With the help of Oklahoma’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the local conservation district, Ottawa County farmer and rancher Samuel Grant Victor Jr. has made his operation more environmentally friendly by completing innovative conservation projects up to five times faster than if he’d gone it alone.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do this work in such a short amount of time without the assistance of the NRCS,” says Victor, a fourth-generation landowner whose property, Victor Ranch, has been in his family since 1891. “I’ve had a lot of great ideas and aspirations, but it’s the NRCS that has helped me turn those dreams into reality. Thanks to them, projects that would have taken me 15 years or so have been completed in just two or three years.”
According to Gary O’Neill, State Conservationist for Oklahoma, the NRCS works with private landowners to design and carry out conservation plans focused on areas like water quality and soil health. Aiming to “help people help the land,” NRCS, along with the local conservation districts, provides technical assistance to landowners through a partnership agreement. Financial assistance is also available from both the federal or conservation district to assist the landowner implement conservation.
“We [the NRCS] will look at a landowner’s property from fence row to fence row and develop a conservation plan that outlines the process from start to finish,” O’Neill says. “We offer suggestions and recommendations for how they can improve their land based on our review, and the landowner can choose what he or she wants to do. We can often provide cost share assistance.”
In Victor’s case, he wanted to provide higher quality water for his cattle and improve soil erosion on his property. He first worked with the NRCS to drill a water well and install livestock watering systems throughout parts of the ranch. He then cross-fenced much of his property to ensure his cattle are grazing in a way that keeps the land fruitful and healthy.
Victor has also collaborated with the NRCS through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to build a fence around 200 acres of his property to ensure his cattle do not have access to Horse Creek, which filters into Grand Lake, and to create a grass barrier between his operation and the creek. Thanks to Victor and the NRCS, the water’s quality will now be higher as it will be free from excess nitrates and phosphates, two chemicals that can create harmful conditions for marine life.
“The NRCS and their programs have helped me in so many ways, and I’m truly thankful,” Victor says. “I can’t imagine taking on these projects without their expertise and their passion, which aligns so well with mine. We want to preserve our land and make it better – not just for us, but also for others and those who will live on this land long
after we’re gone.”
To learn more about the NRCS and the agency’s conservation programs, visit nrcs.usda.gov.