By Jim Roth | Guest Columnist
April 16, 2012
We Oklahomans “know we belong to the land/And the land we belong to is grand,” Oscar Hammerstein wrote in the classic song Oklahoma!
And so this time of year, it’s especially important to make sure we are living lives with our grand land in mind.
Earth Day is almost here. In less than a week, people from around the world and all walks of life will take a little time to contemplate the environment and how their day-to-day activities affect the health of our planet. For most of us, however, this exercise of reflection rarely results in significant action.
Sure, we change out our old light bulbs for compact florescent lamps or we redouble our commitment to recycling, but our ability to make major change is often hampered by our manner of living. When you have only your house, car and your yard to manage, you often feel that any effort you make to improve the environment is equivalent to a raindrop in the ocean – not meaningless, but of small significance when judged against its surroundings.
The good news is that there is a way that Oklahomans can make a large-scale difference in the health of our state’s ecosystem through efforts to affect activity on large tracts of land. Through the efforts of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, or OACD, Oklahomans can now help pay for conservation stewardship undertaken by farmers and ranchers throughout our state to protect our soil, water, air and wildlife habitats. By purchasing an ECOpass through OACD, Oklahomans can offset the effect of their day-to-day activities by helping these agriculture producers undertake conservation practices. These practices include taking marginal land out of crop production and converting it back to grass, changing conventional tillage crop production to no-till or strip-till production, restoring the riparian areas next to streams and implementing more sustainable pasture and forestry management. By undertaking these practices, these landowners are reducing erosion, taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, controlling non-point-source pollution and reducing fuel usage.
For as little as $5, we can purchase an acre of conservation to help reduce some of the biggest environmental challenges our state is facing while helping to mitigate our own effects on our ecosystem. For most of us, it would take a purchase of 40 acres per year to offset the majority of our day-to-day activities. In addition, we would get the benefit of keeping our environmental activities local. The dollars we spend on ECOpass stay in our state, helping Oklahoma’s economy while also helping our own environment. Dollars spent on an ECOpass would go to protect water systems like the North Canadian/Oklahoma River or the Illinois River. These funds would go to improve forestry management in southeast Oklahoma instead of South America. Oklahomans can help themselves by helping our neighbors help the environment. It’s a win-win-win for everyone.
For information on the ECOpass program, visit www.ECOpassOK.com or call Clay Pope, executive director of OACD, at (405) 699-2087.
This year, let’s do more than just contemplate saving the planet. Let’s take some bold steps to make a difference. For many of us a program like ECOpass is a good way to do just that.
Thank you, Oklahomans!
Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.