Oklahoma has a proud and storied conservation history. From the time of the Dust Bowl until today Oklahoma has produced impressive conservation leaders. The work of Oklahoma conservationists is written all across the state’s landscape. It is important that we recognize these individuals and the conservation programs and activities that have made Oklahoma a conservation leader in the nation.
To celebrate Oklahoma’s conservation legacy, a new organization was formed earlier this year—the Oklahoma Conservation Historical Society (OCHS). The mission of OCHS is “to collect, preserve and share Oklahoma’s rich conservation history with Oklahomans.” Conservation districts are invited to support this mission by becoming a member of OCHS and providing input for future activities.
The OCHS is partnering with the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Oklahoma Chapter of the Soil and Waters Conservation Society and the Oklahoma RC&D Association to showcase Oklahoma’s conservation history. Each of these groups is represented on the OCHS board. OCHS is incorporated as an Oklahoma nonprofit corporation, has adopted by-laws and formed a board of directors. OCHS is applying for 501(c)3 charitable organization status with the IRS. Until final IRS approval is received, OACD will assist with financial management. Contributions to OCHS can be made through OACD and are a charitable tax deduction.
OCHS has an agreement with the OSU Library’s Oral History Research Program to record and archive interviews with individuals who have made contributions to conservation in Oklahoma. To date OSU has completed 13 interviews. Once a transcript has been prepared, reviewed and edited, the audio, video, and transcript of the interview will be posted digitally in the new Conservation Heritage section of the OSU oral history library. Interviews will be available on-line to researchers and the general public beginning in early 2019. OSU is doing the first 13 interviews at no cost to OCHS. Going forward future interviews will cost $1250 apiece to produce.
OCHS is finalizing an agreement with NRCS to digitize 20,000 historic black and white conservation photos currently stored at the NRCS state office. In addition, 11 more oral histories of past and present NRCS employees will be completed by OSU and included in the Conservation Heritage section at the library. Training materials highlighting Oklahoma’s conservation history will also be developed for current NRCS and conservation district employees.
A third project that is now completed was with the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. All of the past and present NRCS county soil surveys are digitized and available on-line from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries website.
Going forward OCHS will be partnering with the Oklahoma Historical Society and Oklahoma History Center, working with their staff to put together procedures where conservation items can be evaluated, collected, archived and used in future conservation exhibits at the History Center and in other museums around the state.
Conservation Districts Can Help
If you are storing any items in your office that may have historic value, OCHS encourages you to maintain them for a bit longer until a system is in place to evaluate them. In addition, districts are encouraged to work with the local historical society in your community or county. There may be opportunity to highlight your district’s conservation work in a local museum.
OHCS also seeks your district’s input on conservationists to interview for an oral history project. If there are individuals in your district that have had made significant contributions to conservation in Oklahoma, please recommend them to OCHS. Please provide a short bio on their conservation contributions and email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to OCHS, P.O. Box 9, Drummond, OK 73735.
Conservation districts are invited to join the Oklahoma Conservation Historical Society this year. A Founders’ membership is available for $100 and an Organization membership for $50.