Buy Your Eco Pass- Help Oklahoma ConservationTue, 26 Oct 2010 7:25:35 CDT
Secretary of Environment J.D. Strong and Secretary of Agriculture Terry Peach joined forces today with conservation and agriculture leaders to kick off the new Oklahoma ECOpass program, a new partnership between Conservation and Tourism that allows People coming to visit Oklahoma a way to lower the environmental footprint of their trip while rewarding those farmers, ranchers and other landowners who undertake natural resource conservation on their land.
“Too often environmental protection and production agriculture are cast as mutually exclusive. The new ECOpass program highlights what we can accomplish working hand-in-hand,” said J.D. Strong, Secretary of Environment for the State of Oklahoma. “With this new program we are not only helping visitors to Oklahoma offset the environmental impact of their trip,” added Strong, “but also supporting the invaluable efforts of our farmers, ranchers and other landowners to protect our natural resources by providing financial incentives for good conservation work on their land. This is a win-win for everyone.”
The ECOpass program is part of the new effort by the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation to market the state to environmentally conscious tourist through their ECO program. A recent U.S. Travel Association Study has shown that nearly half of all travelers in the United States want to support environmentally friendly locations and businesses even during the economic downturn. The ECOpass program gives these travelers an option to offset the environmental impact of their trip by purchasing credits generated by conservation practices undertaken by farmers and ranchers on their land such as no-till and strip-till farming, grass plantings, tree plantings and improved pasture management. All of these practices are encouraged by the Conservation Districts of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to reduce non-point source pollution in water, conserve soil, improve wildlife habitat and sequester carbon. Research shows that these improvements to the land can store or ‘sequester’ anywhere from .5 to 1.2 metric tons of carbon in soil per acre, per year, helping reduce overall carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere while addressing other natural resource concerns like soil conservation or non-point source pollution control.
According to Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Terry Peach, this new program highlights the benefits of conservation on the land and shows the work being done to protect Oklahoma’s environment.
“Those of us in production agriculture like to think of ourselves as the original environmentalists, that’s why I am excited about this great program” Peach said. “The ECOpass provides an additional incentive to landowners to practice conservation and highlights the great work happening in Oklahoma. Our producers are striving to address natural resource concerns as they feed and clothe the world.”
Hardy Watkins, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation said that ECOpasses are currently available through his departments webstore for $5, $15, and $30 denominations. The money generated from the sale of will be paid to participating agriculture producers through the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Oklahoma Carbon Initiative, a program that works with producers wishing to sell environmental credits generated by conservation work done on their land. Click here to visit their Travel Webstore that offers these carbon offsets.
“The Tourism Department works to offer more sustainable choices for visitors traveling in and to Oklahoma,” said Hardy Watkins, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. “The ECOpass is a meaningful way to both reduce a traveler’s environmental impact while also benefitting Oklahoma farmers and ranchers who are implementing sustainable practices.”
According to OACD President Trey Lam this new partnership is another way conservation districts and the Oklahoma Conservation Partnership are helping landowners conserve the state’s Natural Resources.
“This new initiative with Tourism is a great way to promote conservation of our natural resources, reward good stewardship of the land and highlight the good work that is going on in Oklahoma,” Lam said. “By facilitating the sale of these credits to folks who are coming to Oklahoma we are helping promote sustainable tourism while showcasing the ongoing efforts to protect our environment. This is a great program that helps showcase Oklahoma nationally and puts dollars in the pocket of those folks going the extra mile to protect our natural resources. This is a great program and we are excited to be a part of it.”
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