My name is Hal McKnight. For my entire life I have held one dream above all others. That dream has been to improve and restore habitat. This dream has come true because of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.
We started working with Johntie Aldrich from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the 1990's on land that has been in our family for 5 generations. Many neighbors thought I had lost my mind when we created wetlands across prime grazing land in Southern Oklahoma. Over 200 acres of wetland projects have proven their profound effects. Creation of these projects has greatly benefited our cattle operation by spreading out both available water and grazing. Additionally, strategically placed wetlands prevent soil erosion.
Kevin Costner in the movie "A Field of Dreams" stated, "Build it and they will come." Unfortunately, not one dead baseball player has appeared at our sites, but countless species of waterfowl and wildlife have.
We have lost half the wetlands in the United States since 1950. Loss of habitat has resulted in a doubling of species placed on the Endangered and Threatened Lists.
The Partners Program is a bright burning star in this darkness. It's a wonderful government program. A true volunteer partnership program that works very well, except for one thing.
The one thing this program lacks is annual funding. If this can be obtained everyone involved will feel like they just won the lottery!
Our wetland projects have received both local and national attention. In 1994, I was greatly honored to receive the National Wetlands Conservation Award to the private sector. Local awards have included recognition from the Oklahoma Wildlife Federation.
Several documentary films and large publications have featured our wetlands. Readers Digest in 1999 did an article called Champions of the Wild on our sites.
A photographer was dispatched from Los Angeles to take my picture for the article. She asked me to stand in a marsh holding a saddle over one shoulder and a shovel over the other and to look 'stoic'.
Half of the responses concerned wetland and half inquired about stud service, exclusively about Hawk, my Lab.
In all seriousness, public awareness for the Partners Program is essential. Part of that responsibility is owned by cooperates like myself.
There are zillions of people that, like myself, wish to be good stewards of lands and water. The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program allow that to happen. It has been a true privilege to be a cooperator in the Partners Program.
I greatly appreciate the time and effort of Johntie Aldrich and everyone at the Tulsa office of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
I hold deep gratitude for the champions of this program. Senator Jim Inhoff is one such champion In part because the Senator understands the program and the need for annual funding.