Contact: Kent Keene, Lower Midwestern States Coordinator
On Monday, February 8, the Oklahoma Senate Agriculture and Wildlife Committee held its first committee meeting of the 2021 legislative session. Among the several bills discussed during this meeting was Senate Bill 774 (SB 774), a bill that would grant authority over Oklahoma’s hunting and fishing licenses, permits, and stamps to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission (Commission).
Currently, authority over Oklahoma’s hunting and fishing licenses is vested in the state legislature, meaning that any changes, such as new licenses, consolidating existing licenses, or necessary fee adjustments, must go through the entire legislative process. Though Oklahoma is fortunate to have many legislators who support the state’s strong hunting heritage, this framework presents potential issues. For example, this current system grants all legislators – even those who do not support the rights of sportsmen to hunt and fish – the power to cast a vote on any changes regarding Oklahoma’s hunting and fishing licenses.
By transferring authority to the Commission and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), SB 774 would allow those who are most qualified to make wildlife management decisions to overhaul Oklahoma’s licensing system, which currently consists of over 150 separate licenses, for the benefit of both Oklahoma’s sportsmen and wildlife. Further, SB 774 would allow the Commission to adjust license fees as necessary to ensure that hunting and angling are reasonably accessible while maintaining consistent funding for ODWC, an agency that is solely funded through the American System of Conservation Funding.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and several mission partner organizations submitted a joint letter of support to Senate Agriculture and Wildlife Committee Chairman, and SB 774’s author, Senator Casey Murdock, to be shared with his fellow committee members. During the committee’s meeting, SB 774 was passed by the committee, though the title was stricken from the bill. By striking the title, Senator Murdock has allowed the bill to continue through the legislative process, though the title will need to be restored before it can officially be passed by the legislature.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?