It’s summertime. Time to go outdoors and enjoy nature! During this time of year it’s easy to recognize the natural blessings we have in abundance in Oklahoma. From our rivers to our lakes, from our forests to the expansive prairies, Oklahoma is home to some of the most precious natural resources in the United States, in fact, with the exception of California, no other state in the Union has as many distinct eco-regions as Oklahoma. With all of this natural beauty to enjoy, however, it’s easy to take it for granted.
While we are outside, we need to remember how important it is to care for the earth around us. While we have a lot to be thankful for, we also have several natural resource challenges that we need to address. We still suffer from erosion of the soil from our farm lands and pastures; we have numerous water quality issues that need to be addressed on our rivers and streams; we have critical wildlife habitat in need of improvement and protection and we have the ever increasing challenge of our changing climate.
With all of these issues to address, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. With such large scale problems it often seems that the efforts of one individual can do little to affect the whole. It’s easy to think, “Well it’s all well and good to recycle and conserve water and such, but what good are you really doing in the grand scheme of things? It’s kind of like spitting in the ocean.”
The good news is that there is more that you can do! Oklahoma now has a unique, one of a kind program that allows folks who want to do more to help the environment connect with individuals who are willing to undertake major practices on their land. Launched this spring, the ECOpass program administered by the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) lets individuals purchase “an acre of conservation” for as little as five dollars per acre. The funds raised through these purchases then go to farmers, ranchers and other landowners who are doing things to protect the environment on their land. Practices like taking highly erodible land out of crop production and putting back to grass or converting from conventional tilled crop production to no-till farming or fencing off the riparian areas next to streams and rivers on their property—practices designed to reduce soil erosion, increase wildlife habitat, sequester carbon in the soil and reduce run-off of nutrients and bacteria into our water. These practices are verified by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and are done to USDA Natural Resource Conservation specifications so you can be sure if you put money toward this work, it is happening on the ground.
You may be wondering, “What do I get out of all this if I buy an acre or more of conservation?” The answer is plenty! The practices that you will be helping with have been shown to reduce pollutants like phosphorus and nitrates from our water at levels as high as 60% to 70% in parts of Oklahoma. In fact, because of these practices, Oklahoma was ranked number one among all the states last year in reduction in nutrients from our surface water by the EPA. These practices also reduce carbon dioxide in our atmosphere by “sequestering” carbon through photosynthesis—on average 40 acres can offset your car emissions for one year. These practices greatly reduce soil erosion, reduce the amount of diesel farmers use to grow crops and provide improved habitat for wildlife. Quite a return on your investment!
If you are interested you can find out more on this program by going to ecopassok.com or by contacting OACD at 405-699-2087.
We need to do all we can to help protect our natural resources—we feel that the ECOpass can help.
What do you think of ECOpass? Share your thoughts in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook.
About the Author
Clay Pope received a Bachelors Degree in Agriculture Communications from Oklahoma State University. Mr. Pope is currently the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts. Mr. Pope also served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1994 through 2004, where he served as the Chairman of the Agriculture and International Trade Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures, as Chairman of the Oklahoma House Revenue and Taxation Committee, as Vice Chairman of the Oklahoma House Agriculture Committee and Vice Chairman of the House County and Municipal Government Committee. Mr. Pope is also a member of the board of directors for the Oklahoma Academy for State Goals and is a Research Fellow with the Cookson Institute. He is a farmer and rancher from near Loyal, Oklahoma.