The Woodward News

Local News

April 18, 2014

Filing period set for conservation boards

Woodward County agricultural producer Jerry Hunter is mainly a cattleman.

Oh, he's got a little irrigation and does some forage and feed grass sowing for his cattle to graze. Yet for the most part, Hunter said he spends his time with his cow-calf and stocker operation.

But really, Hunter does a lot more than he thinks.

That's because he has served for, he "ain't real sure just how long", on the District 58 Conservation District as a member of the board of directors, said the even tempered and jovial rancher.

For the last year, he's been the Chairman of the Board, a post which rotates yearly with other members of the 5-man board of directors for each of the 87 districts in Oklahoma.

"They want each one of them to get a chance to lead," said Woodward County Conservation District 58 secretary, Maria Rodriguez-Cabrales

Right now, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission  is providing notice that Oklahoma's conservation districts will be holding elections for board members across the state.

According to Rodriguez-Cabrales, each district has five members to the board. Three are elected by registered voters in their district and two are appointed to positions by the state Conservation Commission.

The filing period for the board member positions is May 1 through 14, 2014.

To qualify for the positions, you need to be a landowner, a registered voter and be able to enter into a cooperator agreement with the conservation district, which you will serve, Rodriguez-Cabrales said.

Primarily, a board member will attend a once a month board meeting, she said.

The election is scheduled for Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Locations and polling stations will be determined at the close of the filing period and then announced.

According to Rodriguez-Cabrales, there is a critical need for more local producers and landowners to become involved in helping the conservation district roll out programs that help area ranchers and farmers become even better stewards of their lands.

Someone who was elected to serve on the board helps determine the focus each year on programs such as "cost share" whereby the conservation district helps a farmer or rancher perform conservation work on his land.

For instance, a rancher might want to create terraces on his land but cannot afford to pay for the whole project. Terraces help prevent water erosion by slowing water runoff during heavy rain events.

In this case, board members were the ones who set up guidelines regulating and helping a rancher have access to cost sharing for that project.

There are myriad programs managed by the conservation district, including forage grass research programs and many more that are overseen by board members, Rodriguez-Cabrales said.

The Conservation Commission is attempting to get the word out about the filing period for the election so producers become more active in the management of the funds and how they impact the local region, Rodriguez-Cabrales said.

That's because this is an opportunity for local producers, who know more about their regions, to have an impact on how federal dollars are applied here, she said.

But that is just one of the reasons Hunter serves on the board. The other is that he's civic minded, also serving as a member of the volunteer fire department in Harmon and has been a part of an event called the "Cedar Rodeo."

The Cedar Rodeo is a conservation event where locals and OSU conservationists gather and cut down cedar trees and teach local ranchers and farmers how to perform safe and effective prescribed burning, Hunter said.

Hunter was present in 1987 at the first "Cedar Rodeo" and has been actively interested in conservation efforts for this area since, he said.

"The reason I do it is because I enjoy conservation and seeing the improvement in the land and helping people improve their land," Hunter said.

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