Lam Leads Oklahoma Conservation Commission in Multi-Project Mission to Improve State's ResourcesFri, 07 Jul 2017 15:36:49 CDT
Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays invited Trey Lam, executive director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, in studio this week to catch up on the conservation scene here in Oklahoma as of late. Lam sat down with Hays and discussed several projects his office has been working on recently, including the statewide effort to improve the water quality of our streams, the refurbishing of the state’s watershed control program and a recent partnership with the Regional Food Bank on a pilot project to prove the viability of sourcing food from cover crops for low income families. You can hear Lam speak with Hays about these topics and more, by listening to their full recorded conversation from their visit this week. Just click or tap the LISTEN BAR below, located at the bottom of this story.
“We’ve been highly successful in Oklahoma in cleaning up our streams just based on non-point source pollution control by agricultural producers,” Lam said. “We are usually in the top two or three (states) in reductions of nutrients - basically nitrogen and phosphorous is our soils.”
The OCC has proven through its water quality monitoring program that the practices they have put in place are in fact delivering results; cleaning up the water. Lam says there has been particular success with this program seen in the Northeast part of the state, but he says similar results continue to spread throughout Oklahoma’s river systems - all done with the help of the agricultural community.
“The effects we’re having in the rural areas by agricultural producers,” he said, “farmers and ranchers, are cleaning up the water for our urban citizens.”
Aside from keeping water in the state clean, the OCC is also trying to keep it from causing property damage. According to Lam, the OCC oversees 2,107 small dams around rural Oklahoma that provide protection against flooding and helps to control water supplies for small cities and towns. Built nearly 50 years ago, though, most of these dams are at or beyond the life of their usefulness. With changing landscapes and urban sprawl, these dams once located far from towns people, are now either in the way or not able to provide adequate protection. Lam reports that his office is working to update and modernize these structures as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“Through the federal government, through the Farm Bill and Congressman Lucas’ guidance, there’s been money made available to Oklahoma,” he said. “This past year there was $1 million in the state budget set aside specifically to match those federal dollars.”
And just recently, Lam says the OCC has joined the Oklahoma Conservation Partners, along with the Regional Food Bank, to assist in a pilot project designed to improve the soil while at the same time, help to feed Oklahoma’s hungry. Four farmers have been enlisted to participate in this program, where a cover crop, consisting of a variety of fruiting species, has been planted on portions of their farms. While these plants will serve to improve these farmers’ soil, the resulting fruits and vegetables will be gleaned by volunteers and donated to the Regional Food Bank to be distributed locally, to hungry families in need.
“To me, it’s a return to the real conservation ethic of stewardship,” Lam confided. “We’re there to take care of the natural resources that God gave us, not to degrade them, but to restore them and utilize them for the benefit of society and this is just an extension of that. Once we prove that it works, I think there’ll be a lot of people that jump on board.”
Lam will join Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays for his weekly In the Field segment on KWTV News9 in the Oklahoma City area on Saturday morning at 6:40 a.m.
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