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Salt Plains - State Crystal of Oklahoma
Southwest Region, May 1, 2005
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The Salt Plains NWR Annual Birding and Crystal Festival on Saturday, April 30th, 2005 was truly a celebration to remember. The festival also served as the 75th Anniversary Celebration for the refuge, created March 26, 1930. At the refuge headquarters, Sutton Avian Research Center had a live bald eagle - easily one of the biggest draws to the festival. Flint napping, primitive bow making, wood carving, NRCS, a Youth Archery Contest, a Youth Casting Contest, live music, commemorative stamp cancellation, duck identification and decoy placement, retriever dog demonstrations, wildlife rehabilitation (opossums), reptile rehabilitation, wildlife photography, a native plant walk, birding tours, refuge history, the refuge management tours, antler scoring and art with selenite crystals were also on the refuge lawn. At the southern end of the refuge, more than 90 cars were counted at one time while visitors participated in the crystal digging contest. At the commencement of the crystal digging contest, refuge manager, Jon Brock presented a plaque to Annis Brauser and Moore's Gifted and Talented students. Annis Brauser is a teacher in the Moore School District's Gifted and Talented Program where she and her students worked to initiate legislation making the selenite crystal the State Crystal of Oklahoma. The crystal is unique to the refuge area. The Oklahoma Conservation Commission sponsored two workshops in conjunction with the festival this year. The Amateur Wetland Plant Workshop was held on Friday with approx 19 attendees from all over Oklahoma and north Texas. Pat Folley, a volunteer at the Bebb Herbarium and sedge expert led the workshop. Friday's weather left a lot to be desired as it was cold, drizzly and windy. Saturday weather proved to be at its best when the Amateur Wetland Bird Workshop was held during the festival. Although they had to miss the pig roast to attend, the workshop, led by ORP, Emily Hile had approx. 8 attendees. The OKCC brought binoculars, bird books, plant presses, loupes, plant ID books and more to be given to the workshop participants. The Advanced Birding Tour had 20 participants and identified 168 species. Highlights of the tour included watching peregrine falcons attempting to take shorebirds and one peregrine taking a snowy egret. The refuge had a Pig Roast in celebration of the 75th Anniversary. Refuge volunteers and festival participants were able to spend time with refuge employees during the pig roast that also served as an introduction for the former refuge employees and an awards ceremony for the youth archery and casting contests. Refuge festival attendance is estimated at 1500 people this year. Among the visitors to the festival were several retired employees, including Jerry French, Harold Miller, Jim Harmon, Robert Pearson, Kenneth Schwindt, Robert Stratton, Phil Clover and Harold Beierman. Several other retired employees sent their best wishes as they were unable to attend, including Tom Duncan, Lyle Stemmerman and John Van den Akker. The families of Isaac Arnold and R. Dallas Dale were also in attendance at the celebration. Arnold's family had donated a 1960s uniform to the refuge for the 75th and the uniform was proudly displayed at the History Exhibit. Employees and families were given a CD of memories through the last 75 years, lapel pins and ink pens. Employees were given 75th Anniversary hats and visors. They were all very excited to come back to the refuge, discover the changes we had made and offer their own bits of history to the anniversary.

Contact Info: Martin Valdez, 505-248-6599, martin_valdez@fws.gov



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