Many Oklahomans do a great job enhancing and maintaining wildlife habitat, and the Wildlife Department’s 2020 Landowner Conservationist of the Year is among those elite that go above and beyond for wildlife and for youth.
Trepper Farms, established in 2015, is owned and managed by Troy Flax and Pepper Martin, both of Norman. The 320-acre Pottawatomie County property is home to an abundance of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, bobwhite quail, mourning dove, and waterfowl, but this hasn’t always been the case.
Dense forest cover and degraded grasslands were more of the norm prior to 2015. Since then, the vision and passion shared by each owner has led to a consistent commitment to restore, enhance, maintain, and even create habitats desirable to an array of species. Game and non-game species alike have found a liking to Trepper Farms, and the shared vision of the owners continues today.
One of the first calls made by Mr. Flax was to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Private lands biologists helped create a habitat management plan for the property and provided technical assistance through the Department’s cost-share Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program.
Establishing a prescribed burning program, thinning dense forests, and removing cedar tree cover were some of the projects that began to take shape.
But the technical assistance didn’t stop with ODWC. Trepper Farms has also received invaluable guidance from Oklahoma Forestry Services, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Noble Research Institute, either by in-person visits or through field days or online resources.
One of the largest projects immediately undertaken was to repair a washed out pond dam. However, the work didn’t stop with just a quick repair. Instead, the half-acre pond was enlarged to nearly three acres. Fish structure was added in the form of sunken trees and gravel beds and the pond was enhanced through seeding and planting. Today, the previously erodible areas are covered in vegetation and the water clarity is excellent.
Owners of Trepper Farms added gravel to several ponds, creating excellent habitat and spawning beds for fish. (Troy Flax)
Perhaps one of the greatest achievements on the 320 acres is the presence of several coveys of wild bobwhite quail. In general, dense tree cover intermixed with degraded grassland habitats spell disaster for quail numbers. However, cross timbers habitat can attract and provide what quail require if managed properly, and that is exactly what Trepper Farms has provided through a combination of prescribed burning, hardwood thinning, cedar clearing, disking, and planting.
Forest openings are a great way to enhance dense forest cover for wildlife. (Kyle Johnson/ODWC)
Eastern redcedar trees threaten the health of thousands of acres across Oklahoma. Removing dense cedar cover helps restore the grassland and greatly enhances plant and wildlife diversity. (Kyle Johnson/ODWC)
Sharing the resource and providing opportunities for today’s youth are also a true passion for each owner. Although hunting leases are so popular today, Trepper Farms is not leased for any recreational activity. Instead, the 320 acres is open to family and friends for hunting, fishing, and many other recreational events. Even more, in excess of 10 youth events are held annually on Trepper Farms. Each owner believes that today’s youth should have a place to go, learn, and enjoy what Oklahoma’s outdoors has to offer, and youth events will continue to remain a high priority for the future.
Certainly, there is no “one size fits all” management strategy that applies to every property, but starting with a vision and growing a passion are great starting points. Trepper Farms offers a great example of what a little vision and passion can do for wildlife and for those that enjoy the outdoors. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is pleased to showcase Trepper Farms as Oklahoma’s 2020 Landowner Conservationist of the Year.