The Osage Nation Ranch was presented with the annual statewide Conservationist of the Year award at the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts annual meeting on Feb. 28.
Present to accept the award were the former board of directors and current consultants Ladd Oldfield, Hank Hainzinger, Galen Crum, and Ranch Manager Mike Alexander.
According to a National Resource Conservation Service (NCRS) statement: “This award recognizes a cooperating agriculture producer who has excelled in the application of conservation practices and demonstrates a genuine concern for the care and protection of natural resources in Oklahoma. This award goes to that producer who embodies the spirit of locally-led natural resource conservation to the fullest extent of his or her ability.”
The Ranch was nominated by their local NCRS representative and Soil Conservation Technician, Dean Collier. In his nomination, Collier wrote that Alexander and the previous ONR board of directors had worked closely with local NCRS representatives to develop a five-year ranch-wide Conservation Plan which includes spraying for invasive species, grazing management, prescribed burning, and building ponds to enhance stock water and control soil erosion.
“ONR LLC has been wonderful to work with as they have implemented every practice suggestion made [by] NRCS as their goal is to improve conservation of the land,” Collier wrote in his nomination.
ONR consultant and former board chairman Galen Crum said in a phone call that conservation has been at the heart of the Ranch’s goals from the beginning.
“When we took on the Ranch it was a high potential piece of ground but had been neglected for at least fifteen years,” Crum said.
The Osage Nation purchased the Ranch from Ted Turner in 2017. The former Ranch board and management began working with NCRS approximately five years ago to develop a multi-year plan which Crum says is already paying dividends by making more land available for grazing and thereby raising the stocking rates. Through the partnership with NCRS, the Ranch has been able to access USDA cost-sharing programs to partially offset the costs of the Conservation Plan implementation.
“The main thing to realize is that the goal from the beginning was to make that ranch much better than what we found it and the land more valuable to the Osage than when it was purchased,” Crum said.