"Points to ponder" for sustaining working lands in our southern Great Plains. Something we all realize, but tend to try and fit into a “one size fits all” conservation process is that not all areas of the country are the same. We have a landscape unique in that Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas are each > 95% private, unlike any other part U.S. or the world. Our southern Great Plains are vitally important for conservation and solely in the hands of private landowners. The concept of public ownership in the southern plains as the only avenue for “conservation as protected lands” is not taken well by the generations of ranchers and farmers who have and continue to manage our landscape well and provide valuable ecosystem services for all Americans.
The average age of private farm & ranch landowners in 2017 is greater than 58 years; this statistic keeps rising, and is up 1.2 years since 2007, confirming a 30-year trend of steady increase. [statistics from https://www.farmland.org/, http://txlandtrends.org/ and http://www.txaglandtrust.org/ ]
Sale or transfer of land to a "new generation" in the next decade is inevitable. What will the “new” land ethic of those who receive that land be? The value of becoming more relevant, developing more emphasis on outreach and informing present and future private landowners cannot be overestimated. The vast majority of farmers and ranchers pass land on to children or other heirs. In fact, this is consistently one of the top reasons they cite for owning land in the Southeast. To find conservation success, we must plan for the expected change!
Native American lands
On another changing demographic, a subset of privately owned lands are held by Native Americans, and Native-owned farms are increasing in number and size in Oklahoma. We are continuing to see more engagement among our tribal partners and want to find ways to support their interest in programs such as bird-friendly beef and native plant and grassland restoration for pollinators.
This series of maps produced by the South Central Climate Science Center tells the story. . .
Moreover, a new initiative, the Tribal Alliance for Pollinators (TAP) is set to kick off on September 28, 2017 with an Inaugural event at Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma.
TAP is envisioned as an innovative consortium whose goal is to provide technical support to tribes in Oklahoma and throughout North America seeking to restore native plants to their Tribal lands. This is a new, native-led initiative to unite native peoples in promoting habitat restoration for monarchs, pollinators, and native grassland ecosystems, which will also benefit cultural traditions.
TAP will focus on:
developing native seed banks;
creating an outreach platform to distribute information;
hosting a conference on ecological and cultural significance of native plants and restoration on tribal lands; and
on-site technical training to Tribal staff.