayre - Dec. 10 - 9:00 a.m. - Beckham Co. Activity Barn
Mangum - Dec. 10 - 2:00 p.m. - 1st Methodist Church
Altus - Dec. 10 - 6:00 p.m. - Western Okla. State College
Cherokee - Dec. 11 - 12:00 p.m. - Alfalfa Co. Fairgrounds
Find more information here.
Area III Outstanding Conservation District
Sponsored by Chesapeake Energy
Caney Valley Conservation District
Incorporated in 1944, the district serves Washington County as an advocate for the conservation of natural resources. Since the beginning of Oklahoma’s cost-share program, the Caney Valley Conservation District together with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has participated in 14 state cost-share program years. Through this program, the district has assisted 122 local landowners and has leveraged nearly $320,000 in conservation practices to better conserve and protect our natural resources. In addition, the district provides a variety of outreach programs to educate producers, landowners and residents of Washington County on subjects such as the Dust Bowl, Eastern Red Cedar, soil health and various conservation practices.
Area III Outstanding District Director
Sponsored by the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation
Caney Valley Conservation District
Waymon Montgomery has served on the Caney Valley Conservation District board for sixteen years. During his eleven years as Chairman of the Board, Waymon led the district to rehabilitate six watersheds including the Double Creek Watershed Project. Mr. Montgomery was instrumental in ensuring the success of the projects by communicating with landowners and partner agencies.
Distinguished Conservationist Receives Water Pioneer Award
October 22, 2014– Mike Thralls, recently retired Oklahoma Conservation Commission executive director, received the Oklahoma Water Pioneer Award at the Governor’s Water Conference hosted by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board at the Cox Convention Center.
Since 1985, the award has been presented annually to honor Oklahomans who have made significant contributions in the planning, development, management and conservation of Oklahoma’s water resources. During his 17 years of service to the Conservation Commission and on his own farm, Thralls has made considerable contributions. His vision led to the creation of the state’s first Locally-Led Conservation Cost-Share Program, enabling almost 10,000 Oklahoman’s to participate in voluntary natural resource conservation since 1998. He also oversaw establishment of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, which has improved water quality in northeast Oklahoma by planting 107,773 trees that filter water runoff from 9,588 acres of land.
“Mike’s public service to Oklahomans has manifested in many ways throughout his long and distinguished career,” said OWRB executive director J.D. Strong. “The Oklahoma Water Pioneer Award has been awarded to a renowned group of Oklahomans, who just like Mike, have gone above and beyond to ensure that all Oklahomans have access to clean water resources for many decades to come. Having worked alongside Mike for many years, it is an honor for me to be a part of recognizing his dedication and service to Oklahoma’s water users.”
Past award recipients include Senators Henry Bellmon and Robert S. Kerr, Governors Raymond Gary and George Nigh, and former Conservation Commission executive directors Mason Mungle and Leonard Solomon.
Thralls retired in Sept. 2014 after 17 years as Conservation Commission executive director. He continues to utilize and promote conservation practices beneficial to water quality and soil health on his farm in Billings, Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Conservation Commission Names New Executive Director
Oct. 13, 2014 - Trey Lam, Garvin Conservation District board member and former president of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, has been named executive director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission by the five Commissioners following a special meeting today. He will officially enter service on November 17, 2014.
“Mr. Lam’s extensive professional and personal experience in conservation along with 30 years’ experience in operating his own farm make him the clear choice for this position,” said Karl Jett, Commission Chairman.
Following in the footsteps of his father, who served on the Garvin District board for over 20 years, Lam is a lifelong conservationist who has taken his knowledge of Oklahoma’s land and agriculture to the national stage as Oklahoma’s representative on the National Association of Conservation Districts’ board.
“Trey Lam is an outstanding choice to lead the Oklahoma Conservation Commission,” said Jim Reese, Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture. “His leadership in conservation, the conservation districts and conservation programs will be a great asset for the Commission.”
Lam uses the Conservation practices no-till and cover crops to make the most of his land at Lam Farms, where the family raises alfalfa, corn, soybeans, wheat, and cattle. He also works closely with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and OSU to develop farm plans for crop rotation and equipment usage.
Lam’s previous leadership positions include Oklahoma Soybean Association President, Oklahoma Soybean Checkoff board member, Oklahoma Crop Improvement Association President, Oklahoma Alfalfa Hay and Seed Association Vice President, and OSU Dean of Agriculture Advisory Council member. He is a Yale University graduate.
Lam succeeds Mike Thralls, who retired last month after 17 years of service.
The theme of this year's Area Meetings is "Resilient Land, Resilient People." Sign up today to join us to learn more about the continued commitment of the Conservation Partnership, Soil Health Initiative and local conservation issues. In addition, each Area Meeting will feature a district business session, area employees meeting and a discussion of area partnership resource issues.
More information including meeting announcements and registration information is now available online at www.okconservation.org/area-meetings.
Nominations Sought for Outstanding Conservation District, Director and Cooperator
Sept. 8, 2014 - Each year, with the help of our partners and sponsors, the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts recognizes the "Best of the Best" in the conservation community. Nominations are currently being accepted for the following awards:
Outstanding Conservation District Director
Five area recipients will be selected for each award based on their efforts to conserve and protect natural resources and their dedication to furthering the message of conservation in their communities. Area recipients will be recognized at their area meeting. From these finalists, one statewide recipient for each award will be selected. The statewide recipients will be recognized at an awards ceremony and receive a cash award during the March 23, 2015, Conservation Day at the Capitol. View last year's recipients here.
For complete contest rules including eligibility, nomination procedures and requirements, click here.
Two weeks prior to your area meeting. View area meeting dates here.
How to Submit a Nomination
Nominations may be submitted online at the links below.
“Mike Thralls’ leadership and tireless commitment to protecting natural resources has placed Oklahoma’s conservation partnership in a place of national prominence,” said Gary O’Neill, State Conservationist with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, which works closely with the Conservation Commission.
An embodiment of the locally-led, voluntary spirit of conservation in Oklahoma, Thralls uses the same practices encouraged by the Commission on his own farm and is an enthusiastic advocate of soil health. His vision led to the creation of the state’s first Conservation Cost-Share Program in 1998, which assists Oklahomans in installing conservation practices on their land to improve water quality and reduce soil erosion. In 2007, Thralls oversaw establishment of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, which has improved or restored Oklahoma streams.
“Partnership is critical to accomplishing the great task of natural resource conservation,” said Kim Farber, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts President. “No one understands this better than Mike, and it’s why Oklahoma leads the nation in so many areas of conservation.”
Working closely with partners, Thralls has brought millions of federal dollars into the state to revive Oklahoma’s aging flood control dam system. In 2001 he received the National Watershed Coalition’s Meritorious Service Award, and this year was elected president of the National Association of State Conservation Agencies. He also received the President’s Award from Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts in 2014. He is a 1988 Leadership Oklahoma graduate and proud graduate of OSU.
At their Sept. 4 meeting, Commissioners named Lisa Knauf Owen, the agency's operations chief, as interim executive director. Owen has worked for the Oklahoma Conservation Commission since 1994, serving as education coordinator, wetlands coordinator, assistant director and director of district services. Applications for the position of executive director are being accepted through Sept. 25.
Nearly $30 Million Made Available for Flood Control in Oklahoma
PERRY, Okla., July 18, 2014 – Communities across Oklahoma will benefit from a $26 million investment to upgrade dams that provide critical infrastructure and protect public health and safety.
National, state and local officials gathered at Perry Lake to announce mostly 2014 Farm Bill funding for dam upgrades in a state that first partnered with USDA to build a watershed structure in the 1940s.
“This investment will protect people and ensure that these critical structures continue to provide benefits for future generations,” said Jason Weller, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief. “Homes, businesses and agriculture are depending on responsible management of the dams and overall watersheds, and NRCS, Oklahoma Conservation Commission and conservation districts are continuing to provide that support to these communities.”
More than 150 dams in 26 states will receive upgrade assistance for planning, design or construction—36 of which are in Oklahoma. The projects were identified based on potential risks to life and property if a dam failure were to occur. The number of these high-hazard dams in Oklahoma is on the rise due to residential development downstream of the structures. Only 30 of Oklahoma’s 2,107 watershed program dams were originally constructed as high-hazard. Today, 249 are classified as such.
“Upgrading and extending the life of these structures is vital to Oklahoma’s economy. When the benefits of flood control dams are compared to the costs of maintaining them, it’s clear this is a quality investment that benefits all Oklahomans,” said Mike Thralls, OCC executive director.
Upper Black Bear Creek Watershed Dam No. 62 in Noble County where the funding announcement was made is one such structure. In addition to the benefits of municipal water and recreation to the City of Perry, the dam provides flood protection to 541 people who live and work downstream. Additionally, the dam protects seven county roads, one state highway, two U.S. highways, and Interstate 35. Together, these roads support 16,200 vehicles daily.
"Perry Lake (Upper Black Bear Watershed Dam No. 62) is a great example of the many benefits the watershed lakes are providing to rural and urban areas in the state," said Kim Farber, Oklahoma Association of Conservation District (OACD) President. "The Watershed Rehabilitation Program is about local people working together to maintain and improve a valuable natural resource. OACD commends Noble County Conservation District, the City of Perry, the Black Bear Conservancy District, Natural Resources Conservation Services and landowners in making the rehabilitation of this dam a reality. On behalf of the conservation districts in Oklahoma, I want to thank Congressman Frank Lucas for his leadership in authoring legislation that funds the infrastructure and maintenance of Oklahoma's 2,107 dams to ensure their safety and protect both life and property."
Oklahoma’s conservation partners operate and maintain 2,107 watershed flood control dams across the state, representing a $2 billion public infrastructure that provides $82 million in annual benefits in the form of flood control, municipal water supply, recreation, wildlife habitat, and wildfire suppression.
For more information, visit the NRCS Watershed Rehabilitation webpage or contact your local conservation district.
Deadline to apply for USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program is July 14
Agriculture producer groups, local governments and other community organizations interested in partnering with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to leverage federal resources to support area conservation projects may submit a partnership proposal to participate in the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) by July 14.
Authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP encourages partners to join in efforts with producers to increase the restoration and sustainable use of soil, water, wildlife and related natural resources. The new program will competitively award funds to conservation projects designed by local partners specifically for their region. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, nonprofit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives.
With participating partners investing along with $1.2 billion in funding from the USDA, the department hopes to leverage an additional $1.2 billion for a total of $2.4 billion for conservation over the life of the five-year program.
“This is an entirely new approach to conservation,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “By establishing new public-private partnerships, we can have an impact that’s well beyond what the Federal government could accomplish on its own. These efforts keep our land resilient and water clean, and promote tremendous economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism and outdoor recreation and other industries.”
The RCPP has three funding pools:
The critical conservation areas announced by Secretary Vilsack are the Great Lakes Region, Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Mississippi River Basin, Longleaf Pine Range, Columbia River Basin, California Bay Delta, Prairie Grasslands and the Colorado River Basin. The Prairie Grasslands Region includes most of Oklahoma except the far eastern part of the state.
Eligible partners interested in applying can find more information here. Pre-proposals are due July 14, and full proposals are due September 26. Producers may apply for RCPP assistance by contacting their local NRCS office.
July 8 Field Day to Demonstrate Value of Cover Crops in Improving Soil Health
When: Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 10 a.m.
Where: Meet at Rhea Baptist Church
County Road 211 / Highway 47 in Dewey County
RSVP: By July 1, 2014 to 580/328-5366 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: Dewey County Conservation District together with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will host a Cover Crop Field Day to learn about the benefits to soil health from integrating cover crops into farming practices.
Cover crops are grasses, legumes or small grains grown between regular grain crop production periods for the purpose of protecting and improving the soil. In addition to preventing soil erosion due to wind and water, cover crops can provide a variety of other benefits when implemented into farming and ranching operations including adding organic matter and nutrients into the soil, providing weed control, improving soil structure and increasing water capacity.
Healthy soil is essential to meet the increasing food production needs of the world's growing population. By implementing conservation practices such as cover crops, agriculture producers are helping to ensure our soils are sustainable for future generations. Find more information on cover crops and soil health at www.nrcs.usda.gov.
10 a.m. - Depart Rhea Baptist Church
Tour of five cropland fields with different cover crop plantings.
Lunch at the farm of Jimmy Emmons, Dewey County Conservation District Board Member
Benefits and Challenges of Cover Crops
Jimmy Emmons, Producer
Gary O'Neill, NRCS State Conservationist, Oklahoma
Grid Sampling Variable Rates
Jimmy Evans, Western Equipment, LLC
Rainfall Simulator Demonstration
Steve Alspach, NRCS State Soil Scientist, Oklahoma
The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) is pleased to partner on this event through our Soil Health Project. Sponsored by the Kirkpatrick Foundation, the OACD Soil Health Project is a statewide initiative to engage agriculture producers and citizens in improving the health and function of our soil.
Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD), Access Midstream Partners, to collaborate on protection of Lesser Prairie Chicken through wildlife incentives
May 27, 2014 - As part of their ongoing efforts to protect soil, water, air and wildlife habitats, the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) today announced their partnership with Access Midstream to help protect the habitat of the Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC) through landowner incentives tied to habitat improvement.
“We are excited to have Access Midstream as our partner in helping landowners address the challenges created by the loss of Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat,” said Kim Farber, President of OACD. “Even though this species has been listed as threatened instead of endangered, we still need to do what we can to take it completely off the list. By providing incentives to help farmers and ranchers improve the habitat of this species hopefully we can help in this effort.”
Under the proposed collaboration, Access Midstream will donate funds to OACD who will work with landowners to preserve Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat in western Oklahoma. The goal of the partnership is to mitigate habitat loss and aid in the recovery of the species.
“Access Midstream is pleased to partner with OACD to improve the Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat in Oklahoma,” said Jimmie Hammontree, manager of regulatory affairs at Access. “We appreciate the opportunity to partner with groups that share our vision of environmental responsibility and preservation.”
According to Clay Pope, Executive Director of OACD, this partnership will help not only with the protection of the species, but will also help improve the bottom line of participating agriculture producers.
“It costs money to undertake much of the habitat work necessary to improve the habitat of the Lesser Prairie Chicken, so any help we can give farmers and ranchers willing to do this work is money well spent,” Pope said. “If we can improve the habitat and possibly help delist this species someday, we should continue doing these types of projects. We also need to recognize the work that agriculture producers are doing and have done to protect this species through their management of the land. We are excited to have Access Midstream as a partner in this effort and we look forward to helping get this work done on the ground.”
Nine More Oklahoma Streams Show Significant Water Quality Improvement
May 19, 2014 – Voluntary conservation practices place Oklahoma among the water quality elite for another year. Farmers, ranchers and other landowners have helped nine more streams to be removed from Oklahoma’s 303(d) list of impaired streams. These streams are candidates to join 37 other EPA-recognized water quality success stories, for which Oklahoma ranks second in the nation.
The nine streams located in Bryan, Choctaw, Coal, Garfield, Grant, Kay, Logan, McIntosh, Osage, and Pontotoc counties have been removed from the impaired streams list for marked reductions in turbidity, the amount of sediment suspended in water.
“Water quality monitoring data for these EPA success story candidates shows improvements which attributed to voluntary conservation practices. We have the strong partnership between agriculture producers, local conservation districts, Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC), and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to thank for that,” said Shanon Phillips, OCC Water Quality Division director.
Because drought naturally reduces turbidity, these streams were unlisted using pre-drought data from 2004-2009. Data from subsequent years continues to support improvements as a result of conservation practices such as fencing-off stream banks from livestock and not tilling fields in order to reduce chemical and soil runoff into streams.
Maintaining these practices is particularly important in times of drought because less frequent rainfall can negatively impact water quality. Existing pollutants in the water become more concentrated as water levels decrease. This can harm organisms living in the water and require additional chemicals to treat drinking water. Along banks, dry, sparser vegetation filters water runoff less effectively, while less frequent rain leads to higher concentrations of pollutants such as motor oil and fertilizers to accumulate on the ground. When rain finally does wash pollutants into streams, the higher concentrations can overwhelm ecosystems.
“In much the same way voluntary conservation practices being used by farmers and ranchers have so far prevented Oklahoma from slipping back into another Dust Bowl during this drought, it’s our hope that these best management practices will prevent water quality problems when the rains finally come,” said Kim Farber, President of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts.
OCC monitors approximately 450 streams statewide on a five year rotation. Monitoring data is used to determine water quality and identify how conservation practices are affecting streams, as well as how and where conservation efforts should be focused in the future.
Oklahoma Conservation Districts, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum to partner on natural resource education efforts
May 15, 2014 - As part of their ongoing work to protect the soil, water, air and wildlife habitats of Oklahoma and to educate citizens on the important role natural resources have played and continue to play in the development of the western United States, the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum are announcing a new partnership on natural resource education.
“We are so proud to be a partner with the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in this effort,” said Kim Farber, President of OACD. “It doesn’t matter if you are talking about farming, ranching, mining, oil and gas, the timber industry, tourism or the fishing industry, the western United States was shaped and continues to be shaped by the regions natural resources. Like the rest of the west, Oklahoma faces several natural resource challenges as we move into the future. It’s so important that we educate the general public on the importance of the proper management and conservation of our natural resources. We are excited to have the museum as our partner in this task.”
“The museum is pleased to be partnering with the conservation districts of Oklahoma in this new collaborative effort,” said Gretchen Jeane, Director of Education at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. “The past, present and future of western resources is intertwined with the heritage of ranching in the American west and the iconic cowboy. Land and pasture management, water usage, conservation measures and livestock management are all essential discussions as we work together to build upon our past to ensure a western lifestyle for the next generation.”
The newly announced collaboration is designed to build on the successful education forum ‘Surviving the Elements; Land and Water Issues of the West,’ that was held at the museum in March. The partnership also draws on the ongoing education efforts of OACD and its member districts including the work done by the association in conjunction with the Ken Burns documentary, ‘The Dust Bowl.’
According to Farber, while full details of upcoming programs are yet to be finalized, the partnership holds great promise in expanding the knowledge base of Oklahomans on the importance of our state’s natural resources.
“We are just getting started on this partnership but we are excited about the possibilities,” Farber said. “The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is a world class facility that is second to none in telling the history of the western United States and our conservation efforts in Oklahoma are also second to none. By joining forces we can make a real difference in helping all Oklahomans understand the important role natural resources have played in our past and the critical role they will have in shaping our future. We are looking forward to working with the museum in this exciting work.”
Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts awarded Kirkpatrick Foundation grant for soil health initiative
May 8, 2014 - As part of their continuing commitment to Oklahoma and the health of its environment, the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) today announced an initiative to help educate all Oklahomans on the benefits of soil health. The initiative is supported in part by a grant from the Kirkpatrick Foundation.
“Improved soil health is something everyone should be interested in, not just those of us in production agriculture,” Kim Farber, President of OACD said. “Whether you are talking about increasing yields to feed a growing planet, protecting the quality of our water, addressing climate change, improving wildlife habitats, insuring that we have adequate water for human consumption and production agriculture into the future or helping to improve the bottom line of farmers and ranchers, soil health can help address all of these issues. We are extremely honored to have received funding from the Kirkpatrick Foundation in our effort to spread the word about the benefits of soil health and we are excited to be able to get this effort off the ground.”
“The Foundation is pleased to approve a grant to OACD to help their work in soil health and conservation, which will be of significance to the entire state,” said Louisa McCune-Elmore, Kirkpatrick Foundation Executive Director. The Foundation has supported Oklahoma non-profits since its inception in 1955, giving grants in the areas of arts, culture, education, animal well-being, environmental conservation and historical preservation.
According to Farber, the grant from the Kirkpatrick Foundation will help OACD increase the overall health of ecosystems of the state and help improve agriculture productivity in Oklahoma by engaging a greater number of farmers and ranchers in best management practices that increase soil organic matter, sequester carbon, reduce non-point source pollution and reduce soil erosion. The grant will also help better inform non-agriculture producers of the role soil health can play in protecting the environment and build a bridge between the environmental community and production agriculture that can lead not only to a healthier environment but also to a more profitable and productive agriculture sector.
“Oklahoma has for several years now been a leader in reducing non-point source pollution in our surface water and in controlling soil erosion,” Farber said. “We also have over 50,000 acres signed up in a program that pays farmers and ranchers for sequestering carbon in the soil through different farming practices. The exciting thing about all this is that the same farming practices that we are encouraging producers to put on the land to address environmental concerns are the same practices we want them to undertake to increase organic matter in their soil and improve soil health.
"According to the latest research, for every 1 percent of increased organic matter in the soil, you triple the soils water holding capacity. This means you can hold on to more moisture when it does rain and help your farm better weather droughts like the one we are experiencing now. That same 1 percent increase in organic matter also can potentially free up an additional $700 worth of nutrients per acre for growing crops. That’s free fertilizer that can help increase productivity and help producer’s bottom lines. These same practices also reduce the amount of diesel you use to grow crops and can help improve wildlife habitat. So often times the environmental community and agriculture seem to be a loggerheads. Soil health, however, is the one place where we can come together and make a difference, both for the environment and for producer’s bottom lines. We want to thank the Kirkpatrick Foundation for providing this grant to help us tell this story.”