Conserving our Natural Inheritance

Expressing our Appreciation 
for the Good Work of Ben Pollard
and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission

If you remember the days of The Dust Bowl — the period of drought and dust storms that struck the plains states in the 1930’s — you probably have a good sense of appreciation for the vital work of Ben Pollard, the winner of our 2013 Public Service Award.

Mr. Pollard is the assistant director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, a state agency that promotes the conservation of our state’s natural resources.

The Conservation Commission was created in 1937 in response to the Dust Bowl, the worst man-made disaster in American history. The Commission, working in partnership with local conservation districts and the federal Natural Resources Conservation, provides technical, financial and educational assistance to landowners to protect and conserve the state’s soil and water resources. The vision of the Commission is “Responsible Care for Oklahoma’s Natural Resources.”

We think Mr. Pollard is an exemplary choice for our Public Service Award. His professional accomplishments reflect a commitment to excellence and innovation in government.

Mr. Pollard is a career public employee working 35 years for the OCC, the last 22 as Assistant Director. During that time he has worked on a number of initiatives to advance conservation in the state. They include:

(1) Development of a state funded conservation cost share program for landowners to install conservation practices;

(2) Establishment of a water quality program to monitor and assess nonpoint source pollution and initiatives for landowners to prevent nutrients from their land entering Oklahoma waterways;

(3) Development of an abandoned mine reclamation program to reclaim both surface and underground mine areas in eastern Oklahoma;

(4) Facilitation of operation maintenance and repair to the state’s 2,100 flood control dams which protect the lives and property of Oklahomans statewide;

(5) Preparation of a $25 million dollar conservation bond program (passed by the legislature) to repair flood control dams damaged during 2007 Hurricane Erin causing public safety issues.

Beyond Mr. Pollard’s personal commitment to serve the people of our state, we’re proud to honor the members of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and their professional staff. 

The programs of the Conservation Commission are somewhat unique in that they are voluntary and not regulatory. The philosophy of our award winner and the agency is that government can and should work cooperatively with landowners to address soil erosion and water quality issues.

Win / Win results are possible when landowners can maintain productive agricultural operations while also protecting natural resources for future generations.

Ben Pollard has devoted his career to building the kind of relationships with landowners statewide that lead them to a commitment of time and finances to protect their land. Many hours have been spent developing ways to communicate and share information about innovative farming techniques that protect soil and water. Local, regional and state meetings where landowners meet face to face for discussion and idea sharing are one method. Mr. Pollard initiates and plans these meetings.

Our recognition of Mr. Pollard is the result of a nomination and selection process that we launched after our Spring Meeting earlier this year.

Mr. Pollard was nominated by long-time UNA-USA member Dorothy Messenger, who lived for a while in the Texas Panhandle during the Dust Bowl years. 

In making her recommendation, Dorothy wrote about Mr. Pollard’s commitment to “social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” (a phrase borrowed from the UN Charter):

“The nominee believes that lessons for social progress and a better standard of life in the future are sometimes best learned from the mistakes of the past. The Dust Bowl of the 1930’s taught that ignoring the lessons of the land had dire consequences affecting livelihood and lives on the Great Plains. 

“Filmmaker Ken Burns documented this disaster by interviewing Dust Bowl survivors from the southern Great Plains. Before airing the resulting film in Oklahoma, Mr. Burns asked OETA to help promote the program. The nominee worked closely with the OETA staff and other partners to coordinate previews in six Oklahoma cities. Screenings were followed by a community discussion about today’s conservation issues and challenges. The screenings attracted over 3,000 participants. In addition, OETA produced six news pieces on related natural resource problems in the state. 

“Mr. Pollard served on the team that developed message content, organized and promoted these events. The result was The Dust Bowl, one of the highest rated shows in OETA history. Recently, OETA has been notified that its partnership with the Conservation Commission and other agencies has been honored with a regional Emmy nomination under the community service category. The nominee considers this accolade by the television industry as a career highlight because of the number of citizens reached with the conservation message during the airing of ‘The Dust Bowl.’ 

“Reminding Oklahomans of this powerful lesson of the past has given the nominee and others energy to carry on with the day to day urgent work of keeping conservation practices in place on the land.” 

An important mission of many UN agencies is the conservation of our world’s natural inheritance — including the soil and water which sustain us all.

We’re pleased to present our 2013 UNA-OKC Public Service Award to Mr. Ben Pollard.

“Conservation is not something that is achieved, but is a continual process.” 
–Ben Pollard

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