Oklahoma www.ok.govOklahoma Conservation Commission

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Illinois Jones mascot

Don't Be a Trasher!

Otis Bennett was the first to play Illinois Jones, official mascot of the Illinois River.

Longtime Conservationist Retires

Otis Bennett, Special Projects Coordinator for the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, is retiring from state service on Jan. 31, 2006. Mr. Bennett’s distinguished conservation career spanned nearly fifty years with two conservation agencies.

For the past 15 years Otis has worked on water quality issues for the Conservation Commission’s Water Quality Division in the Cherokee County Conservation District office in Tahlequah. He was responsible for designing projects to assist landowners with the installation of conservation practices to reduce pollution entering streams and rivers.

In his career with the Conservation Commission Mr. Bennett has overseen projects in the Eucha Lake watershed in Delaware County, the Illinois River watershed in Cherokee and Adair Counties and the Wister Lake watershed in LeFlore and Latimer Counties.

Last April Mr. Bennett was recognized by the Oklahoma House of Representatives as an ‘Architect of our Success’ in protecting Oklahoma’s environment. This recognition was in part for Mr. Bennett’s work on the Beaty Creek watershed project in the Lake Eucha Watershed. During that five year project voluntary conservation practices installed by landowners reduced phosphorus entering Beaty Creek by 14 percent.

Otis BennettAnother milestone in Mr. Bennett’s career was 1997 when the Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in Region 6 presented him with their Environmental Excellence Award. Around Tahlequah and Cherokee County Otis may best be remembered for helping create Illinois Jones, the mascot of the Illinois River that attends many environmental events in the area. Illinois Jones was a project of Mr. Bennett’s and the Cherokee County Conservation District.

Prior to working for the Conservation Commission Otis had a 33 year career with USDA’s Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resources Conservation Service). From 1980 until his retirement in 1991 Otis was the Coordinator for the Cherokee Hills Resource Conservation and Development Association headquartered in Tahlequah. Prior to coming to Tahlequah Mr. Bennett was the District Conservationist for the Soil Conservation Service in Jay. Mr. Bennett is a native of Tuttle, Oklahoma, and began his work with the Soil Conservation Service in 1958 in Chickasha. He worked in several Soil Conservation Service offices in southwest Oklahoma and is a graduate of Cameron University in Lawton.

According to Mike Thralls, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission Mr. Bennett provided outstanding service to the agency and brought a wealth of conservation experience to the water quality program. “Otis has had a distinguished career conserving Oklahoma’s soil and water resources. We will miss his leadership and commitment in helping landowners with their conservation needs.”