Leaders in Oklahoma conservation receive awards at the OACD’s 84th Annual State Meeting

Consider them investors. They have invested time, planning and resources into the conservation of Oklahoma’s soil and water. However, they are investing for the good of the earth rather than themselves.

 Several of these conservation investors were recognized with awards at the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) 84th Annual Meeting, held Feb. 27-28 and March 1 at the Edmond Conference Center.

“Oklahoma is home to the best land stewards and advocates for conservation in the country,” said Sarah Blaney, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts. “It was wonderful to be able to honor several of them at our 84th annual meeting.” 

A great example of this came as State Representative Carl Newton of District 58 in northwestern Oklahoma and Dr. Katie Blunk, a rancher at Freedom, Okla., a Director of the Woods County Conservation District and the OACD Area I Director, presented each other with major citations/awards.

 Dr. Blunk presented the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Legislator of the Year Award to Rep. Dr. Carl Newton.

Rep. Dr. Carl Newton received the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Legislator of the Year Award.

Minutes later, Newton, along with Senator Casey Murdock, District, 27, presented a Legislative Citation to Dr. Katie Blunk and the Lazy KT Ranch, recently named as the Oklahoma recipient of the very prestigious Leopold Conservation Award.

 That evening, Feb. 28, Rep. Newton and Sen. Murdock were among the more than 30 Representatives and Senators who attended the 2022 OACD State Meeting Legislative Reception.

 Trey Lam, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, said of Newton, “Representative Newton has demonstrated a personal appreciation for conservation of Oklahoma’s natural resources.  Not only does he Chair the Appropriation Subcommittee on Natural Resources, but as a cooperator with the Alfalfa and Woods County Conservation Districts, Representative Newton practices what he prescribes on his own land.  All Oklahomans are fortunate to have Dr. Newton ensuring the future productivity of our soil and availability of clean, plentiful water for generations to come.”

 Also, as mentioned, the Lazy KT Ranch of Freedom, was recognized as the recipient of the 2021 Oklahoma Leopold Conservation Award.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the prestigious award recognizes farmers, ranchers and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat resources in their care.

Dr. Blunk and her family own and operate Lazy KT Ranch, and they receive $10,000 and a crystal award for being selected. The Woods County cattle ranchers were presented with the award which is given in Oklahoma by Sand County Foundation, American Farmland Trust, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Noble Research Institute, Oklahoma Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, ITC Great Plains, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 23 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation.

Dr. Katie Blunk and the Lazy KT Ranch, were recently named as the Oklahoma recipient of the very prestigious Leopold Conservation Award.

“Katie and husband Michael (Horntvedt) burn with passion for conservation at Lazy KT Ranch,” Lam said. “Their hard work and determination along with the willingness to partner with neighbors, burn associations, NRCS and the Woods County Conservation District has restored a picturesque and productive ranch. This provides a roadmap for the entire state on how to take back our ranches from invasive species.” Her mother Rose Kline Blunk has played a significant part in the success of the ranch as well.

The Oklahoma Conservation Hall of Fame inductees were Don Bartolina, Friend of Conservation, and Bill Clark, District Director.

There may not be a more well-known or beloved member of the conservation family in Oklahoma than Don Bartolina. Since 1961, Don has been a friend of conservation. His career started in Watonga with the then Soil Conservation Service, today what we know as the Natural Resources Conservation Service. In 1977, Don came to the Oklahoma County Conservation District where he served as district conservationist for 24 years until his first retirement. No one has retired and yet kept working, more times than Don Bartolina. After that, Don served as OACD Executive Director and then Oklahoma County Conservation District Manager until his retirement in 2021. Perhaps the role Don loves the most, is as the leader of the National Land and Range Judging Competition. For 61 years, Don has been involved in the National Land and Range Judging Contest and has been the contest coordinator for over 35 years. Don is the quintessential host, making sure the kids hit the dance floor at the social. In Don’s own words regarding the National Land and Range Judging Contest, “When you’re out there and the kids are asking questions, that’s when you learn. It gives kids an appreciation for the land. 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.”

Bill Clark is continually researching and learning about sustainable grass and livestock production. Bill and his family have utilized prescribed burning of native pastures to increase forage production while reducing the need for herbicide. The Clarks not only continually improve their range management they also are developing appropriate livestock for their environment and ranch goals. By utilizing Lowline Aberdeen bulls, Bill has achieved a moderate framed cow and reduced the amount of grass and feed needed per animal unit. Most recently the Clarks have added hair goats to their operation.

Bill currently serves as a Board Member of the Pontotoc County Conservation District and served for five years on the Oklahoma Conservation Commission for Area V. Bill is a Director of Citizens Bank of Ada, Chairman of the Audit Committee for the Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children and a deacon and Sunday school teach at First Baptist Church of Fitzhugh.

The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Employees’ (OACDE) Employee of the Year Award was presented to Anita Kaufman of the Payne County Conservation District.

The Elmer Maddux Award for Excellency in Advocacy was awarded to Coleta Bratten of the Dewey County Conservation District.