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2004 - First Lady's Award - Oklahoma Chapter of the Nature Conservancy

It was the famous Blackfoot warrior, Crowfoot, who said over a century ago that "life is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime." Helping to breathe more life into Oklahoma Chapter of The Nature Conservancy this past spring and summer were a hundred artistically painted fiberglass buffaloes grazing across Oklahoma.

The Conservancy's Spirit of the Buffalo fund raising project also was an exciting and highly visible way of introducing the work and supporters of the organization to the general public. The grazing buffalo - a recognizable icon of the state's power, its peace and its quiet - helped to shape Oklahoma natural landscapes for hundreds of years. In fact, the Conservancy still uses buffalo at its nationally renowned Tall Grass Prairie Preserve to restore the landscape much as it was before civilization encroached.

We're proud to honor the Oklahoma Chapter of The Nature Conservancy today with Keep Oklahoma Beautiful's second-ever First Lady's Award. The Spirit of the Buffalo project is the latest success in the Conservancy's 18-year history of protecting and preserving our state's natural landscapes and habitats.

Starting fifteen years ago with the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Osage County, the Conservancy has protected large tracts of land throughout the state. In this past year, the Conservancy completed its first large-scale land acquisition in western Oklahoma. In a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, a 3,400-acre mixed grass prairie, called the Four Canyons Nature Preserve, was created along the Canadian River in Ellis County.

With management provided by the Conservancy's staff, this preserve has a great potential to meet the habitat needs for an array of wildlife species, including several listed nationally as "threatened." It's also expected the Four Canyons Nature Preserve will increase recreational opportunities such as controlled hunting in western Oklahoma.

Thanks to the loving work of its volunteers and supporters, the Conservancy now protects nearly 84,000 acres of Oklahoma's habitat, an area about twice the size of the city of Lawton. For its wise blending of science and survival and for its creative stewardship of our last great places, The Nature Conservancy is a beautiful idea for Oklahoma and a most worthy recipient of our First Lady's Award for 2004.