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Passion for Conservation

Passion for Conservation

P.J. Martin, Student Trainee, measuring brush management practice with the GPS
P.J. Martin, Student Trainee, measuring brush management practice with the GPS.

P.J. Martin, Student Trainee, (left) and Mike Van Wyk, Soil Conservationist (right) certify Residue management – Strip till.
Martin (left) and Mike Van Wyk, Soil Conservationist (right) certify Residue management – Strip till.

Rick Schlegel, NRCS Irrigation Engineer, Tom Moeller, producer, and P.J. Martin, NRCS Student Trainee, discuss pressure regulators on a new LPIC Center Pivot Sprinkler that survived extreme hail damage.
Rick Schlegel, NRCS Irrigation Engineer, Tom Moeller, producer, and Martin discuss pressure regulators on a new LPIC Center Pivot Sprinkler that survived extreme hail damage.

P.J. Martin, Student Trainee, measures overflow on Steel Sidewall Watering Facility to ensure that tank is constructed to specifications and provides adequate storage for watering needs.
Martin measures overflow on Steel Sidewall Watering Facility to ensure that tank is constructed to specifications and provides adequate storage for watering needs.

P.J. Martin grew up in the western Oklahoma community of Clinton. While he lived in town, he spent his spare time working on his great uncle’s farm, where he helped with wheat farming, stocker and feeder cattle and a cow calf operation.

As a teenager driving around Custer County, Martin started noticing how different people applied different management practices to their farms and grazing land. These difference in management practices intrigued Martin enough to pursue a degree in rangeland ecology and management from Oklahoma State University.

Currently a senior, Martin spent his summer as an intern in the NRCS Student Career Experience Program (SCEP), working under the direction of District Conservationist Carri Manley in the Beaver field office. This is Martin’s second summer to work for NRCS. Last summer, he worked in the Kingfisher field office as an intern through NRCS’ Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP).

Martin says his favorite part of the job was getting to know the environment of the Panhandle.

“With the drought conditions, it was extreme,” he says. “It showed me the extremes our state has in terms of climate and precipitation.”

While this was Manley’s first time to have an intern in her office, she did have prior experience with the SCEP program. She participated in the student trainee program when she was going to college as a soils major at OSU. She interned in the NRCS office in Altus with Bud Adams.

“I was very fortunate and I had an excellent experience,” Manley says. “I wanted P.J. to have a similar experience. I didn’t want to just stick him in front of the computer. My goal for him was to have a lot of different experiences so he’d have a broad overview of what the NRCS does, the passion, and what the work should entail.

For Manley, that passion comes from working with landowners and respecting them.

“A big thing for me is to treat producers with respect for what they do,” Manley says. “Especially in this part of the world, with the challenges they face.”

Manley says sometimes it is hard for a young person to communicate with an older generation.

“If you are respectful and get to know them and let them teach you something, they will be more open to learning from you,” she says.

“Be respectful of what they have built up and what they are trying to do,” she advises. “Our job is to help them achieve what they are trying to do.”

“I guess I enjoy a challenge,” Manley adds, “because when you are in an area with low precipitation levels the most important thing that I can address as a conservationist is management. Management styles are personal and are difficult for people to change. It’s a process that takes time and patience.

Martin’s passion comes from seeing landowners apply different methods of conservation on their land. Just as when he first noticed the variances in land management practices, Martin appreciates those differences.

“There are different mindsets and different practices applied every where you go” Martin says. “This experience has opened my eyes up to the wide range of differences.”

While he is finishing up his degree at OSU, he is continuing in the SCEP, working in the NRCS State office in Stillwater under the direction of State Resource Conservationist Ken Matlock, and his staff. Martin says he enjoyed getting to work in both the Kingfisher and Beaver offices, and now Stillwater.

“I have enjoyed learning about the different practices applied in each area,” he says. “For example, out in Beaver, there are not as many engineering practices as there were in Kingfisher. They are more into no-till and grazing management practices.”

Martin has had the opportunity to work with soil scientists, range conservationists, engineers and others in various disciplines within NRCS. All of Martin’s supervisors and co-workers have made an effort to expose him to as many experiences as possible. He has done plant species identification, ecological site descriptions and ran range matrixes. He has done soil mapping and testing. He has worked with GPS, and other software while helping engineers design a pond or other conservation practice.

“When I graduate in December, I would still like to work for NRCS in Oklahoma,” Martin says. “If not Oklahoma, then possibly further west.”

Whatever he ends up doing, one thing is certain: P.J. already has a broad foundation, and now education, for his passion for conservation.

By Dee Ann Littlefield, public affairs specialist, Waurika, OK
NRCS September 2008

Last Modified: 09/18/2008

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