February 14, 2022

Oklahoma Bills Renew Push for State Agency License Authority

Contact: Kent Keene; Senior Coordinator, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy

Why it Matters: Granting license and fee authority to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission would allow the agency charged with managing Oklahoma’s fish and wildlife resources the ability to simplify the current complicated system of licenses and permits to best suit the needs of the Sooner State’s sportsmen and women who, in turn, generate the bulk of the funding for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. With more than 150 license combinations currently available, SB 1709 and HB 4086 serve as an opportunity to make hunting and angling more accessible for Oklahoma’s sportsmen and women.

On the first day of the 2022 legislative session, Senator Roger Thompson and Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Representative Kevin Wallace introduced Senate Bill 1709 (SB 1709) and House Bill 4086 (HB 4086), respectively.  These bills seek to address a top priority for the Sooner State’s sporting-conservation community by vesting the authority over Oklahoma’s hunting and angling licenses in the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission. CSF and partners have worked closely with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) to support this effort each of the last two sessions.

With over 150 different licenses, permits, and stamps to choose from, trying to hunt or fish in Oklahoma can be more of a challenge than it needs to be, particularly to those who are new and not familiar with these activities. By removing license authority from the legislature and vesting it in the Commission, the state would be better able to quickly address these challenges through the regulatory process. For an agency like ODWC that is almost entirely reliant on the support of the sporting-conservation community through the American System of Conservation Funding, the ability to overhaul and simplify the state’s license structure is critical.

Though support among the sporting-conservation community remains strong, there are some who have expressed concerns with giving the Commission the authority to establish hunting and angling licenses and fees. However, it is important to remember that the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, informed by the professionally trained staff at ODWC, is arguably the entity best equipped to make these administrative decisions. As such, granting them this authority is a logical step. Furthermore, it is important to point out that, like any other regulatory proposal put forth by the Commission, license and fee changes would be subject to a public comment period and final approval by the Oklahoma Legislature.

CSF continues to work closely with ODWC, in-state and national sporting-conservation partners, and members of the Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus to support SB 1709 and HB 4086. Stay tuned for more updates from the Sooner State as these bills make their way through the legislative process.

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?

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