With approximately 95 percent of Oklahoma land privately owned and operated, landowners and land managers make up the largest “boots-on-the-ground” group that affects wildlife conservation outcomes in Oklahoma.
Because landowners are essential contributors in Oklahoma’s wildlife conservation story, the Wildlife Department works with hundreds of landowners across the state each year as they improve their “piece of heaven,” no matter how small, or how many partners are involved. Two such landowners, Brain Price and Mark Jenison, are relatively new Oklahoma landowners who have banded together – and with nearby landowners – to build habitat and make an impact on wildlife beyond their fence lines.
Brian Price, left, with his first deer and Mark Jenison, right, after finishing chemical timber thinning.
Price and Jenison are Texas natives who jointly own 320 acres in Bryan County. The two manage the property together for both wildlife and recreation. Brian takes charge of the habitat management and Mark handles the game management aspect. Since purchasing the property in 2019 the duo has taken huge steps toward their objective of improving wildlife habitat by restoring the native plant community and structure.
Brian and Mark began by identifying and establishing hunting sites throughout the property and setting up the amenities so that family and friends could hunt and enjoy the property with them. Mark also took the initiative to pitch a deer harvest plan to their neighboring landowners, which led to the creation of the Shawnee Creek Game Management Association. Using ODWC’s Deer Management Assistance Program protocol as their foundation, the group now works together to manage the deer population on approximately 1,500 collective acres.
With wildlife as a solid focus for the property, Brian reached out to the Wildlife Department’s private lands staff to identify and plan habitat improvements. He applied for financial assistance through the Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program and was approved for his first WHIP contract in 2020. This contract has enabled Brian to install a portion of his planned firebreaks and accomplish some much needed selective timber thinning.
After careful planning with the help of the Wildlife Department and their local fire department, and lots of preparation, Brian and Mark gathered some friends and equipment and put the new firebreaks to use. They conducted prescribed burns on two units: their designated “dove field” unit and one of their forested units, totaling about 40 acres. Both prescribed burns were executed safely and effectively, removing dead plant material to make way for new growth and targeting a few eastern redcedars.
Prescribed burn on the "dove field."
Moving forward, Brian and Mark plan to continue using the technical and financial assistance available through the Wildlife Department to install more firebreaks (allowing for more prescribed burns), establish a rotational burn schedule, and reduce invasive eastern redcedar prevalence. In the end, they hope to enjoy their property with family and friends for years to come by providing the best possible experience and continuing to attract wildlife by implementing the best management practices for their property.
Good on ya, Brian and Mark! The Wildlife Department praises your inspiring forward movements in wildlife habitat conservation on Oklahoma’s private lands.