Oklahoma Educational Television Authority recognized for promoting conservation

OETA to show encore performance of THE DUST BOWL in late April.

image of OACD employees
OACD Immediate Past President Joe Parker, joined by Sec. of Environment Gary Sherrer, presented OETA with an OACD Partners in Excellence Award during Conservation Day at the Capitol on April 1, 2013. From left are Past President Parker; OETA staff Ashley Barcum, communications director; Dan Schiedel, executive director; and Mark Norman, deputy director; and Sec. Sherrer.

Conservation leaders from around Oklahoma gathered at the state Capitol earlier this month to help recognize the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) for its exceptional work in promoting the Ken Burns’ film THE DUST BOWL in the fall of 2012 and for its continued support of conservation in Oklahoma.  The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) presented their Partners in Excellence award to OETA at a ceremony at the state Capitol on April 1.  OETA Executive Director Dan Schiedel accepted the award on behalf of OETA.  OACD also presented OETA Communications Director Ashley Barcum with a Partners in Excellence award at the same ceremony.  Barcum coordinated the promotion of the film and the community outreach events held around the state. According to Kim Farber, OACD president OACD, recognition of OETA was well deserved.

“OETA is to be commended for the work it did in promoting this film and for everything it did to assist Ken Burns and his staff in its production,” Farber said. “OACD is most appreciative of the outreach campaign OETA took on to build awareness not only of the film but to help highlight the importance of natural resource conservation in our state.”

Mike Thralls, executive director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission agreed, noting that “THE DUST BOWL film captures a part of Oklahoma history we all need to remember.  Drought cycles will continue and we must remain vigilant in the conservation of our soil and water resources,” Thralls said.  “We don’t want to re-live the conditions experienced in the 1930s.”

Starting in August of 2012, OETA partnered with OACD, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to hold six community outreach events around the state that included a screening of THE DUST BOWL and a panel discussion with conservation experts on the causes of the massive wind erosion experienced on the Southern Plains of the United States during the 1930s and what is currently being done to keep such a catastrophe from ever happening again. The panel also included Dust Bowl survivors who discussed their personal experiences during the disaster. Outreach events were held in Guymon, Woodward, Altus, Stillwater, Tulsa and Oklahoma City. OETA also worked with the Conservation Partnership to produced six feature stories on natural resource issues that aired on their Oklahoma News Report program.  This outreach effort resulted in the Oklahoma showing of THE DUST BOWL receiving some of the highest viewer ratings in the nation for a Public Broadcasting System program.

John Mueller, acting state conservationist for NRCS in Oklahoma, also expressed appreciation for the historical importance of the film. “The NRCS, formerly the Soil Conservation Service, was created in the 1930s in response to the Dust Bowl. We appreciate OETA and Ken Burns presenting this film depicting the resilience of farmers and the importance of protecting our natural resources. Our agency is proud to be part of a local, state and federal conservation partnership that has worked with farmers and ranchers on a voluntary basis to successfully address soil erosion issues ever since the Dust Bowl.”

An encore showing of THE DUST BOWL will take place later in April with the first two-hour episode showing on Tuesday, April 23 at 7:00 pm and the second two-hour episode will air at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, April 30.  This encore showing of the film will help highlight Stewardship Week in Oklahoma, for which Governor Mary Fallin has issued a Proclamation designating as April 28 through May 5.