Thralls Retiring from Oklahoma Conservation CommissionThu, 28 Aug 2014 12:01:31 CDT
After serving as the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission for the past seventeen years, Mike Thralls is retiring from the agency as of September first. A retirement reception will be held for Mike Thralls on Thursday, September 4th 1:30 - 3:30 pm at the Oklahoma Conservation Commission 2800 N. Lincoln Boulevard Oklahoma City, Okla. There will be a formal presentation at 2 pm.
Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm News Director Ron Hays sat down with Thralls to reflect on his career with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission under three governors. He said during his tenure his agency has targeted three major areas with flood control, water quality and soil health. Click on the LISTEN BAR below to hear the full interview.
In going through a drought, Thralls said the importance of flood control is not readily recognizable. The state's flood control projects deliver $85 million dollars worth of benefits annually from a infrastructure worth $2 billion dollars. Improvements to the state's watershed infrastructure will be renovated over this next year due to funding provided through the 2014 Farm Bill. Thralls credits House Ag Chairman and Congressman Frank Lucas for his leadership in providing funding the state rehabilitate 14 high hazard dams across Oklahoma.
Protecting the state's water resources for drinking, recreation and industry has also been especially important. Thralls said Oklahoma has had considerable success in showing progress in implementing voluntary conservation practices to a particular watershed. He credited the state's monitoring system monitoring hundreds of streams annually in a rotating fashion. To date Oklahoma has taken 45 streams off the Environmental Protection Agency's impaired streams listing.
"Farmers are natural stewards," Thralls said. "They for the most part they value that land and they want it better for their kids then they got it and they want to do the right thing, especially if we can show them it won't negatively impact their bottom line and that's what have been able to do and I am very pleased with that. "
No-Till and conservation tillage has become more widely adopted across the state. Thralls admits it not easy to get farmers to put away the plow, as it's hard to change something you've done for 40 years. He said their rainfall simulator has been able to show after a heavy rain conventionally tilled soil will seal over and will keep the rain from soaking into the soil. He said that's exactly opposite of what farmers were taught. Thralls said he switched to no-till eight years ago and he has no intention to go back, but that is providing technology and chemicals will continue to stay ahead of weed control, then he won't have to put steel in the ground again.
"We farm the organic matter out of our soils, if you are conventional farming you don't have much organic matter left," Thralls said. "The idea of cover crops and where that's appropriate and how that works and how we can build back in that natural tilth to the soil is incredibly important."
Reducing tillage has become very important especially with the state's volatile weather. Thralls said Oklahoma is in a cycle of extreme weather and in recent years the state has seen the impact of heavy rain from Hurricane Erin in 2007. The state has also experience drought comparable to the 1930's with record wind and record temperatures.
"If we clean tilled the state like we were in the 20s and 30s we would have blown away again," Thralls said.
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