National Watershed Coalition
New Videos document the partnerships and benefits of two Virginia watershed projects:
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2 weeks ago
More friends of NWC...many of you know Oklahoman Jimmy Emmons who testified before Congress a couple of years ago on behalf of Watershed Project Sponsors across the nation. You may not know one of the backstories from Jimmy’s world. Jimmy and Ginger had quite a ride just one year ago in 2018.Farmer and rancher offers windshield perspective a year after the 2018 wildfires
What was happening on the afternoon of April 12, 2018 in Oklahoma City was a dream for Jimmy and Ginger Emmons.
However, what was taking place back home near Leedey in western Oklahoma’s Dewey County was a fiery nightmare.
The Emmons had traveled to the capital city to receive the state’s first Leopold Conservation Award, given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold. The award – presented by the Sand County Foundation, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation, ITC Holdings Corp. and The Noble Research Institute — recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation by American ranchers, farmers and foresters. On that day Jimmy and Ginger Emmons were presented with a $10,000 award, and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold. It was a great day, until they got the phone call later that afternoon.
Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the start of that fire. Recently, Jimmy, sitting in Oklahoma City after attending a meeting of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission board, gave a windshield perspective of then and now.
He was not prepared for what he saw through the windshield of his black and gold 2017 Dodge pickup when he got close to home that day.
“The gut-punch that day was that the county was on fire, half of it burned,” he said, still shaking his head a year down the road. “It was extreme fire.”
Most nightmares end about the time the alarm clock goes off, but this one went for days. Jimmy was told later by Oklahoma Forestry Services personnel that the fire was burning 118 acres per minute as it went past his house that night.
“The original fire started one mile to the east of our property near Leedey,” Jimmy said of the Rhea fire. “Now the second day, a fire came by our house that day and then came up to the blackline as the wind shifted from the previous fire. Then it took off southwest that day.”
So Jimmy was asked, “What do you see through that windshield now, a year later?”
“When I pull up and we have a Conservation District board meeting, we have over 50 percent cedar control in Dewey County now” he said. “So that’s a very positive. Streams are running clear now of water that hasn’t run. So the availability of water through the cedar control is back to where it should be. So that’s really two great positives.”
The work continues.
“As you drive around, we had 23 miles of fence ourselves that we had to rebuild and we’re about a mile away from being done, so it’s been a whole year process,” Jimmy said. “As I drive around the county, I see the $15 million of fence infrastructure that was replaced. That’s all positive.
“Also, the County Commissioners have done a great job of removing trees, safety wise.”
Although Oklahoma experienced 436 wildfires in March 2018, the highest number in a single month last year (2018) came in April with 367,458 acres burned, reported the Oklahoma Forestry Services (OFS) of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry ( ODAFF). Bear in mind that this is only the fires that OFS assisted with or suppressed statewide. The figure does not include fires suppressed by municipal and volunteer fire departments that were not reported.
“The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Oklahoma Forestry Services and local firefighters and many others played significant roles during and after the fires,” Jimmy said. “They helped for several days and did an outstanding job.”
While many days presented all-out-battles, it was April 12 that OFS has called the most challenging single day of last year with numerous large and devastating fires occurring. Two of the larger fires in western Oklahoma were the Rhea Fire (286,196 acres) and the 34 Complex Fire (62,481 acres).
Tragically the fire claimed two lives.
Property, including homes, livestock and equipment were also lost.
“There were lots of negatives,” Jimmy said, “don’t get me wrong.”
Those losses won’t be forgotten. And that’s part of the reason Jimmy is always looking to find something out of the challenges that can be turned into a positive in the future.
For Jimmy those include solid conservation practices.
It can be safely said that Jimmy has embraced conservation practices with the equivalent of a bear hug since taking over Emmons Farm. That’s not to say the previous generations
didn’t exercise good stewardship. It’s just that he has gone full tilt, starting with the implementation of no-till practices on his nearly 2,000 acres of cropland.
Since, he has worked cover crops, crop rotations, and planned grazing management into his farming and ranching for the purpose of reducing soil erosion caused by both wind and water.
These are just a few of the steps he’s taken.
He’s seen the benefits of those efforts.
“I’ve really promoted soil health and have been just really into it for eight years and I can see the difference in our range land, because of our grazing management” he said. “Actually we were able to stop the fire on some of our property because we had cedar control. So we were able to set a backburn and not have it get away from us because of cedars.”
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provided more than $2 million in Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)Financial Assistance dollars covering almost 50,000 acres to help farmers and ranchers with recovery efforts associated with the conservation needs on their farms and ranches in Oklahoma. NRCS offered a sign-up period for the land owners affected by the 2018 and 2017 wildfires in western Oklahoma again in 2019 for EQIP financial assistance consideration as well. At this time, 63 people have applied for funding consideration.
It’s Jimmy’s desire that the view through that windshield will continue to improve with every week, month and year.
# # #
Photo caption, Award Received: On April 12, 2018 Ginger and Jimmy Emmons were in Oklahoma City to receive the state’s first Leopold Conservation Award, given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold. The award – presented by the Sand County Foundation, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation, ITC Holdings Corp. and The Noble Research Institution — recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation by American ranchers, farmers and foresters. They learned that afternoon that back home, wildfires were raging.
Photo caption, Fall2018: The look is different now. Jimmy Emmons shared this photo from last fall of cattle in a cover crop planted for forage.
Photo caption, Wildfires: Jimmy Emmons provided this photo taken on his land in Dewey County on April 12, 2018. ...
2 weeks ago
Congratulations to one of the outstanding NWC Steering Committee originals, Kay Whitlock! One of many quality folks who gave their time to Watershed Projects and assisted in getting the NWC on a path to where we are today. Kay has continued to excel and contribute and this recognition is well deserved.
2019 Friends of PRI Award Goes to Kay Whitlock
Vice President at Rosemont-based CBBEL has served on Advisory Board since 2004
Champaign, Ill. (April 11, 2019) –The University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute (PRI) has selected Rosemont-based engineer Kay Whitlock, PE, D.WRE and Vice President at Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd. (CBBEL) as the recipient of the 2019 Friends of PRI Award.
The award recognizes service and commitment from friends of the Prairie Research Institute in helping the organization meet its mission of being the trusted science authority in service to the state of Illinois.
“Kay Whitlock has been a champion, an advisor, and a protector of the Prairie Research Institute for 15 years,” said PRI Executive Director Mark Ryan. “She has been instrumental in connecting our scientists to external partners and opportunities. Those opportunities resulted in numerous scientific studies that have improved the quality of life of Illinoisans, protected the Illinois environment, and enhanced economic development. Her leadership has made PRI better, more focused, and more effective! PRI is delighted to recognize her for her substantial contributions to our organization, and through us to the state of Illinois.”
In choosing Whitlock for the award, PRI cited her long history of strong support to the institute and its surveys, as well as her dedicated service on the PRI Advisory Board, where she serves as co-chair alongside the University’s Vice Chancellor for Research. Whitlock’s history supporting scientific surveys began as a governor’s appointee to the Illinois Board of Natural Resources and Conservation, a precursor to PRI.
“For her longstanding dedication not only to PRI, but to furthering science and scientific data for the state of Illinois, Kay is a wonderful choice for this award,” said Christopher B. Burke, PhD, PE, D.WRE, Dist.M.ASCE, and President of CBBEL. “We’re all so proud to have Kay’s expertise and enthusiasm on the CBBEL team.”
A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Whitlock joined CBBEL in 2001. She serves as Vice President of the Rosemont, Illinois-based firm, managing multidisciplinary water resource, stormwater and flood control projects. She has decades of experience in the areas of water resource management, stormwater management, flood control, water and natural resource engineering, federal, state and local funding and legislative testimony for project authorizations.
As a part of the Master Civil Engineering team, Whitlock currently manages the hydrology, hydraulics and water resource permitting for the O’Hare Modernization Program. She serves as the project manager for the Ecosystem Restoration Project in the Town of Cedar Lake, Indiana.
Kay is passionate about supporting scientific data and applied science, encouraging minority students to enter engineering and truly fighting to end homelessness in her lifetime.
About the Prairie Research Institute: The Prairie Research Institute (PRI) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides objective expertise, data, and applied research to aid decision making and provide solutions for government, industry, and the people of Illinois. PRI is the home of the state’s five scientific surveys: the Illinois Natural History Survey, Illinois State Archaeological Survey, Illinois State Geological Survey, Illinois State Water Survey, and Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. www.prairie.illinois.edu ...
4 weeks ago
NWC on the move...with TAWS yesterday in Fredericksburg, Texas, 500 miles north in Elk City, OK today with the OACD Leadership Program Class Watershed Program session. OCC Conservation Programs Division Director and long time NWC member Tammy Sawatzky presents to the group. ...
1 month ago
As more and more information makes its way out of Nebraska and its Mid Western neighboring states the magnitude of the severe weather events and subsequent flooding is almost beyond belief. Most of our NWC friends there have checked in and are safe with some “lighter” damage. All are both stressed and inconvenienced by the conditions. We have received requests for info on how the PL 566 infrastructure faired and any benefits it provided. In our opinion when the world is under water and there is so much wide spread damage “it could have been worse...” rings a bit hollow. When our Watershed friends there are on the back side of wrestling with this disaster we will let you know what the post flood assessment is in areas with PL 566 projects.
While Facebook cynicism and sarcasm often mock thoughts and prayers...I’m sure the good folks of Nebraska would appreciate yours.
There are several links on line if you would like to contribute financially to the recovery.
In the mean time..stand by for future updates. ...