State Conservationist Gary O'Neil Inducted Into Oklahoma Conservation Hall Of FameTue, 25 Feb 2020 14:52:41 CST
A long, winding path has taken Oklahoma native Gary O'Neil from an Osage County diary, through several states, to his current position as USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist for Oklahoma.
His 37-year journey was celebrated Feb. 24 as he was inducted into the Oklahoma Conservation Hall of Fame as a Friend of Conservation. The ceremony was held during the annual banquet for the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts.
Sam Knipp had the opportunity to talk with O'Neil following the induction ceremony.
"It is very humbling to be in the same discussion with some of the many great individuals who have worked on conservation in Oklahoma," O'Neil said.
Armed with a degree in agriculture economics from Oklahoma State University, O'Neil started his conservation career in 1983 when he was hired to work on the economic benefits of implementing conservation measures focusing on watershed programs in Oklahoma.
Career moves advanced O'Neil to similar positions in New Mexico and Wisconsin. He returned to Oklahoma in 2004 and was appointed State Conservationist in 2013.
One of his priorities is to convince farmers and landowners that conservation practices must be profitable and sustainable.
"We're in the business of selling conservation," O'Neil said.
Throughout his career, O'Neil is convinced conservation practices are especially needed in Oklahoma.
"We have drastic swings in weather, plus some fragile soils," O'Neil said. "The challenges that we see here are unique, and conservation can help act as a buffer against the elements."
O'Neil added there is no doubt of the benefits of conservation."We've seen many success stories."
To listen to our interview with O'Neil, click on the listen button below.
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