10 Years of Service, Mike Rooker Steps down from Conservation Commission Board
After 10 Years of Service, Mike Rooker Steps down from Conservation Commission Board
Oklahoma City (June 12, 2017) – On June 5, Mike Rooker of Dale, Okla. participated in his last meeting as one of five members of the Conservation Commission. Rooker began his service as Area II commissioner in 2007, after being appointed to the position by then Governor Brad Henry and was reappointed in 2012, by Governor Mary Fallin.
“Conservation is not political; Mike has shown that by being appointed by both a republican and a democrat, and by promoting conservation not just in his area, but across the state,” said Trey Lam, Conservation Commission executive director.
Area II is comprised of 15 counties and 16 conservation district stretching north from Kay and south to Love. Rooker has traveled to them all either to recognize their achievements or just to attend one of their board meetings. He has been a consistent presence on the Commission, only missing 2 of 120 Commission meetings.
Conservation Commission chairman, Scotty Herriman, has known Rooker for over 25 years and has worked with him on several different projects. He has appreciated Rooker’s willingness to travel on behalf of the Commission.
“We will truly miss him. Mike is not one of those guys that talks about it, he does it,” Herriman said. “He has given his time to make an impact and you can’t do that if you don’t show up; Mike always shows up,” said Lam.
Rooker serves on the board of the Shawnee Conservation District and will continue to do so for at least another year. He is looking forward to spending time with his wife, Chris, watching grandkids play ball, and working on and educating about his antique tractor collection. However, he appreciates the opportunity given to him by the governors that appointed him; he has enjoyed it and learned a lot from it. “It is an honor to think that a governor would pick a farmer from Dale, Okla. to serve and it’s been quite an honor to serve,” Rooker said.
“I appreciate Mike’s tenure on the Conservation Commission board,” said Governor Mary Fallin. “He took seriously both his responsibilities and his commitment to conservation. While sorry to lose his expertise, I am happy that Mike can now spend more time with his family and focus on other opportunities.”
At the next Commission meeting, on July 10, Rooker’s seat will be filled by Phil Campbell, who Governor Fallin appointed in April.
(Photo above shows Mike Rooker with wife Chris at his retirement luncheon following the June 5 Commission meeting.)
Established in 1937 during the Dust Bowl, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission is a non-regulatory agency working with 85 local conservation districts, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to educate and assist the public in implementing voluntary conservation practices on their land. We strive to conserve and protect natural resources in Oklahoma.
State Cost Share Program Sign-up Starts June 12 through July 21
State Cost Share Program Sign-up Starts June 12 through July 21
Oklahoma County Conservation District is taking applications for Program Year 18 of the State Conservation Cost-Share Program starting June 12, 2017, through July 21, 2017. The program is administered through the conservation district utilizing state funds to help get conservation measures on the ground to improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, and restore the desired vegetative cover.
To be eligible to participate in the program, an applicant must be a district cooperator in Oklahoma County with a conservation plan and must own/operate at least 5 ac.
Funds are available for a number of different conservation practices such as brush control practices including cedars, ponds, water wells for livestock, pasture and range planting, and other erosion control practices.
The district program offers 75% cost share based on State of Oklahoma average cost rates, with a minimum program payment of $500 and maximum payment not exceeding $5,000.
Program applications will be taken at the Oklahoma County Conservation District office located at 4850 N. Lincoln Blvd, Ste B, Oklahoma City. For further information about the conservation cost-share program or becoming a district cooperator, please call the district office at 521-1332 or email at: [email protected]
All programs of the Oklahoma County Conservation District are available on a nondiscriminatory basis.
Governor Mary Fallin Appoints Phil Campbell to the Conservation Commission
Governor Mary Fallin today announced she has appointed Phil Campbell to the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. He will fill the Area II position, which serves central Oklahoma.
Campbell, a member of the Oklahoma County Conservation District board of directors, will begin serving at the Conservation Commission’s July 10 meeting. He was appointed and confirmed last month. “Phil Campbell is committed to preserving and protecting Oklahoma’s natural resources for our citizens’ enjoyment and the enjoyment of future generations,” said Fallin.
Campbell grew up in Spencer on a small farm, where he helped his dad in the garden and had a small herd of Angus cattle. Agriculture was important to him and helped fund most of his high school activities. Soon after graduating high school, Campbell joined the Air Force; he traveled the world, but his heart was always on a farm in Oklahoma.
In 2015, shortly before his retirement, Campbell and his family bought 40 acres near Luther to begin developing the farm they had always dreamed of owning. Campbell wanted to make sure he was doing things the right way so he could achieve his goal of a small, yet productive farm. His brother, a game warden for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, suggested he talk to the Oklahoma County Conservation District to develop a conservation plan, as his brother worked with Don Bartolina, district manager, and Josh McNeff, with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and knew they could offer advice.
“After meeting and walking the land with them the first time, I may have gotten into farming sooner because they made it so easy,” Campbell said.
Campbell is fairly new to the conservation family, only serving as a district director for a few months, but his willingness to learn, his commitment to conservation, and his enthusiasm led Trey Lam, executive director of the Conservation Commission, to discuss the possibility of him serving in a larger role as commissioner. “Phil offers a slightly different perspective, especially in regards to small and urban cooperators, which we haven’t necessarily had on the commission before,” Lam said.
Campbell is confident his military background will help with budgeting issues and setting funding priorities. He said the commission makes a strong effort to get information out to cooperators, but thinks more work is needed to ensure more cooperators are aware of the variety of programs and benefits the commission and the 85 conservation districts across the state offer. “I do think more can be done to help the commission reach out to minority producers, and I am willing to work to increase their participation,” Campbell said.
Feral Hog Trap and Carcass Disposal Information Available
Feral swine are an invasive species that cause more than $1.5 billion annually in damage and management costs nationwide according to USDA. Elimination of feral swine is of special interest to the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts because feral hogs' rooting and wallowing activity is proven to increase erosion, especially in wetlands and along waterways. Large groups of feral swine are responsible for contaminating water sources through deposition of fecal material in concentrated areas which results in an increased risk for disease among humans, wildlife, and livestock.
The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food, and Forestry (ODAFF) is partnering with conservation district to make steel hog gates available to conservation districts. As these hog gates are completed, they will be provided to conservation districts across Oklahoma. The Oklahoma County Conservation District does not currently have one of these hog gates available to rent. However, you may download the plans for the Missouri Hog Gate and ODAFF rules for carcass disposal here on our website.
Below is a short list of resources you may also find useful as you work to alleviate your feral hog problem.
Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Holds 79th
Annual Meeting in Oklahoma City
Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Holds 79th Annual Meeting in Oklahoma City
OKLAHOMA CITY, March 1, 2017−The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) held its annual meeting February 26-28, 2017. More than 300 individuals gathered at the Embassy Suites in downtown Oklahoma City to learn about soil, water, air and wildlife conservation efforts, elect new officers to the OACD board and honor conservation leaders.
During the banquet held on Monday evening, district director Rick Godfrey was honored with the President's Award by OACD President Steve House. In presenting the award, House acknowledged Godfrey friendship and assistance to OACD through the years. Shown in photo with Godfrey are (l to r): District manager Don Bartolina, director Phil Campbell, Godfrey, Board Chair Jan Kunze, district secretary Becky Inmon, and Trey Lam, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.
"The 79th OACD annual meeting was a unique opportunity for district directors, agency staff and agriculture producers to share information about the really great conservation efforts that are happening in Oklahoma," said Jimmy Emmons, OACD President.
General session speakers included Mike Brown, Executive Director of the National Association of State Conservation Agencies, who spoke about the importance of conservation districts and the role of district directors, Dr. Jim Chamberlain from the University of Oklahoma's WaTER Center who shared with attendees about how to conserve water across the globe and Jona Tucker who spoke on the Blue River Head Water Protection project.
Conservation District Directors elected new officers for the OACD board including Jimmy Emmons of Leedey, Okla., as President and Bryant Reeves of Willow, Okla., as Vice-President. Also new to the board is Joe Caughlin of Tonkawa, Okla. Bill Jordan of Paoli, Okla., Larry Wright of Weatherford, Okla., Elmer Maddux of Mooreland, Okla., Marty Hern of Westville, Okla., and Dale Jenkins of Holdenville, Okla. all remain on the board, as does immediate past president Steve House of Watonga, Okla.
New to this year's meeting was a line-up of soil health all stars from across the country during a Soil Health Track on Tuesday February 28. Speakers discussed how to increase farm profits by utilizing soil health practices, managing weeds through plant diversity and how to implement soil health practices on grazing lands.
The following conservation all stars were honored during the banquet:
Conservation Hall of Fame-Director: Mike Rooker, Shawnee County Conservation District Director and Conservation Commissioner.
Conservation Hall of Fame - Friend of Conservation Award: Mike Thralls was honored posthumously for his incredible work in conservation, as was his right hand man, Ben Pollard.
Outstanding Conservation District Cooperator: Dustin Donley, of Woodward, Okla. and the Woodward County Conservation District
Outstanding Conservation District Director: Kenneth Salisbury of Vici, Okla. and the Dewey County Conservation District
Employee of the Year: Shirley Hudson of Miami, Okla. and the Ottawa County Conservation District
Mike Thralls Memorial Scholarship: The second annual scholarships were presented in honor of former Oklahoma Conservation Commission executive director Mike Thralls. Two students each received $500 awards to pursue a degree at Oklahoma State University in the College of Agriculture Sciences and Natural Resources. Recipients were Kaila Williams of Duncan, Okla., and Justin Sawatzky of Clinton, Okla.
The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts is a private, nonprofit organization representing conservation districts across the state and individual members dedicated to protecting our state's natural resources and improving the environment. For more information visit www.okconservation.org.
Application Deadline for Flagship Conservation Program, EQIP, Nov. 18
Applications for participation in the current round of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) are due by Nov. 18, 2016. Eligible landowners and agricultural producers should submit inquiries and applications to their local USDA Field Service Center.
EQIP is a voluntary program through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) which provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to plan and implement conservation practices that improve soil, water, air and related natural resources on agricultural land and non-industrial private forest land.
“EQIP continues to help new and established farmers and ranchers address natural resource concerns and make the most of their land,” said Gary O’Neill, NRCS State Conservationist for Oklahoma. “The program is the first step for many producers to achieving conservation success on their land. With a number of special fund pools such as the high tunnel systems initiative, organic initiative and StrikeForce which targets persistent poverty-stricken rural communities, EQIP offers something for every kind of producer.”
NRCS accepts and processes EQIP applications throughout the year. However, application deadlines are periodically set to consider eligible applications for funding. Applications submitted after these dates will be evaluated for funding during later funding opportunities. Producers must submit a complete program application, establish “farm records,” and other documentation to support eligibility to be considered for financial assistance through EQIP.
“EQIP’s strong record of improving soil, water and air quality are proof that voluntary conservation works. I encourage farmers, ranchers and landowners across the state to speak with their local NRCS office about participation in EQIP before the November 18 deadline,” O’Neill said.
World's Muddiest Academic Contest Introduces Students to
Soil and Range Health
STILLWATER, Okla., June 17, 2016—With mud caked boots, furrowed brows and dusty clipboards, over 500 high school students hushedly sidestep each other through a maze of tiny plastic flags and trenches cut into the bright red soil of the Oklahoma prairie. The peculiar scene has been a May tradition in the outskirts of Oklahoma City for 65 years.
The National Land and Range Judging Contest is the culmination of local and state contests where FFA and 4-H teams use their knowledge of soil science and rangeland ecology to evaluate the land for agricultural and residential uses. At the national level, the best teams from over 30 states compete for the championship trophy. Along with several state agencies and organizations including the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and conservation districts, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) technical staff have helped run and officiate the contest from the beginning.
“This contest is an excellent opportunity to introduce youth to the land from a management and technical perspective. For kids who are already interested in natural resources, this gives them a solid scientific foundation to continue pursuing their interests,” says Steve Alspach, NRCS state soil scientist for Oklahoma.
Perhaps no one understands the unique impact of the contest better than Don Bartolina, retired NRCS district conservationist for Oklahoma County. He got involved with the contest when he began working for NRCS as a soil scientist in 1961. By 1985, Don was contest coordinator—responsible for making sure all the moving parts of the contest come together—and he’s never missed a contest.
“The contest was part of my NRCS training,” says Don. “When you’re out there and the kids are asking questions, that’s when you learn.”
In his time with the contest, at least 27,000 students have traveled to Oklahoma to compete, but for him, it’s not just about the competition, it’s about introducing youth to the natural world. He admits many of the competitors won’t go on to be involved in agriculture, but thinks there’s still value in their participation.
“It gives kids an appreciation for the land,” he says. “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.”
The contest is comprised of three events held concurrently at the same secret location. In the land judging event, contestants enter several three to five foot deep pits to evaluate the qualities of the soil and determine its potential for agricultural production. Range judging contestants rotate through roped off rangeland sites to identify plant species and determine the site’s value for cattle production and quail habitat. Homesite evaluation challenges contestants to determine the value of a site for residential development.
Don is quick to remind people that while he’s the coordinator, it takes the time and resources of numerous organizations to make the contest possible. To touch so many lives every year requires the close cooperation of several public and private partners.
“It’s a labor of love,” says Don. “There’s not another contest with this many people from so many places working for the same thing. I hope it continues and I hope new people can get involved and keep it going.”
With the 65th annual contest, now under his belt, Don can look to other volunteer activities he participates in for Oklahoma County Conservation District and, of course, planning for next year’s contest.
Article courtesy Robert Hathorne, Public Affairs Specialist, NRCS
National Contest Puts STEM Skills to the Test
Over 100 FFA and 4H teams from across the country will converge on Oklahoma City May 3-5 for the 65th Annual National Land and Range Judging Contest. Qualifying teams from 34 states will challenge their knowledge of soil and plant science, land management and natural resources conservation in the field. Oklahoma is expected to send 10 teams to the event.
Officiation and on-site technical assistance for all three days of the contest is provided by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oklahoma State University and The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.
“These contestants represent the next generation of farmers, ranchers, conservationists and land managers,” said Steve Alspach, NRCS state soil scientist for Oklahoma. “Events like this are as much an opportunity for us to introduce high school students to a potential career with USDA as it is a STEM learning experience for them.”
STEM is a curriculum focused on the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The contest is comprised of three events: land, range and home site evaluation. Land judging contestants will enter several three to five foot deep pits to evaluate the qualities of the soil and determine its potential for agricultural production. Range judging contestants will visit several rangeland sites to identify plant species and determine the site’s value for cattle production and quail habitat. The home site evaluation event challenges contestants to determine the value of a site for residential development.
During the first two days of the event, teams will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with Oklahoma’s soils and rangeland at two practice sites. The official contest on the third day takes place at a secret location that is revealed the morning of the contest. This ensures all teams are experiencing the official site for the first time.
Contest winners will be announced the evening of May 5 during a banquet at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
Contest sponsors are Oklahoma AgCredit, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, American Farmers & Ranchers, National Conservation Foundation, The Sirloin Club of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Auxiliary, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Wyndham Garden OKC Airport, Catering by Finley, Lee Roy and Sylvia Hudson, Parker Land and Cattle Company, Oklahoma Association of Conservation District Employees, Soil and Water Conservation Society Oklahoma Chapter and Society for Range Management Oklahoma Section.
Supporting governments and agencies are NRCS, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Oklahoma Department of Career & Technology Education, and Oklahoma State University.
Newly Approved Rules for Feral Hogs
The State Board of Agriculture on Tuesday approved proposed regulations pertaining to Feral Swine.
The measure was approved by a 5-0 vote of the board during the regular March board meeting at the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF), 2800 N Lincoln Blvd.
The purpose of these rules is to implement the provisions of the Feral Swine Control Act and to adopt aggressive measures for the eradication of all feral swine in the State of Oklahoma. Feral swine are a non-native invasive species to Oklahoma that detrimentally impact agricultural production and natural resources in Oklahoma. As feral swine populations increase, citizens of Oklahoma suffer damage to crops, livestock and wildlife habitat. Feral swine pose a health risk to humans, livestock, companion animals and native wildlife. The Department's goal is to render the State of Oklahoma free of feral swine. The Department shall investigate and implement new population control methods, technologies, and toxicants as they become available to achieve this goal.
The approved rules will now go to the state Legislature and Governor for review and approval.
If approved by the Legislature and Governor, these rules will become effective in mid-September.
Feral Swine Rule Summary
1. States purpose and goal. As new methods for eradication become available, no effort will be made to preserve feral swine or the accompanying industry. The Department's goal is to render the State of Oklahoma free of feral swine. The Department shall investigate and implement new population control methods, technologies, and toxicants as they become available to achieve this goal.
2. Creates a moratorium on licensing of new feral swine hunting facilities. The previous moratorium beginning January 27, 2015 was Board order with an expiration date.
3. Creates a tracking system for transporters of feral hogs. Adds a $25 annual transport license for feral hog transporters. Previous license was free and lasted 5 years. There was a five year lag of who is really active in transportation and if someone was caught illegally transporting a phone call and a free license was the remedy.
4. Creates a 24 hour transport permit. If hauling a feral hog you must have a specific permit for each load identifying how many and where they are going. Currently, there is no enforcement tool for law enforcement to easily identify those who are illegally transporting swine. Our intent is to make these permits accessible by a smart phone app. Transporters can click their location, number of hogs, delivery point, and receive the permit number. This 24 hour permit is free and is only for tracking purposes and to give law enforcement personnel the ability to easily determine if the transporter is legally transporting the feral swine.
5. Requires feral swine hunting facilities to keep records on the number of feral swine entering and exiting the facilities and send them in monthly. This will validate and keep accurate information that is only estimated currently.
6. Creates a Feral Swine Free Zone – Prohibits feral swine facilities in the zone, prohibits any transport of feral swine into the Zone.
7. Adds a $25 Captive hog hunter fee – Feral Hog Hunt Facilities will charge and remit a $25 captive hunt fee to ODAFF that will be used for enforcement purposes.
Funds raised with the fees in these rules will be used:
• To create the smartphone app and software compatibility to institute the 24 hour transport permit
• To purchase hog traps for Oklahoma Conservation Districts to rent to landowners and to train landowners and districts how to trap hogs effectively.
• To set up a 24 hour hotline for illegal feral swine transportation or release complaints
• To investigate more effectively illegal transportation of feral swine.
in Damages Prevented by Dams, Conservation Practices During Historic May
Millions in Damages Prevented by Dams, Conservation Practices During Historic May Rainfall
Oklahoma’s network of 2,107 flood control dams and voluntary conservation practices prevented an estimated $22.57 million in flood damages from the May 1-9 storms according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Water Resource Office.
“The flood control network was designed to protect farmland, roads, bridges, homes and lives, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen over the last week of rainfall,” said Trey Lam, Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC) executive director. “Like any form of infrastructure, operation and maintenance of these dams is critical if we hope to continue reaping the benefits they provide.”
According to Oklahoma Mesonet, May 2015 is so far the wettest since 1921. Some of the hardest working dam clusters over the last 10 days include:
- Fourche Maline Creek watershed, Latimer County, 14 dams, 9.97 inches of rain, $819,272 in damage prevented (Above photo)
- Upper Clear Boggy Creek watershed, Coal, Johnston, and Pontotoc Counties, 49 dams, 10.1 inches of rain, $1,029,641 in damage prevented
- Sandy Creek watershed, Garvin and Pontotoc Counties, 29 dams, 8.11 inches of rain, $764,362 in damage prevented
- Okfuskee Tributaries, Okfuskee and Okmulgee Counties, 29 dams, 7.89 inches of rain, $693,985 in damage prevented
Rainfall averages from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“Local conservation districts and the private landowners they work with also deserve credit for this success,” said Gary O’Neill, NRCS state conservationist. “It’s important we not lose sight of the other side of the coin—soil health. Healthy soils achieved through voluntary conservation practices are crucial to halting the extensive flood and wind related erosion witnessed in this state during the 1930s and ‘50s.”
Practices such as no-till farming and stream bank fencing mean stabilizing ground cover is in place when floodwaters rise. Due to higher levels of organic matter above and within the soil, healthy soil withstands flooding, erosion and drought better than bare or plowed soil.
“High residue, no-till and cover crops build soil that is more resilient to climate extremes—both flood and drought.” said Greg Scott, OCC soil scientist. “Organic matter, earthworms and roots hold soil in place and provide pathways through the soil for water to infiltrate. Bare soil seals off, crusts over and can be almost as ineffective as concrete at absorbing water, especially in flood events.”
Water Well Screening and Education Program Held at Spencer
The Oklahoma Blue Thumb Program, USDA Program Manager Dwight Guy, and the Oklahoma County Conservation District worked together to provide a voluntary water well screening and safety program for the residents of Spencer-Jones. The event was held Saturday, September 6, at the St. Luke Baptist Church, 10001 NE 50th, in Spencer. Local residents were given the opportunity to bring in samples of their well water and have it tested for alkalinity, pH, chloride, nitrates, and sulfates.
District Secretary Becky Inmon logged in all the samples returned by residents and Oklahoma Blue Thumb Program QA Officer Kim Shaw supervised the testing done by local student volunteers from Star Spencer and Carl Albert High Schools. Shaw and the volunteers completed water screenings on 50 samples brought in by residents.
During the education and safety portion of the program, Oklahoma Blue Thumb State Coordinator Cheryl Cheadle gave a groundwater model demonstration to help residents understand how their groundwater can become contaminated. Russ Morrison, a representative of the Department of Environmental Quality, discussed water well safety and protection. Lynn Malley, OSU Assistant State Extension Specialist in Solid Waste Management, gave an interesting hands-on demonstration about water conservation. District Manager Don Bartolina served as moderator for the program.
The District would like to thank Amy Oliver, Agriculture Instructor for Star Spencer, and her students for helping with the screening. We also thank area churches for helping distribute information flyers for the event and give a special thank you to St. Luke Baptist Church for use of their facilities for distributing the sample bottles on Friday afternoon and for hosting the event on Saturday.
NEDC Recognizes Local District and NRCS for Training Assistance
Congratulations to District Manager Don Bartolna, Director Rick Godfrey, District Conservationist Rod Shaw and State Soil Scientist Steve Alspach . All four man received Certificates of Appreciation from the NRCS National Employee Development Center (NEDC). All four were recognized for their 'contributions and dedication to training and the mission and goals of NRCS'. Bartolina, Godfrey, Shaw and Alspach have assisted with the Orientation of New Employees (ONE) Course held here in Oklahoma City for several years and have participated in training numerous new NRCS employees. The awards were presented by NEDC Director Jeffery Dziedzic and NEDC Training Specialist Michael Trusclair during a training session held at Eagle Ridge Institute in Oklahoma City on June 10.