Conservation Day at the Capitol 2010
Awards Presented for Conservation, Education and Communication
The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) and other sponsors presented awards to outstanding conservationists and conservation educators during Conservation Day at the Capitol on March 8. Awards were also presented to members of the press and conservation districts for outstanding efforts in spreading information about conservation. The various awards were cosponsored by Chesapeake Energy, the Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma and the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.
In the awards ceremony that took place in the Governor’s Blue Room, presenters included Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts President Trey Lam, Oklahoma Press Association (OPA) Executive Vice President Mark Thomas, and Oklahoma Conservation Commission Executive Director Mike Thralls. In addition, representatives from Chesapeake Energy, the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and the Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma were present to help present awards. Lt. Gov. Jari Askins spoke to the approximately 100 present, emphasizing the value of the work of conservationists to Oklahoma and stayed for photos with all the honorees. Several honorees also received Legislative Citations from their home area state senator or representative. Sec. of Agriculture Terry Peach and Sec. of the Environment J.D. Strong also participated in the event.
The OACD Conservation Awards are presented according to three categories — Outstanding Conservation District, Outstanding District Director and Outstanding Landowner/Cooperator.
Grady County Conservation District received the Outstanding District Award, cosponsored by Chesapeake Energy. Matt Clark, Chesapeake Energy; and Trey Lam, OACD, presented the award. The Grady County Conservation District office is in Chickasha.
Rodney Hern of Wakita, on the board of directors of the Grant County Conservation District, received the Outstanding District Director Award, co-sponsored by the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation. Shan Ingram, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, presented the award.
Neal Otto of Ponca City received the Outstanding Landowner/Cooperator Award, co-sponsored by the Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma. Otto is a cooperator with and was nominated by Kay County. Jay Pruett, Nature Conservancy, presented the award.
In addition, five teachers from across the state, one in each Congressional district, received Outstanding Conservation Educator Awards co-sponsored by OACD and Chesapeake Energy. The recipients were Dana Hamersley, Sperry High School, Tulsa; Helen Fisher, Haworth Public Schools; Tina Rogers, Canton Public Schools; Odessa Bacher, Jefferson Elementary School, Norman; and Colleen Smith, Southeast High School, Oklahoma City. Matt Clark, Chesapeake Energy, and Trey Lam, OACD, presented the awards.
Excellence in Communication Awards were presented to two conservation districts and three newspaper employees for outstanding efforts to support and promote conservation. East Woods County Conservation District was honored for Outstanding Public Information Campaign. Beaver County Conservation District was honored for a year-long series of full-page ads. Bridget Nash, Enid News and Eagle, and Mitch Meador, Lawton Constitution, were honored for outstanding features. Kelly Bostian, Tulsa World, was honored for an outstanding broadcast feature. Mark Thomas, OPA, and Trey Lam, OACD; presented the awards.
During the day approximately 30 display booths were presented in the Capitol Fourth Floor Rotunda by a number of the state’s 87 local conservation districts, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and other partner agencies and organizations. The displays featured diverse conservation activities across the state that address local natural resource needs.
Conservation Districts are local subunits of state government responsible for care of renewable natural resources. Each district is governed by a board of five volunteer directors and cooperates with the Natural Resources Conservation Service for technical assistance.
The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts is an independent nonprofit organization that promotes natural resource conservation through various activities as well as communication and cooperation with legislative bodies at the state and national levels.
OACD Conservation Awards
For outstanding achievement in the conservation of Oklahoma’s renewable natural resources.
Sponsored by the Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts
Neal Otto, nominated by the Kay County Conservation District.
Neal Otto has been a cooperator with the Kay County Conservation District since 1976. He farms wheat, corn, soybeans and grain sorghum in rotation and also Bermuda and native grasses. All of his crop farming is done no-till with precision farming techniques that include annual soil sampling, yield monitoring and GPS nutrient application. He was one of the first in Oklahoma to sign a Conservation Security Program contract in 2004 and has since enrolled his entire operation. He has installed grassed waterways, contour terraces and grasses to improve livestock and wildlife habitat. He is often called on to speak about the conservation of soil, labor and fuel afforded by no-till farming.
Sponsored by the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts
Rodney Hern, Grant County Conservation District
Rodney Hern has been a cooperator with the Grant County Conservation District since 1984 and has served on the board of directors since June 2005, currently serving as chair. A fourth-generation farmer, his 4,000-acre farm includes the quarter section where his great grandfather staked a claim in the Cherokee Strip Land Run of 1893. After obtaining a degree in Agriculture Education at Oklahoma State University, Mr. Hern spent seven years teaching vocational agriculture before returning to full-time farming and livestock production. He and his family are front runners in the statewide conservation movement and remain on the cutting edge of modern, conscientious agriculture and soil, water, livestock and wildlife management.
Outstanding Conservation District
Sponsored by Chesapeake Energy the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts
Grady County Conservation District
The Grady County Conservation District uses a diverse series of programs to further the conservation of our natural resources. The district sets a high priority of encouraging stewardship through cost-share programs, watershed operation and maintenance, technical assistance, educational and informational outreach and building relationships with other agencies and groups. The district provides services to the community that includes control of invasive eastern redcedar, gopher control, brush removal for wildfire control, small excavation work and lagoon pump out and application of waste material as fertilizer in accordance with the landowner’s waste management plan. With the smallest watershed, flood control dams in the state, 158, Grady County Conservation District has an active operation and maintenance program for the sites. In cooperation with the Forest Regeneration Center, the district holds a truckload tree sale each March during Arbor Week. The district also has an extensive program of natural resource conservation presentations at area schools and sponsors an Envirothon team as well as poster, essay and speech contests.
Excellence in Communication
For outstanding achievement in communication by a conservation district
Sponsored by the Oklahoma Press Association and the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts
East Woods County Conservation District
For an outstanding public information campaign. The district provided a continual stream of information to area newspapers to promote all of its activities including youth education and contests, farming assistance and workshops, Farm Bill Programs and Stewardship Week.
Beaver County Conservation District
For an outstanding series of full-page ads, one per month throughout the year, promoting conservation programs and activities.
Outstanding coverage of conservation by an Oklahoma Press Association Member Employee
For ongoing coverage that can include features, general news, columns, editorials, display advertisements, photographs or photo features or series or combination of any of the above, that raise awareness and promote the cause of conservation.
Bridget Nash, Enid News & Eagle.
Nominated by the Garfield County Conservation District for an outstanding feature about conservation, “First in the Nation Conservation — Ground breaks for Turkey Creek Dam.”
Mitch Meador, Lawton Constitution.
Nominated by the Comanche County Conservation District for an outstanding feature about conservation, “Skid Steer to Help in Fight Against Pesky Trees.”
Kelly Bostian, Tulsa World.
Nominated by the Tulsa County Conservation District for an outstanding broadcast feature about conservation, “Group Surveys Water’s Health,” featuring the Blue Thumb volunteer water quality monitoring program.
Outstanding Conservation Educators
For outstanding achievement in Conservation Education Sponsored by Chesapeake Energy and the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts
Congressional District I
Dana Hamersley, nominated by the Tulsa County Conservation District.
Ms. Hamersley is a science teacher at Sperry High School, where she teaches 9th through 12th grades. Sperry High School does not offer Environmental Science classes so she designed her own course in Aquatic Biology. Students in Aquatic Biology learn about aquatic ecosystems, the water cycle, and water conservation. As a part of the course, students also participate in the Blue Thumb stream monitoring program. Ms. Hamersley and her students have been monitoring the same site for the past seven years. She states that one of the significant things about this 12-week course is that she is able to reach all levels and interests of learners. Ms. Hamersley’s philosophy is “the more students we can get involved in being aware of our environment, the better.”
Congressional District II
Helen Fisher, nominated by the Little River Conservation District.
Ms. Fisher teaches 8th through 12th grade science at Haworth Public Schools. Ms. Fisher and her students participate in the Blue Thumb stream monitoring program by monitoring Mud Creek. Her biology, physical science and chemistry students are all actively involved in the program, from collecting samples and performing chemical tests to interpreting data and making assessments of the health of the creek and its associated habitats. Ms. Fisher states that this collaborative study of conservation teaches her students invaluable skills from instrumentation to interpretation. These skills help students relate what they learn in the classroom to real world applications.
Congressional District III
Tina Rogers, nominated by the Blaine County Conservation District.
Ms. Rogers is a science teacher at Canton Public Schools where she teaches 8th through 12th grades. When the school needed an additional science course, she developed a new course that was activity- and inquiry-based and would allow students to discover not only the natural world around them but also problems and solutions that arise in the environment. As part of this course, Ms. Rogers and her students participate in the Blue Thumb stream monitoring program by monitoring Minnie-Ha-Ha Creek. Her students now feel ownership in “their” creek and have passed on their knowledge to parents and other community members.
Congressional District IV
Odessa Bacher, nominated by the Cleveland County Conservation District.
Ms. Bacher is the preschool special education teacher at Jefferson Elementary School in Norman. She was instrumental is transforming a vacant area between two wings of the school building into an outdoor learning center called Dragonland. This space was initially designed for Ms. Bacher’s special needs students but quickly became an outdoor classroom for other teachers and students at the school. In addition to Dragonland, Ms. Bacher is working with parent volunteers to revitalize a previous outdoor classroom space that had fallen into disrepair during an expansion project at the school. Ms. Bacher has also formed the Plant Patrol at Jefferson Elementary. Plant Patrol students are 2nd through 5th graders who meet weekly and are responsible for the school’s landscaping.
Congressional District V
Colleen Smith, nominated by the Oklahoma County Conservation District.
Ms. Smith teaches 10th through 12th grade chemistry and environmental science at Southeast High School in Oklahoma City. Ms. Smith believes in doing instead of just complaining and tries to teach her students how they can make a difference in the world. She demonstrates this everyday in her classroom by practicing the things she teaches her students, from recycling paper to composting to caring for plants and animals in the classroom. Ms. Smith and her students are also involved in the Blue Thumb stream monitoring program and monitor a section of Crutcho Creek. Over the last two years, 30 percent of the student population has been trained in the program. Her students are also encouraged to become involved in local special events. Recently, two of Ms. Smith’s students assisted the Oklahoma County Conservation District by leading an activity station at a water festival for a local elementary school.