Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb Records Public Service Announcements for 2014 Stewardship Week, April 27-May 4
In honor of Stewardship Week, which is annually celebrated from the last Sunday in April to the first Sunday in May, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb has recorded three public service announcements to help promote the event through local radio stations.
Initiated in 1955 by the National Association of Conservation Districts, Stewardship Week provides a time to recognize the efforts of farmers and ranchers to protect and conservation the state’s natural resources, working with local conservation districts under the support of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and in cooperation with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The 2014 Stewardship Week is themed, “Dig Deeper: Mysteries in the soil.”
“Soil is an essential natural resource that all of us depend on each and every day,“ says NACD President Earl Garber. “The Dust Bowl of the 1930s showed our nation the importance of conservation practices. Farmers and ranchers who have experienced recent droughts know that conservation practices are critical in helping their soil endure, even in the most challenging weather events. Your local conservation districts are working with local landowners to assist in a variety of projects and outreach to improve soil health both now and in the long term.”
During the week local conservation districts will work with newspapers, radio stations, communities, faith-based groups and local schools to promote the concept of Stewardship. This concept involves personal and social responsibility, including a duty to learn about and improve natural resources as we use them wisely, leaving a rich legacy for future generations.
For more information about Stewardship Week, contact Clay Pope, OACD Executive Director, at 405/699-2087 or email@example.com.
Listen to the three public service announcements below.
North Canadian River Watershed Traveling Educator Workshop to be held June 10-12
The Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oklahoma Blue Thumb and Oklahoma Project WET will conduct a three-day summer workshop exploring the North Canadian River Watershed. The goal of the workshop is to give participants a sense of stewardship and personal ownership in the watershed by creating a greater awareness of how individual actions and choices impact the overall water quality and quantity of the North Canadian River. This workshop is designed to provide educators with the skills, materials and confidence to incorporate watershed stewardship into their classroom.
The workshop will include:
The workshop is open to pre-K through 12th grade classroom teachers or environmental educators from public or private schools or other organizations in Oklahoma. Enrollment is limited to 24 participants and educators within the North Canadian Watershed will be given preference. Registrants must be able to attend all three days of the workshop. Registration fee is $100. For more information, click here or contact Karla Beatty at 405/521-6788 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
OACD Executive Director, Farmer Clay Pope Speaks with BBC News on Effects of Drought, Severe Climate on Oklahoma Farmers
Following a recently released UN report on climate change warning that worldwide food production will be impacted, BBC News interviewed three farmers from around the world, including our very own Clay Pope, to describe the impact of severe climate on their land. Read more and listen the the interview here.
Oklahoma ranked number two among all states in controlling harmful nutrients in waterways according to EPA database; Fifth consecutive year for state to be in the top ten
Oklahoma City— A recent comparison of EPA priority nonpoint source pollutant reduction numbers from across the nation shows that Oklahoma ranks as the number two state in the nation for when it comes to reducing harmful nutrients from our streams and rivers. This is the fifth year in a row that Oklahoma has ranked in the top ten among states in reported non-point source nutrient reductions according to Kim Farber, President of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD).
“This continued improvement in water quality is a testimony to the success of the dedicated, voluntary work done by farmers, ranchers and other landowners in partnership with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, local conservation districts, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Water Act 319 programs and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to address this critical issue,” Farber said. “This success shows what can happen when we work together, respect individuals’ private property rights and when the State and Federal Governments give landowners the financial and technical assistance they need to make changes. Locally-led, voluntary conservation works.”
Water quality numbers recently reported by States to the EPA show that in 2013, Oklahoma’s Nonpoint Source Program led the nation in phosphorus reduction for the third year in a row with more than 1,036,393 pounds of estimated phosphorus load reduced due to voluntary best management practices across the state. The number reflects over 30% of the overall reported reductions of phosphorus in surface water in the entire United States.
In addition, Oklahoma ranked second among the states in reported nitrogen load reduction to streams—an estimated 1,420,749 pounds of nitrogen last year. Oklahoma also had an estimated sediment reduction of over 9,732 tons to streams. When these numbers are reviewed in EPA’s Grants Reporting and Tracking System (GRTS) database, comparison with the levels of nonpoint source pollution reduced by other states shows that Oklahoma ranks number two overall in the reduction of nutrients that pollute our water. This is the fifth year in a row where Oklahoma has ranked in the top ten among states in reported reduction of nitrogen and phosphorus loads, while receiving less than two percent of EPA 319 program funds.
According to Clay Pope, Executive Director of OACD, this reduction shows the success of locally-led conservation efforts in addressing non-point source pollution and helps highlight why locally-led incentive based programs are critical to ongoing efforts designed to address water quality both at the state and federal level.
“By using the delivery system consisting of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, local conservation districts and NRCS, we have been able to use EPA 319 Federal Clean Water Act dollars and Farm Bill Conservation Title funds along with state dollars to partner with landowners in ways that are starting to turn the corner on some of Oklahoma’s toughest water quality problems,” Pope said. “We’re not only controlling pollution, but we are also taking into consideration the financial situation of the local landowner. Clearly we have a great model and all Oklahomans should be proud of this work. We have more to do, but we are moving in the right direction in Oklahoma when it comes to water quality. This is the same kind of approach we used to tame the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s, and it shows what can be done when landowners and the government work cooperatively together to solve these kinds of problems.”
Conservation Day at the Capitol Scheduled for Monday, March 24
Conservation leaders will gather March 24, 2014 for Conservation Day at the Capitol. An awards ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Chamber of the Oklahoma State Senate.
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb is scheduled to speak and Secretary of Agriculture, Jim Reese, will be in attendance.
The OACD Conservation Awards will be presented in the categories of Outstanding Conservation District, Outstanding District Director and Outstanding Cooperator/Landowner. The awards are sponsored by the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) and are cosponsored by Chesapeake Energy, the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, and the Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma, respectively.
At 11:30 a.m. a news conference will be held in room 432 B to announce that Oklahoma is again among the top states in addressing water quality. Secretary of Energy and Environment, Michael Teague, Secretary of Agriculture, Jim Reese, State Senator Ron Justice and State Representative Don Armes have been invited to speak.
At 2 p.m. we will be conducting a demonstration of our rainfall simulator in the fourth floor rotunda to demonstrate the benefits of good conservation practices to both production agriculture and the environment.
Throughout the day, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., display booths will be exhibited in the Capitol Rotunda on the fourth floor. Exhibitors will include a number of the state's local conservation districts along with state and federal conservation agencies and related nonprofit organizations and companies.
Partnerships Emerging to Improve Soil Health in Oklahoma
March 12, 2014, Norman, OK—Agricultural producers, extension officials, conservation, and government leaders have converged in Norman this week for the annual Oklahoma No-till Conference. Gary O’Neill, USDA-NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) State Conservationist said “Soil is a living and life-giving substance, without which we would perish. As world population and food production demands rise, keeping our soil healthy and productive is of paramount importance. So much so that we believe improving the health of our Nation’s soil is one of the most important endeavors of our time.”
Ray Archuleta, Conservation Agronomist at the NRCS East National Technology Center, in Greensboro, North Carolina and a speaker at the conference, said, “The No-till Conference made a compelling case that cover crops and no-till will get you more from less: Requiring less fuel, less machinery, fewer chemical inputs and less acreage. These ecological farming practices lead to improved profitability, better soil health, more jobs, improved environmental stewardship and a better quality of life.”
Rick Haney, Soil Scientist from the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Grassland Soil and Water Research Lab in Temple, Texas agrees, and he adds that “Soil is made up of air, water, decayed plant residue, organic matter from living and dead organisms, and mineral matter. Increasing soil organic matter typically improves soil health.” Haney is part of a team that has developed an integrated approach to soil testing using new methods that focus on integrating soil biology and chemistry.
Haney said that he and Will Briton, scientist at the Woods End Lab in Mt. Vernon, Texas teamed up to develop an open-source, nonproprietary soil fertility method that goes beyond traditional chemical and physical methods used in most soil tests. It’s called the Soil Health Tool. It uses an integrated approach to tell how alive the soil is and it measures the most important nutrient variables.
According to Clay Pope, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD), this push to increase the health of our soils not only benefits overall agricultural production, but also helps the environment as well.
“The most exciting thing for me is when you look at the practices we want to encourage to improve soil health, more often than not they are the same practices we are pushing to help address environmental concerns, “ Pope said. “When we want to reduce erosion, reduce non-point source pollution in water, fight climate change or improve wildlife habitat, more often than not we ask producers to do things like switch from conventional tilled cropping systems to no-till crop production.”
Archuleta is a spokesman for the NRCS soil health campaign ‘Unlock the secrets of the Soil.’ He said
“If a farmer wants to improve their soil, there are a few simple guidelines they should follow.” “These include not disturbing the soil or disturbing it as little as possible; growing as many difference species of plants through rotations and a diverse mixture of cover crops; planting cover crops around harvest to keep living roots growing in the soil for as much of the year as possible, and keeping the soil surface covered by residue year round.”
Mike Thralls, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission agreed saying that soil health is the place were production agriculture and natural resource protection intersect.
According to O’Neill, NRCS and the Conservation partnership of local conservation districts and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission are just beginning to tell Oklahoma producers of the benefits of improved soil health. He said, “The Oklahoma no-till conference served as a focal point for telling the message of the benefits of soil health. This is an exciting message and we are glad to be part of the team spreading the message across Oklahoma.”
Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, Carl Albert Center to partner to make ‘Conservation Day at the Capitol’ a ‘Take your Daughter to the Capitol Day.’
Oklahoma City—The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) and the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center at the University of Oklahoma today announced that they will be working together to make ‘Conservation Day at the Capitol’ on March 24, 2014 a ‘Take your Daughter (or son) to the Capitol Day’. According to OACD President Kim Farber, this new partnership is part of a larger effort on behalf of the Carl Albert Center to promote the consideration of public service as a career choice for all of Oklahoma’s children, but especially a choice for young women.
“OACD is excited to be involved in this partnership,” Farber said. “As the first woman President of OACD, I feel honored to have this chance to help spur the next generation of Oklahomans, especially our young girls, to consider the idea of working in public service and taking part in public involvement and community action. We work to protect and conserve our natural resources and there is no greater natural resource than our children.”
A project of the Carl Albert Center at OU, The Women’s Leadership Initiative seeks to address the historic under-representation of women in politics, public service, and other leadership roles. The mission of the initiative is to educate, inspire and empower women to become political leaders through a series of educational initiatives designed specifically for women in Oklahoma. Studies show that young women are less likely than young men to consider a career in elective office and public service. The Carl Albert center works to change this perspective and help children learn about the legislative process, grow their interest in government and feel empowered to consider careers in public service and elected office.
“The Women’s Leadership Initiative is excited to be partnering with OACD,” said Lauren Schueler, Assistant Director. “We hope by getting more young children, especially young girls, exposed to public service that we are able not only to inspire them to dream bigger through civic engagement but also empower them to pursue those dreams. In addition, we are thankful to the Halliburton Foundation for their support which made producing the handout materials possible.”
Conservation Day at the Capitol will be on March 24, 2014 starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Oklahoma State Capitol at the intersection of 23rd Street and Lincoln Boulevard in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Storm fronts need not create Dust Bowl conditions
by Ron Smith, Southwest Farm Press
Article originally featured Jan. 22, 2014 on Southwest Farm Press
Rolling walls of dust moving through Cimarron County, Oklahoma, in early January may have reminded some old timers of the devastation of the Dust Bowl. A cold front that moved into the state from Colorado January 12 did stir up a lot of dust, according to observers, but a return to the devastation of the dust bowl is not likely.
Drought makes the land more prone to blow, says Kenneth Rose, a director for the conservation district. And drought is a common denominator with the dust storms of the 1930s and the 1950s. But different production practices in use now help farmers and ranchers hold soil on the land.
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“Our area has been in ongoing drought conditions off and on since the early 2000s,” Rose said. “And at the moment no change is in sight, as is the case for most of Texas and all the Southwest U.S.”
But landowners have options.
“The best weapon against blowing dust here has been the practice of strict no-till,” he said. “Various forms of minimum till have been used, but in the years when there have been no crops, it has been the two- and three-year old wheat stubble residue that has been our savior from blowing dust when the winds are like they were on that Sunday.
“It was interesting that day to see areas in the frontal cloud that were normal gray clouds and to see other areas that were brown with blowing dust, indicating bare fields. No-till wheat drills that barely disturb the ground have also been a big help in maintaining ground cover.”
Rose understands the need to protect soil. He’s lived through a few dust storms. “My farm has been in our family since homestead days in 1907, and over the years it has been through several of these tough times. I clearly remember as a child growing up in the ‘50s the dust storms that sometimes lasted for days at a time, days when the school bus would be afraid to deliver us to the country, so would drop us off in town. After dark, when the winds would let up, our parents would come pick us up.
“Those memories remain an incentive to protect this fragile land. Of course, irrigation has made a huge difference where water is available and adequate residue is not a problem.”
Reducing tillage and maintaining crop residue on the soil also goes a long way toward preserving the soil and minimizing damage from storms.
Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Completes 2013 Area Meeting Tour
The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) in partnership with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC), and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has completed another tour of Oklahoma’s five conservation areas through its annual Area Meetings. In light of the Federal Government shutdown from October 1 through October 16, 2013, this year’s theme was “Locally Led, Not Federally Dead.”
OACD Executive Director, Clay Pope, opened the event by urging districts to work toward greater self-sufficiency and be better prepared to service conservation customers in the event of possible future shutdowns and shrinking federal and state budgets.
NRCS Soil Health Initiative
Depending on the meeting, either Steve Alspach, Assistant State Soil Scientist, or Greg Scott, retired State Soil Scientist represented NRCS to present NRCS's new Soil Health Initiative, which returns conservation’s focus back to where agriculture begins, the soil. The presentation illustrated the tremendous gains in soil health that can be achieved by maintaining cover crops that promote cooler soil, greater water absorption, and increased nutrient retention. Each meeting also featured the firsthand account of a local producer's conservation successes and challenges. Download the NRCS presentation.
The Oklahoma Prescribed Burn Association (OPBA)
The Oklahoma Prescribed Burn Association (OPBA) updated audiences on the history and current status of prescribed burning in Oklahoma. OPBA utilizes planned burning practices to reduce the danger presented by wildfire and to control invasive plant species. They are also engaged in training interested individuals to start their own prescribed burn associations for burning safely and effectively.
A budget panel of OCC Executive Director, Mike Thralls, and OCC District Services and Human Resources Director, Lisa Knauf Owen, provided an outline of the current budget challenges facing the conservation partnership as well as ways districts might move forward in light of receiving less funding. Download the Budget Overview.
In part an answer to tightening budgets, OCC Public Information Officer, Robert Hathorne, discussed the Commission’s new communications strategy, which aims to provide better support to districts and increase the effectiveness of their communications even as funding and staffing decrease. Download the Communications Strategy.
Blue Thumb and Certainty Programs
Following an update on the efforts of the OCC Blue Thumb volunteer water monitoring program, OCC Director of Water Quality Shanon Phillips discussed certainty programs, which would protect landowners who have implemented conservation practices from further regulation for an agreed upon length of time. Phillips detailed an upcoming survey for landowners which will help determine if a certainty program is worth moving forward with in Oklahoma. Download the Agricultural Stewardship Assurance presentation.
Dust Bowl Curriculum
After lunch, educator, Dust Bowl survivor, and friend to anyone she meets, Pauline Hodges, presented the Dust Bowl curriculum she has developed. The free curriculum is available to everyone and is an excellent way to introduce students to the Dust Bowl through interactive learning.
Area winners of the OACD Conservation Awards were recognized in the categories of Outstanding Conservation District, sponsored by Chesapeake Energy, Outstanding District Director, sponsored by the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, and Outstanding Landowner/Cooperator, sponsored by the Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma. The state winner will be recognized at the OACD State Meeting March 2-4, 2014, at the Reed Center in Midwest City.
Oklahoma Conservation Districts partner with Dust Bowl survivor and educator Pauline Hodges to produce new curriculum for schools
The Conservation Districts of Oklahoma have contracted with educator and Dust Bowl survivor Dr. Pauline Hodges to develop an interdisciplinary curriculum to help students become aware of the need for conserving land and other natural resources through the lessons of the Dust Bowl, according to Kim Farber, President of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD).
“We are extremely excited to work with Dr. Hodges to create this curriculum and make it available to the schools of our state,” Farber said. “By telling the story of the Dust Bowl we hope to be able to instill in the next generation of Oklahomans an understanding for why it is so important that we protect our natural resources. We cannot tell you how happy we are to be working with Pauline on this project and we are looking forward to helping place this material at the disposal of our state's educators.”
A veteran of more than 50 years in the classroom, Dr. Pauline Hodges has taught in public school and at the university level, serving as a university department chair, the language arts coordinator for one of the country’s largest school districts, and as a national educational consultant. Dr. Hodges is has also served as a member of the board of directors of the National Rural Education Association, including a stint as board president in 1998.
The curriculum created by Dr. Hodges is based upon an
earlier version she used prior to the recent release of the Ken Burn’s film The
Dust Bowl, a production on which she worked as a researcher and in which
she was interviewed and predominantly featured.
According to Farber, the curriculum created by Dr. Hodges is built partially around the film The Dust Bowl with additional assignments utilizing the book Whose Names Are Unknown by Sanora Babb, a firsthand account of the conditions in the migrant camps of California. The curriculum will also use parts of The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck’s account of a migrant family who also leave Oklahoma for camps in California. Interviews with survivors whose parents plowed up the land in what would later become the Dust Bowl in the early 1900s only to have it blow away during the “Dirty Thirties” will be included along with excerpts from Timothy Egan’s book The Worst Hard Times The curriculum will also provide a look at federal programs that helped farmers and others survive these terrible times.
Activities students will participate in include writing assignments, speaking assignments, opportunities for students to study soil science and farming practices that contributed to the cause of the disaster and even the cooking of a Dust Bowl era meal.
According to OACD’s Farber, the curriculum will not only provide a great tool for teachers, but will hopefully serve as an opportunity to build a stronger bridge between the work of local conservation districts and local schools.
“Education is the key to making sure that we never again suffer a natural disaster like the one we experienced during the Dust Bowl,” Farber said. “Our hope is that by making this material available to our local schools through our conservation districts, we can insure that the next generation of Oklahomans understand why it is so critical that we protect our natural resources. We learned the hard way in the 1930s what can happen if we don’t take care of the land. Hopefully that’s a lesson we never have to relearn.”
Anyone interested in the curriculum is encouraged to contact OACD Executive Director Clay Pope at 405-699-2087, email@example.com, or to contact their local conservation district.
Conservation Districts, Continue Partnership on the Ken Burns Film "The Dust Bowl"
The partnership between the OACD and the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) on outreach surrounding the Ken Burns documentary “The Dust Bowl” continues! Due to the generous support of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and other partners, OACD is happy to announce that copies of the curriculum created by the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and Florentine Films will be available for all districts, along with a copy of the 40 minute screener and complete four-hour copy of the film at the area meetings later this fall. OACD will also have available copies of a syllabus and lesson plan guide put together specifically for Oklahoma by none other than Dr. Pauline Hodges, former teacher, professor of education and dust bowl survivor.
Our hope is that each district will use these materials not only as part of their education program, but make them available to local schools for use in their classrooms through a “check out” program. We also would encourage districts to explore partnerships with groups like their county Farm Bureau, County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee and American Farmers and Ranchers County boards to use the films and material in their presentations as well.
Please contact Clay Pope at 405-699-2087 with any questions about the material.
NPR Report Says Drought, Budget Cuts Threaten Shelterbelts Designed to Prevent Dust Storms
The extreme drought that has gripped much of western Oklahoma for three years is now starting to threaten the shelterbelt trees that have helped to protect crops and prevent soil erosion for more than eight decades. With government budgets tighter than ever, a federally-funded replacement of these trees is unlikeley. Read the complete report by StateImpact Oklahoma's Joe Wertz here.
Conservation Partnership Develops Online Prescribed Fire Training
Article courtesy of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission
The Oklahoma Conservation Commission has been working cooperatively with the US Fish and Wildlife Service since 2008 to provide funding to local prescribed bun associations, through conservation districts, to promote prescribed burning as a management tool. Now the basic prescribed fire training is available online at no charge.
This online training is the first tier of a three-tiered training model developed by the partnership of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC), the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Oklahoma Prescribed Burn Association (OPBA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Oklahoma State University – NREM.
"We are very pleased that this tool is now widely available," said Mike Thralls, executive director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. "The partners have worked years educating on the importance of fire in the landscape. Prescribed fire helps prevent catastrophic, uncontrollable wildfires that devastate people and property."
Tier one, the online portion of the training, includes reading assignments, a video, and a quiz. Topics include fire prescriptions, fire effects, firebreaks, ignition techniques, smoke management, and the best time of year to burn. A module on Oklahoma fire law is also included. Participants who score a 90% or better can receive a certificate of completion.
Tier two of the training is offered as an in-person seminar and includes a prescribed fire field exercise. The partnership has sponsored four of these seminars since January 2013 attended by more than 240 participants. Tier three covers working with neighbors to get experience with prescribed burns.
The NRCS plans to use Basic Prescribed Fire Training as an educational course for its employees. The USFWS Partners for Wildlife program has awarded grant funds exceeding $440,000 to provide training and equipment for the use of implementing prescribed fire on the Oklahoma landscape.
Click here to watch the FOX25 interview with John Weir, research associate in OSU's
Natural Resource Ecology and Management department, who says
"Intentionally we burn between one and two million acres a year in this
How To Access the Training
• Go to http://campus.extension.org
• Click on Energy & Environment (blue box)
• In the sub -categories box, click on Rangelands
• Click on Basic Prescribed Fire Training
• Click Continue
• Create a new account & start