Aquifers protection advocated by STIR

Save the Illinois River Vice President Barb Daily presents the coalition's Water Warrior Award to Pam Kingfisher, founder of Green Country Guardians.

TAHLEQUAH — A “fence line neighbors” organizer, journalists, factory farm pollution opponents and litter cleanup volunteers were honored during Save the Illinois River’s 2019 Annual Membership Meeting. 

The meeting, conducted Sept. 21 at Sequoyah Club near Tahlequah, included a call for Oklahoma to devote greater protection for ground water that feeds streams and wells. A motion to include that in the grassroots citizens coalition’s bylaws was approved unanimously.

STIR presented its 2019 Water Warrior Award to Pam Kingfisher of Moodys. Kingfisher organized her Spring Creek neighbors to protest a rampage of new poultry farm construction in Delaware County.  

The group is known as the Green Country Guardians. Some 200 new poultry barns capable of growing thousands of birds yearly have been approved by the Oklahoma Agriculture Department in the nutrient-sensitive areas of Spring Creek and the Illinois River, two of Oklahoma’s cleanest Ozarks streams.  

Kingfisher’s leadership resulted in the approval of setback regulations protecting owners from intrusive chicken houses abutting private property, schools and churches.

STIR recognized two outstanding Oklahoma journalists for excellence in environmental reporting. Kelly Bostian of the Tulsa World and D.E. Smoot of the Muskogee Phoenix both provided outstanding coverage of poultry farm expansion in northeast Oklahoma, including the Illinois River watershed. Smoot reports many aspects of Oklahoma Scenic River protection for the Phoenix and newspapers including the Tahlequah Daily Press.

Honored for the Lake Tenkiller shoreline litter cleanup called Tidy Up Tenkiller were Genny Maiden of the Greater Tenkiller Area Association and Gena McPhail, director of the Tahlequah Tourism Council. Thousands of pounds of trash and Styrofoam were collected at the August event co-sponsored by STIR. Tenkiller Lake was hard hit by a November tornado and then major flooding.

The clients of Oklahoma Production Center in Tahlequah were recognized for cleaning litter and trash from area roadsides. Former state Sen. Herb Rozell of Tahlequah, who shepherded the program through the Legislature, joined in presenting STIR’s thanks for OPC’s cleanup program.  

STIR Board of Directors member Jerry Hammons quipped that “we would be drowning in litter if not for the OPC litter crews.”

Also recognized at the meeting were the Spring Creek Coalition and the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. STIR presented a $1,000 contribution to Spring Creek Coalition’s Beth Rooney of Tulsa. The gift will be used to achieve better regulation of expanding poultry farms in the Spring Creek and Illinois River watersheds.

Brian Thompson of Fayetteville, Arkansas, presented a program about the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and how the group and its allies used continuing public pressure to persuade the state of Arkansas to buy out the controversial C&H Hog Farm. A permit for the farm on a tributary of the Buffalo National River. was approved by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

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