Gathering at Zink Ranch near Skiatook for their regular May meeting, Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commissioners learned that the Oklahoma Land Access Program (OLAP) logged a successful first season starting last September and will continue to expand in the coming year.
The OLAP increases public access to private lands for outdoor activities that include hunting, fishing, stream access and wildlife viewing. Landowners receive payments for allowing walk-in access for the uses and times they specify.
Wildlife biologist Jeff Tibbits, OLAP coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, told the Commission that OLAP enrolled 23 cooperators across the state during 2017-18. These sites provided 39,692 acres of public hunting access, 45 surface acres of fishing access, and access to 3 miles of streams.
Tibbits showed how OLAP users can learn all about the program and get the latest information using interactive maps on the Department’s website along with current posts on the OLAP Facebook page.
OLAP is funded through the Voluntary Public Access-Habitat Incentive Program of the 2014 Farm Bill. Landowners are now being sought to sign up for the coming season. Goals for 2018-19 include securing more public hunting access near the state’s large metro areas, and beefing up OLAP properties in the southwestern part of the state, Tibbits said.
Also during the meeting, Commissioners learned about various groups that have partnered with the Department to improve angling at nearby Skiatook Lake.
Bill Wentroth, supervisor of the Fisheries Division’s north-central region, said the lake is among the premier spots for striped bass hybrid fishing in Oklahoma. And he praised the support of the Oklahoma Striped Bass Association for helping make that happen with 24 years of donations to support hatchery production, management and research into stripers and striped bass hybrids.
In other business, Commissioners:
Approved selection of Retirement Horizons Inc. to provide actuarial services for the Department’s retirement plan.
Discussed the issues and procedures involved in the creation of an independent nonprofit foundation to support Department activities.
The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate.
The next scheduled Commission meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Monday, June 4, 2018, at the Wildlife Department’s interim headquarters, 2145 NE 36 St. in Oklahoma City.