(Bill Wilson, president of the National Association of Conservation Districts and member of the Haskell County Conservation District board of directors, delivered the following remarks at at a tour of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission's Club Lake West Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Project on Dec. 14, 2005.)
I am happy to be here today to celebrate the start of this important conservation project. This work has been a long time coming. The Haskell County Conservation District has had this project at the top of their priority list for many years. The planning process has been long and tedious. We are finally seeing progress being made and dirt being moved.
I want to commend those who have worked so long and hard to see this project begun. Special thanks go to Virginia Kidd, Bob Byrum and Henry Roye for their efforts. There are many others who have been involved and my thanks go to them also.
What we are seeing here today is made possible in part by the Office of Surface Mining, Abandoned Mine Land Division. Without the resources made possible for reclamation of abandoned mine lands this could not have happened. The United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service has played a large role by providing resources for planning assistance. The Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Abandoned Mine Lands Division, have played a major role. They are the folks who work daily to locate, prioritize, plan and implement projects like this. My thanks go out to all these.
On the other hand some agencies are missing an opportunity to get active in this project. On August 26, 2004, President Bush issued Executive Order Facilitation of Cooperative Conservation. The order directs federal agencies to work together in “Cooperative Conservation”. The U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, The Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Bureau of Land Management each have areas of interests that are being addressed here and could be assisting with this project. Those agencies have been contacted and requests have been made by the Haskell County Conservation District.
I urge the White House Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, Mr. James Connaughton to request those agencies consideration of involvement in this project. It could be an excellent opportunity for them to show their willingness to share the President’s view of Cooperative Conservation. The people of the City of McCurtain would appreciate it. The citizens of Haskell County and the State of Oklahoma would take notice. Conservationists all across this county would applaud the effort.
I thank each one for being here and participating in this momentous occasion. Thanks for inviting me here today.