Landowner of the Year 2005 - Dale Rich

 

Dale Rich, of Tulsa, was recently named the 2005 Landowner of the Year by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

For 15 years, Rich, along with his family and friends, have worked to improve wildlife habitat on his 3,000-acre property in Okfuskee County.

“Ever since he has owned this property, Dale has been enthusiastic and committed to do everything he can to improve the wildlife habitat on his land. His hard work has paid off. Today, the area is a showcase for what private landowners can accomplish with hard work and dedication for wildlife habitat,” said John Hendrix, private lands biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

“I truly appreciate the honor, but the real thanks should go to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Their knowledge and technical assistance was just invaluable,” Rich said.

According to Hendrix, one of the most effective land management practices Rich has used has been prescribed fire.

“When Mr. Rich first purchased the property it had been neglected for some time. Many of the fields were very overgrown and many of the wooded areas had completely closed canopies which provided limited wildlife benefits,” Hendrix said.

Rich initiated a strategic prescribed fire plan that included creating eight miles of fire guards and 16 separate fire units. Prescribed burning has benefited a wide variety of species including deer, quail and perhaps most dramatically, turkeys. Now abundant year round, turkeys rarely, if ever, inhabited the property a decade ago.

Additionally, Rich has planted trees to stabilize a river bank, constructed a large pond, and conducted many other management practices designed to revive the wildlife habitat on the property, near the North Canadian River.
In addition to improving wildlife habitat, Rich has also made a commitment to sharing the hunting heritage with the next generation. More than 40 kids have harvested their first deer on the property.

“Dale has a real passion for sharing his love of wildlife with friends and family, and particularly with kids. There’s a reason why there are no TVs or video games in the cabin on the property. He wants kids to get outside, go fishing, go hunting and develop their own love for the outdoors,” Hendrix said.

For years the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has worked closely with landowners by providing technical assistance and in some cases financial support for land practices that benefit wildlife. Projects may include fencing, tree planting, timber thinning, wetland restoration and more.