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Water Quality Division

Blue Thumb logoBlue Thumb Education Program

The Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC) is the technical lead agency for Oklahoma's nonpoint source pollution management program. Nonpoint source pollution -- the pollution that originates from a variety of sources, both rural and urban -- can best be reduced through education. The Commission's Water Quality Education group works to protect streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and groundwater, by educating the citizens of Oklahoma on actions that can be taken to reduce our impacts on our important water resources.

Students in stream conducting monitoring

Blue Thumb, as the education arm of OCC's Water Quality Division, works to connect Oklahoma's citizens with the natural world. In this photo, Blue Thumb volunteers get up close and personal with their local stream.

Oklahoma is blessed with beautiful lakes, streams, and wetlands. Protecting these resources ensures us safe drinking water for the future, care of our wildlife, and a place to rest and recreate. People who gain an understanding of what happens beneath the water's surface tend to make a commitment to protecting water resources.

Educational activities take place across the state of Oklahoma, and are designed both for specific groups and general audiences. Some of the successful efforts that have taken place over the last two years include:

  • Logging Workshops for landowners and timber harvest professionals to encourage environmentally sound tree removal and reduce soil erosion.
  • Poultry Litter Management Workshops for landowners and poultry producers to offer alternatives and/or best management practices for land application of poultry waste in sensitive watersheds to reduce runoff into streams and lakes.
  • No-till Farming Workshops for farmers trying to reduce soil erosion and spend less money on intensive soil preparation activities through the use of no-till methods.
  • Development of three permanent outdoor classrooms for nature and science education -- Blue Thumb Educators, in conjunction with the local conservation districts and generous sponsors, have created outdoor learning centers in Latimer, Adair, and Cherokee Counties.
  • Best Management Practice Tours for local landowners and other interested citizens in areas of priority watershed projects. These "BMP" tours allow people to see which agricultural practices work best to protect streams, rivers, and lakes from nutrient and sediment pollution.

The Blue Thumb Education Program also uses a corps of volunteers who are primarily involved in:

  • Stream and wetland monitoring
  • Groundwater screening
  • Providing nonpoint source pollution prevention educational presentations.

Across the state, there are over 80 streams that are currently being monitored by Blue Thumb volunteers. Volunteers come in all ages and from all walks of life. Middle and high school students often work with science teachers, 4-H leaders will choose monitoring as a group project, farmers and ranchers will want to gain data on how the streams that cross their land are doing, and retired professionals find a way to use their skills in the Blue Thumb Program.

Volunteers also actively participate in helping Blue Thumb become a more effective education program. During summer 2007 Blue Thumb volunteers attended Volunteer Leadership Summits where they voiced opinions and ideas about the Blue Thumb program. Take a look at the Volunteer Leadership Summits Report to see what volunteers had to say about Oklahoma Blue Thumb! The brief report combines the information gathered at all three summits and places ideas and comments under common themes.  

Two scientists test water in Flint Creek 

Healthy vegetation helps keep water healthy 

(Left) Two young scientists hone their observational skills, have fun, and test water on beautiful Flint Creek in participation with the Blue Thumb Program. (Right) A critical component of the Blue Thumb Education Program is helping citizens understand the value of riparian areas -- the zone of natural vegetation along the banks of a stream or the shore of a lake.

Last Modified on 01/03/2008