Wildlife Bills Face Senate Deadline Votes This Week

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation along with many statewide conservation partner groups are very concerned about several pieces of wildlife-related legislation moving through the Oklahoma Senate over the next three days. This Thursday, March 14, is the deadline for these legislative proposals to be approved or they will be rendered dormant for this session.

Some of the bills, if passed, will affect the Department’s ability to fulfill its constitutionally mandated mission to conserve and manage Oklahoma’s fish and wildlife resources for the benefit of hunters, anglers and all Oklahomans, including its mandate to acquire land to improve habitat for such purposes. Many statewide conservation organizations are urging their membership to look at the bills and be part of the legislative process.

Among the bills are proposals that would:

Essentially freeze the Wildlife Department’s ability to buy additional lands for public hunting and fishing access (Senate Bill 703, Sen. Casey Murdock and Rep. Kevin McDugle).

Dramatically reduce the ability of state Game Wardens to stop poaching and trespassing on private land (SB 567, Sen. Nathan Dahm, and SB 927, Murdock).

Enable nonresident landowners to buy Oklahoma hunting/fishing combination licenses for $25, which is less than resident combination licenses ($42), and hand them out to relatives. (SB 984, Murdock, and HB 2324, McDugle).

Would allow commercial hunting guides to operate on Oklahoma’s public hunting areas, although a proposed amendment would authorize the Department to regulate and assess fees (SB 566, Murdock and McDugle).

Public participation is a key factor in the legislative process.
This week, these and other bills that could dramatically affect hunting, fishing and wildlife conservation in Oklahoma will either be passed or defeated by voting over the next three days in the full Senate. Voting on wildlife bills in the House concluded last week with passage of HB 2324 (McDugle), which as mentioned above provides much cheaper $25 hunting/fishing combination licenses to nonresident landowners and their families.

To learn which bills are scheduled for a vote on a daily basis, go to www.oksenate.gov/schedule/agenda.aspx. The list of bills scheduled for a vote is posted the afternoon before or the morning of the day when the vote is scheduled to occur.

Anyone with an opinion on these bills and their impact on the Wildlife Department’s ability to serve Oklahoma’s hunters, anglers, landowners and outdoor enthusiasts, along with the Department’s ability to conduct its mandated mission to protect the state’s wildlife resources, is urged to share their opinions with their senators and representatives at the state Capitol.

Not only are hunting and fishing important to Oklahoma’s culture, they are also big business, generating nearly $2 billion in economic benefit to the state. The Wildlife Department receives no state tax appropriations. It is a constitutional agency based on the user-pay, user-benefit principle. It is funded by sportsmen and sportswomen through their purchases of hunting and fishing licenses.

Anyone who does not know who represents his or her district may find out by going to www.oklegislature.gov and using the “Find My Legislator” tool at the bottom right of the page.