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 a firsthand account of a local producer’s conservation successes and challenges.
OK 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.
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.
Following an update on the efforts of the OCC Blue Thumb volunteer water monitoring program, OCC Director of Water Quality Shanon Phillips discussed agricultural stewardship 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.
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.
- The Area IV meeting was hosted by Deer Creek Conservation District on October 29 at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford.
- The Area I meeting was hosted by Garfield County Conservation District on November 5 at Oakwood Christian Church in Enid.
- Area II was hosted by Shawnee Conservation District on November 7 at Gordon Cooper Technology Center in Shawnee.
- Area III was hosted by Creek County Conservation District on November 12 at First Church of God in Bristow.
- Area V was hosted by Latimer County Conservation District on November 14 at Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton.
Meeting Presentations and Programs (pdf)
- NRCS Soil Health
- Noble Foundation Soil Health
- Oklahoma Prescribed Burn Association
- Budget Overview
- Communications Strategy
- Agricultural Stewardship Assurance
Poster Contest Submissions from Students: