The Oklahoma Natural Areas Registry program acknowledges the volunteer spirit of landowners for the conservation of animals, plants, natural communities,and geological features occurring on their properties. From Texas horned lizards, burrowing owls, and gray bats to orchids, red buckeyes, Tallgrass prairies and granite outcrops, Oklahoma landowners are working to protect these and other natural elements of our state.Since 1984 the Oklahoma Natural Areas Registry has worked with over 100 landowners to assist them with the protection of over 44,000 acres in our state. Currently the largest Registered site is over 9,000 acres and the smallest site is an important 2 acres. Outstanding examples of Oklahoma’s natural diversity can be found on lands owned by private citizens, corporations, agencies, and organizations. The Oklahoma Natural Areas Registry encourages citizen-based conservation of these special natural areas and recognizes landowners who are committed to such conservation.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Registry Program
Why Voluntary Protection?
Mesas, mountain ranges, tallgrass prairies, limestone caves, cypress swamps – Oklahoma’s landscape is a showcase of extraordinary diversity. However, changes in land use have left only a small fraction of wild places in their original condition; some native plants and animals are now threatened with extinction.
Fortunately, outstanding examples of Oklahoma’s natural diversity still remain, many on lands owned by private citizens. The Oklahoma Natural Areas Registry encourages citizen-based conservation of these special areas by promoting awareness of rare species, natural communities, and important geological features. The Registry Program recognizes those landowners who are committed to protecting Oklahoma’s natural heritage.
Who Operates the Registry?
The Oklahoma State Register of Natural Heritage Areas was created by the legislature in 1984 to identify areas with unique natural features and to encourage their voluntary protection by Oklahoma’s citizens. To meet this goal, the Registry Program was originally formed through cooperation among the Oklahoma Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation, and the Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory. The Oklahoma Natural Areas Registry is currently operated by the Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory.
How Does an Area Qualify?
Potential Registry sites may be recommended by any interested individual or organization. Recommended sites are evaluated by scientists with the Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory, who maintain a database of Oklahoma’s significant biological features, or by staff from the Oklahoma Geological Survey. The Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory is a program of the Oklahoma Biological Survey, a state agency located at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.
To qualify for the Registry Program a property must contain at least one of the following natural values:
- Habitat for native plants or animals that are rare, threatened, or endangered
- Outstanding natural communities, geological features, or aquatic elements representative of the diversity of Oklahoma
- Unusual natural features or unique ecological areas
How Does a Natural Area Become Registered?
A Natural Areas Registry representative contacts landowners to discuss the special plants, animals, natural communities, or unique geological features that occur on their property. By informing owners of the importance of these sites, the program reduces the chance that significant natural areas might unintentionally be destroyed or degraded. Each landowner may then elect to have their special place listed on the State register of Natural Heritage Areas.
Registration does not occur without the landowner’s consent and it is publicized only with the landowner’s permission. Directions to the site are never published and registration provides no rights of public access or use.
What Commitment Does the Landowner Make?
Oklahoma Registrants sign a non-binding agreement that reflects their long-term commitment to:
- Protect the area and its unique natural elements to the best of their abilities.
- Notify the program representative of planned changes in land use and of threats to the area or the plants, animals, and geology within.
- Notify a program representative of a change of address, intent to sell, or transfer ownership of the area.
Is the Commitment Binding?
Registration is completely voluntary. The agreement simply reflects the owner’s intent to protect their piece of Oklahoma heritage. The agreement is not legally binding and does not subject the area to any regulatory authority. The agreement may be cancelled by either party at any time, although 30 days notice is requested. Removal of an area from the State Register may sometimes be caused by a reduction of its ecological value, due to either natural or unnatural factors.
What Does the Registry Offer in Return?
The generosity and civic-mindedness of Registrants is acknowledged through a personalized plaque awarded by the Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory and the State of Oklahoma. Registrants also receive, free of charge:
- Annual newsletter updates about the Registry Program.
- Information on the natural history and special needs of the plant, animal, ecosystem, or geologic feature on their property.
- Regular visits by a Registry Program representative to check on the health of the registered area.
- Technical advice and management assistance when requested.
- Registered Natural Area boundary signs when requested.
- Most importantly, Oklahoma Registrants have the privelege of ensuring that today’s natural world will be more than mere legend to future generations.
Are There Any Financial Advantages?
Registration involves no payment or receipt of funds. A program representative can, however, provide information on a variety of land protection methods that can offer financial benefits to the landowner.
Most Registered Natural Areas are private properties that are not accessible to the public. But several are owned by cities or non-profits and you can visit them!Keystone Ancient ForestPreserves managed by the Oklahoma Chapter of The Nature ConservancyCentennial Prairie at the Sam Noble MuseumCross Timbers Forest at Lake TexomaFort Gibson DamBreak O’Day Farm and Metcalfe MuseumOliver’s WoodsOSU McPherson PreserveQuartz Mountain Nature Park