Public Lands Project Introduction


As one is wont to do, I had intentions of looking for a specific photo deep in my hard drive archives and pulling it into the present for immediate editing. No distractions. No going down the memory lane rabbit hole. Absolutely do not open that folder marked "OLD. DON'T OPEN", which we all know is code for old vacation photos with an ex, and the only reason this set is still around is because I look particularly fit and that was a time I had Good Hair. So, I had the best intentions. Get in, get out. Edit. Except, I had to scroll through images of past field trips, vacations, my wedding, my engagement, and still further into the way-back machine where the grad school and undergrad images lived. 

There were a number of bad hair-cuts to ruminate over.

As I was scrolling through these mostly embarrassing photos (that spring I only took flower pictures from above? Oiy.), I noted that there was a disproportionate number of pictures of brown signs. You know, those brown parks signs. Not exactly riveting imagery, but 2007 me clearly wanted to remember that I saw the Big Bend National Park sign and it was necessary to stand by it and cheese it up.  In true Baader-Meinholf Phenomenon fashion I was noticing public lands and markers from public lands in all my images. The Windley Key State Park sign, scroll scroll scroll, the Ice Age Trail markers, scroll, the Boat Launch sign at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in Grand Canyon National Park....they were everywhere.



I got engaged on Longs Peak in RMNP, married on the rim of the Grand Canyon in GCNP, and vacationed and honeymooned in national parks, preserves, state parks, and BLM land. All my geology field courses were in national and state parks, and even marine sanctuaries. Images aside, my cooler is covered in park stickers; and a shadow box in my hallway is full of pins from all the parks and trails my husband and I have visited together. I obviously love and utilize these public spaces. Intellectually I knew I used public lands both professionally and personally, but it really hit me just how important these lands are to me.

This apparent love affair needed an outlet. Some kind of project. 

Step 1: close all OLD FILES folders and rejoice that I now have a much more refined taste in hiking backpacks and men.

Step 2: Google all the parks I went to. Look at the maps. Because I love maps.

Step 3: Notice that I have at least 4,000 more Colorado pictures than Oklahoma pictures. I do not live in Colorado. Pout a little.

Step 4: Check calendar. No Colorado trips soon. 

Step 5: Google all public lands in Oklahoma. Get overwhelmed. Close computer.

Step 6: Pick a wildlife refuge to visit to start an Okie photo project.

Deep Creek BLM Recreation Area, Colorado

Deep Creek BLM Recreation Area, Colorado


My affection for the public lands of the west and the Rocky mountains is pretty evident with how many photo albums I have from those various trips. Despite having lived here for 4 years now, there is a conspicuous lack of Oklahoma imagery. Since I'm not much of a fisher or boater, I tend to stay away from the lakes (Also, alligator snapping turtles live here, guys. Guys. No.) and the same goes for the acreage that's set aside for hunting and wildlife management. I'm not much of a coyote hunter. Though, I could probably be convinced to go on a hog hunt because those things are terrifying, destructive, and invasive. Screw those things.

It's time to appreciate the land in my backyard. With the goal of trying to understand public land use in Oklahoma, I've decided to tackle some of my questions about the tiny swaths of green on the state map of Oklahoma, and the large patches of green to the south. Why was this acreage set aside for public use in the first place? What is the history of that land? How is it being managed, and for who? What are the current threats to that public acreage? These are the questions that I plan on exploring this coming year as I explore and visit Oklahoma's State Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, Bureau of Land Management acreage, Army Corp of Engineers land, and more.

I plan on visiting as many sites as my schedule allows and on writing a short piece about each excursion. When it's all said and done I would like to have a set of images from Oklahoma's varied public lands that hopefully illustrate and answer my questions that I outlined above.

Wish me luck. We have a lot of poison ivy and wild hogs.

Lookout Lake, Osage Hills State Park, Oklahoma

Lookout Lake, Osage Hills State Park, Oklahoma