DRUMMOND, Okla. — With the last parcel of the Drummond Flats Wildlife Management Area now in the hands of the state, conservationists, sportsmen and state employees gathered at the site Saturday to celebrate the acquisition, and commemorate a volunteer who helped make it happen.
Ducks Unlimited, a nationwide nonprofit focused on the conservation of waterfowl habitat, purchased 125 acres of privately owned wetland basin set amidst the wildlife area two years ago, handing it off to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation this summer. With that, the entire Drummond Flats management area of nearly 5,000 acres, is under ODWC’s auspices.
Ducks Unlimited and ODWC have been working for years to acquire privately held parcels in and around the flood-prone ecosystem. The recently entrusted 125 acres was the last piece. Though a relatively small swath, it’s not just any ordinary land, but 125 acres of wetland basin, which is “key to the whole puzzle” of the Drummond Flats management area, ODWC employees said.
The amount of wetland in the area ebbs and flows depending on rainfall, but can reach up to 4,000 acres during periods of extreme flooding. This propensity for retaining moisture makes the Flats a popular stop for migratory birds along the way to their seasonal destinations. In turn, hunters flock to the spot as well.
They come from Enid, Oklahoma City and beyond, but the most frequent visitors are airmen from Vance Air Force Base, ODWC’s Chief of Wildlife Division, Alan Peoples said.
“Those kids come here from all over the country and a lot of them like to hunt,” Peoples said.
Members of Ducks Unlimited and the ODWC met off of Oklahoma 132 outside the town of Drummond to reveal a new plaque at the conservation site, and to dedicate the project to former Ducks Unlimited volunteer Charles Hurlburt, who died in the fall of 2015.
An avid sportsman, Hurlburt served as the non profit’s Oklahoma chairman for three years, raising big money for wetlands conservation work, current chairman Richard Godfrey said. Shortly after Hurlburt’s death, a tribute dinner was held to honor him, raising another $75,000 in his name.
Those funds, along with contributions from the Treeman Family Foundation, were used to buy the final acreage.
The sellers were really quite willing, according to Peoples.
Much of the Flats has been farmland at one point or another, though not especially good for it. People toiled at it, built ditches to drain it, but there’s only so much that can be done.
“They’ve tried to farm this land for 100 years, and the problem is it floods,” he said. Besides the potential for waterlogged crops, flooding creates high alkalinity soil.
So over the years, it wasn’t too difficult convincing most property owners to part ways with their parcels, Peoples said, and the final negotiations were no exception.
“When we approached them, they said “You bet, good luck with that.”
More than agreeable, some sellers were even supportive.
“A lot of them sold it to us because they just knew it was the right thing to do,” he said. “We’re stewards of the environment and they know when we own it, it’s ours into perpetuity. This will be public land forever.”