Forests and beetles and birds, oh my!

How 264 untouched acres in Oklahoma will preserve habitat, protect endangered species

How do three major organizations collaborate to create a research station with no actual construction?

By preserving and protecting land, that’s how.

The 264 acres protected by Rogers State University (RSU) in Claremore, Oklahoma have served as a scientific field research station for the university for just over a year, now, after being purchased in September 2016.

You might think a research station means a physical edifice of some sort, but there are curiously no visible structures on the land.

“There is actually nothing constructed on the property,” says Ginny Moore, Midwest Field Representative for The Conservation Fund, one of three organizations involved in the project.

Remarks Dr. Keith Martin, Dean and Professor of Biology at RSU: “The station is intended to benefit wildlife habitat and provide educational opportunities for RSU students and faculty, so the land is best left untouched.”

An official dedication of the 264 acres was recently held in November, where about 50 people from the general public and the organizations involved—RSU, The Conservation Fund, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—were in attendance to celebrate the research station.

The conservation of these forested woodlands was made possible, in part, through Enbridge’s Flanagan South Pipeline mitigation fund. The Flanagan South line runs just north of Claremore.

“The station has been really important for our biology department’s research and instructional activities—particularly our environmental conservation program,” says Dr. Martin.

The research station is exclusively used by RSU, with more than 400 faculty and students making visits for research projects to date, and is helping to improve understanding and protection of native upland and wetland woodlands in northeast Oklahoma.

The intent of this tri-partnership is to provide perpetual protection for endangered species such as the American Burying Beetle, certain migratory songbirds, and other sensitive plants and animals.

“This was an excellent project for us to highlight how these mitigation programs can provide a multitude of benefits,” says Moore. “We’re protecting habitat, providing education opportunities, and serving as an economic catalyst for northeastern Oklahoma.”

While The Conservation Fund has historically concentrated its efforts into rural and wildlife areas, Moore says they hope to bolster urban conservation in the coming years, with about 80 per cent of Americans now living in urban centers.

“We believe it’s important that conservation be seen as an opportunity for those that live in urban areas to enjoy the natural world around us as well,” said Moore. “Our hope for the future is to further our reach in this regard, like improving access to healthy food.”

(TOP PHOTO: Official dedication ceremonies were held in November 2017 to celebrate the tri-partnership's dedication of 264 acres in Claremore, Oklahoma.)