Oklahoma's Tenkiller Lake by Ron Day used with permission
NOTE: THIS ARTICLE WAS EDITED ON SEPT. 25 TO CORRECT THE NAMES OF PERSONS IN THE PHOTO BELOW.
ANNOUNCING STIR WATER QUALITY SCHOLARSHIP AT THE ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION OF THE TAHLEQUAH DAILY PRESS. ARTICLE BY D.E. SMOOT
WATER WARRIORS: STIR unveils scholarship program during annual meeting
By D.E. Smoot firstname.lastname@example.org Sep 20, 2022
A Tahlequah-based coalition established to preserve and protect the Illinois River hopes to attract the next generation of clean-water warriors with a scholarship for qualified students pursuing a freshwater science degree at Northeastern State University. Save the Illinois River President Denise Deason-Toyne announced the scholarship this past weekend during the coalition’s first post-pandemic annual meeting and awards banquet. She said while the inaugural scholarship is fully funded, STIR plans to establish an endowment from which future awards could be funded.
Lizz Waring, an assistant professor of biology, said NSU’s fledgling freshwater science program blends “together biology and chemistry” and establishes an “environmental pathway” for students. Waring, who earned her doctorate in biology at Texas Tech, said some students enrolled in the freshwater science program at NSU are “doing all sorts of projects on the Illinois River and the surrounding streams.” One project, she said, would catalog all the macro-invertebrates found year-round in the Illinois River and its tributaries. Waring said other students employed DNA technology in an attempt “to trace chicken litter pollution.” “The students are really excited about this — just like many of you, most of our students are from around this area and these waterways mean a lot to them,” said Waring. “They want to protect them, and they want to learn more about them.”
Ed Fite, one of STIR’s founding members and director, described Waring as “one of the rock stars coming forward” to help address problems related to a rapidly growing population within the Illinois River watershed. Fite cited statistics showing a nearly fourfold increase in the number of people who live within the basin – from about 180,000 in 1983 to well more than 600,000 today, and that could double during the next 25 years. The work of Waring, other professors and students involved with the freshwater sciences program at NSU, Fite said, will be key to diminishing the impact of urbanization within the watershed. Those efforts are facilitated by a partnership with the Grand River Dam Authority, which absorbed the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission in 2016 after the Legislature quit funding the state agency.
Fite, vice president of scenic rivers and water quality at GRDA, said the partnership includes funding for the Scenic Rivers and Watershed Research Laboratory at NSU’s campus in Tahlequah. The lab facilitates ongoing research at NSU and other universities Fite believes is paramount to preserving and protecting the Illinois River and its tributaries. “We’ve got to step up and do things in a shorter order, a quicker fashion, and be more exacting than we’ve ever been,” said Fite. “GRDA is teaming up with her (Waring) and her students, and we’re hopeful that we’re going to bring more money to the watershed and continue to do these studies.”
Annual Meeting Guests, Left to Right, front row; Lizz Waring and Elizabeth Burba, NSU assistant biology professors; Back Row, STIR President Denise Deason-Toyne; David Peterson and Brian Thompson, both of the Arkansas Ozark Society. STIR Photo
Ed Edmondson Awards Ceremony
STIR also honored Deason-Toyne for her leadership as the nonprofit’s president and efforts to further its mission by inducting her into the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Hall of Fame. Ed Brocksmith, a founding member of STIR and its treasurer, described Deason-Toyne as a “dynamo in the world of clean water in eastern Oklahoma.” He said the lawyer and recently retired professor from NSU’s College of Business is “someone who is respected in this community.” “If you want someone to do a job … and do it right, pick a busy person — someone who’s involved in everything and hardly has any time for herself,” said Brocksmith, acknowledging Deason-Toyne’s roles as an educator, lawyer, mother, and grandmother. “She’s just recognized as an all-around fine woman.”
Deason-Toyne credited other STIR directors and supporters for “the accolades I get” as its president. She plans to “continue the good fight” because “we’ve still got a lot of work to do, preserving this river.” STIR also honored Sequoyah Outing Club as “an original Oklahoma scenic rivers conservation organization.” Sequoyah Club, incorporated in 1908 as a fishing, hunting, and outing club, was formed in part “to maintain the waters of the Illinois River and its tributaries for the study and propagation of fish.”
Paul Rowsey, a STIR director and Sequoyah Club trustee, said some of the exclusive club’s earliest members noticed a decline in the fish population in the Illinois River and Barren Fork Creek as the popularity of those streams increased. Sequoyah Club members persuaded state wildlife officials to stock local streams with game fish and eventually establish a local fish hatchery. “For many generations the members of Sequoyah Club fished these rivers and played a role in preserving and supporting this beautiful stretch of the river,” said Rowsey. “We are … happy to be associated with STIR and its mission.”
STIR IS WATCHING THE WATER FOR YOU