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#TBT: Oklahoma’s Tallgrass Prairie Preserve renamed for Joe Williams

Staff Reports

Throwback Thursday to news from earlier this month: The Nature Conservancy renamed the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Osage County, Oklahoma, after Joe Williams in a ceremony on November 8.

The property is now known as the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.

From 1979-94, Joe was the last family member to head Williams and during that time he was instrumental in helping The Nature Conservancy acquire untouched land in Osage County to create its Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.

Today, at 40,000 acres, the preserve is the largest protected remnant of tallgrass prairie in the world. In addition, the preserve is home to 2,500 free-range bison. Joe later served as chairman of the National Board of Governors of The Nature Conservancy.

Joe said his efforts began because he was an avid bird hunter, but found game populations were being depleted by changes in rural land use. In the late 1980s, he and other hunters began to explore ways to conserve these native habitats.

“During this time, we approached The Nature Conservancy for help,” Joe said. “They urged me to gather a group of prominent citizens from all across the state to become a Board of Trustees for a new Oklahoma chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

“The Conservancy recognized how vital a large expanse of tallgrass prairie under its protection would be as a symbol to others trying to establish conservation of scale sufficient to make a difference.”

The initial Oklahoma Board of Trustees led a $15 million campaign and pulled together public sentiment for the project from all over the state and nation.

“We owe Joe a debt of gratitude for having the courage to forge ahead to make the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve a reality and a legacy for future generations to enjoy,” Fuhr said.

In retirement, the Joe Williams and his wife, Terry, live in South Carolina.