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On Aug. 25, the National Parks Service celebrates 100 years of service! In Oklahoma and throughout the nation, our national parks provide a habitat for wildlife, including birds, insects and hundreds of mammals, like bison, deer and rabbits.
This week from Aug. 25-28, all national parks are free to visit, so take time out this weekend to visit Oklahoma’s national parks: Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Oklahoma City National Memorial and the Fort Smith National Historic Site.
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The following is an op-ed from Ron Suttles, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma. Suttles is retired and served as the Natural Resources Section Head for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
In my work as an environmental biologist, I’ve been involved in investigating hundreds of fish kills, chemical spills and other environmental damage. I’ve seen first-hand the damage that can be done to Oklahoma’s natural resources, and that’s one of the reasons why I oppose State Question 777.
We all have a responsibility to protect those natural resources — our water, air, soil and more — for future generations. As a biologist, it was my task to investigate pollution problems, find the guilty parties and help ensure they were held responsible for damage to Oklahoma’s fish and wildlife.
By making it almost impossible for Oklahoma to respond if there is a problem involving agriculture, SQ777 is asking Oklahoma citizens to essentially give up their right to have the legislature do its job and represent us. So if, in the future, a problem involving agriculture needs to be addressed, our legislature will be handcuffed. This will severely limit our ability to protect our natural resources.
SQ 777 would prohibit the people of Oklahoma from regulating one industry: corporate agriculture. No other industry in Oklahoma has a constitutional exemption from legislative oversight.
Farming is vital to Oklahoma’s economy, and I’ve known and worked with a lot of great farmers. In some of my investigations for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, in cooperation with the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office, I found that small farmers were valuable natural resource allies and were usually among those harmed by pollution. In fact, it was small farmers concerns about pollution from large hog operations that helped Oklahoma move toward more effective and needed regulation of that industry.
In the Illinois River, we’ve seen the effects of agricultural pollution and its impact on water quality and, by extension, its impact on fishing and recreation. During my 35 year career, I was told repeatedly in private by corporate and industry representatives, that when it came to environmental compliance and pollution controls, “We will only do what we have to do. If we don’t have to do it, my company won’t do it”. Without the ability to invoke accountability, when warranted, Oklahoma will lose on all fronts.
Corporations based outside our borders won’t be as concerned with protecting Oklahoma’s water, wildlife, lands or our citizen’s rights as we are. That holds true whether you are an angler, hunter, outdoors enthusiast or farmer. We all have an interest in ensuring that Oklahoma’s streams and lakes are clean and healthy.
Decisions that affect Oklahoma should be made by Oklahomans in Oklahoma. Vote “no” on SQ 777 and protect your water, your rights and those of all Oklahoma citizens.
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The Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma, through its umbrella organization, Oklahomans for Food, Farm and Family, hosted a press conference on the release of a legal analysis regarding the impacts of proposed State Question 777 on Tuesday, July 18.
Representatives from the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma; Oklahomans for Food, Farm and Family; the Oklahoma Municipal League; the Oklahoma Farm and Food Alliance; the Oklahoma Stewardship Council and Conference of Churches discussed the important findings in this analysis and why Oklahomans should learn more about the pitfalls contained in SQ 777.
View the video below:
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This blog post is brought to you from our friends at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is inviting Monarch butterflies and other pollinators to join travelers at the Oklahoma City Welcome Center to stretch their wings, grab a cup of nectar and check out the new garden on their way up the newly established national Monarch Highway.
The department planted the pollinator garden and updated its mowing practices in anticipation of the memorandum of agreement that was signed in partnership with six other states. This collaboration with the Federal Highway Administration and the Missouri, Texas, Iowa, Kansas and Minnesota DOTs designates Interstate 35 as the Monarch Highway.
“We are excited to be a part of this important effort to preserve habitats for pollinators that are vital to our food sources,” Brad Mirth, ODOT state maintenance engineer, said. “Our goal is to protect more of their natural habitat by allowing milkweed and native flowers to grow in the right-of-way where possible and use the garden as an educational tool to help the public recognize and protect this important vegetation.”
Beginning this spring ODOT will refrain from mowing the highway rights-of-way statewide, except where necessary, until July when the flowers will be primed for seed dispersal. The department will still mow in urban areas and safety zones, which includes medians and rights-of-way up to 30 feet from the pavement’s edge. In addition to protecting milkweed and wildflowers that butterflies need, the department expects this to be a cost saving practice.
The garden, a registered Monarch Waystation, is a 20 foot by 40 foot plot containing five types of milkweed, Black-eyed Susans, purple coneflower and other types of wildflowers as well as native grasses little bluestem and switchgrass. Visitors can view the garden at the Oklahoma City Welcome Center on I-35 and 122nd St. in Oklahoma City.
Monarch butterflies born in late summer or early fall migrate south to winter in Mexico. In the spring, the butterflies return to the southern U.S. and lay eggs. Successive generations of Monarchs continue moving north, which takes them along the I-35 corridor and finally into Canada. These Monarchs begin the cycle over again by completing a 2,000-mile trek back to Mexico.
ODOT employees plant milkweed at the Monarch Waystation garden at the Oklahoma City Welcome Center on I-35 and 122nd St. in Oklahoma City. ODOT hopes this new garden will serve an an educational tool for the public to recognize and protect natural Monarch butterfly habitat.
ODOT chief engineer Casey Shell, along with six other state leaders, signs the memorandum of understanding unofficially naming I-35 the Monarch Highway.
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Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma has officially joined the National Wildlife Federation as an affiliate member organization. It unanimously voted in as an affiliate at the most recent Board of Directors meeting and have officially joined the Federation as of April 18, 2016.
“We are thrilled to welcome Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma into the National
Wildlife Federation family,” said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “CCO pulls together a powerful coalition of Oklahoma conservation organizations to advocate on behalf of wildlife and the land and water upon which they depend. Together with 50 sister state and territorial affiliate organizations that comprise the National Wildlife Federation, Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma will be an essential partner in a nationwide grassroots conservation army that is working hard every day to unifying Americans to ensure wildlife survive and thrive.”
The Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma is young but exciting organization with a focus on monitoring and engaging with the Oklahoma legislature as well as ensuring that there is a next generation of conservationists. The CCO is an alliance of organizations created to engage conservation groups, communities of faith, youth service organizations, hunters, anglers, farmers and businesses throughout Oklahoma to work together on conservation issues important to Oklahoma. The Coalition is currently involved in legislatively referred constitutional amendment – State Question 777. If passed by the voters, it would change the constitution and stop legislators from passing any laws in the future which would curtail the right of farmers and ranchers “to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices” without a compelling state interest.
“Being an affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation is very exciting for us,” said Ron Suttles, chair of the board of directors for the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma. “It is empowering and gratifying to be part of such a wonderful network of organizations already affiliated with The National Wildlife Federation. We couldn’t be happier to be a part of the NWF family and look forward to many great collaborations on behalf of wildlife, conservation, and the environment.”
Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma will be joining the South Central Region, working closely on similar conservation work with affiliates in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, and the Virgin Islands. “The Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma is a wonderful addition to the NWF South Central Region’s affiliates,” said Susan Kaderka, NWF South Central regional executive director. “We are already collaborating with CCO on a whole range of issues, from promoting efforts to recover the monarch butterfly to fighting ballot initiatives that would cripple the state’s ability to protect its natural resources. We are fortunate to have such an engaged, effective new partner in safeguarding wildlife in Oklahoma.”