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News Release

Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes to Launch Landmark Soil Health Project

Gary O'Neill and Governor Hamilton Sign Agreement.Governor Eddie Hamilton of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and Gary O’Neill, State Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Oklahoma, today announced a groundbreaking agreement to harness and share the latest in conservation technologies to improve soil health and make Oklahoma’s farms and ranches more resilient.

The new partnership will establish a demonstration farm on Tribal lands to showcase the effectiveness of soil health practices such as no-till and cover crops to increase land productivity, reduce environmental impacts and build resiliency to drought and flood compared to conventional farming techniques.

“The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes treasure our land and natural resources,” said Hamilton. “We welcome the opportunity to improve our stewardship and build something even greater for the next generation.”

When the farm is fully established this spring, the Tribes will host public demonstrations of both how to implement the latest in soil health practices as well as how these practices benefit ranching operations and the environment. NRCS soil and ecological scientists along with key staff from USDA’s El Reno Climate hub will provide expert analysis and presentations in support of the Tribes’ outreach activities.

“Native American Tribes have a tremendous capacity to implement effective conservation on a large scale in Oklahoma. We jumped at the chance to work with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes on this. Through their leadership, both tribal and non-tribal farmers and ranchers will gain increased access to the knowledge and resources they need to be successful. If we’re going to be serious about improving soil health and making farming operations more sustainable, we’ve got to build new partnerships and work with everyone,” said O’Neill.

Years of drought interjected by flood have pushed many Oklahoma farmers to turn to soil health practices in an effort to retain more soil moisture, protect soil from erosion or even just to stay in business. But the impacts of soil health reach far beyond the farm.

"Farmers and ranchers need to do all they can to harden their operations to extreme weather events," said Clay Pope with the USDA Southern Plains Climate Hub. "By improving soil health you increase your organic matter and the biological activity under the ground. Studies have shown that just a 1% increase in organic matter can triple the soils water holding capacity, thus increasing our ability to hold on to sub-soil moisture and better weather droughts. The same practices that increase organic matter also help control erosion, so when we have heavy rains, we hold on to our topsoil."

News release: Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes to Launch Landmark Soil Health Project (PDF, 234 KB)

JPEG: Governor Hamilton of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and Gary O'Neill, State Conservationist for NRCS in Oklahoma, review the agreement establishing the soil health demonstration farm. (JPEG, 2.1 MB)