March 15, 2021

Oklahoma Legislature Takes First Steps Toward Throwing State Agency, and Sportsmen, a Bone

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 both bills passing their chamber of origin in slightly different forms, all eyes are on the Oklahoma Legislature as we await further action.

While some of you may have never attempted to purchase a hunting or fishing license in Oklahoma, those who have understand how burdensome it has become. With over 150 different licenses, permits, and stamps to choose from, trying to hunt or fish in the Sooner State can be, to put it lightly, a challenge. However, this is what can happen when authority over a state’s hunting and fishing license structure is vested in the state legislature, rather than the state’s fish and wildlife management agency.

Fortunately, the Oklahoma Legislature is taking steps to correct this issue. On March 10, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed HB 2214 which would grant authority over Oklahoma’s hunting and angling licenses, permits, and stamps – as well as their associated fees – to the Commission. The very next day, the Oklahoma Senate passed a similar bill, SB 774, and each bill now awaits further action in its second chamber. At the end of the day, both bills will allow the ODWC and the Commission to overhaul and simplify the Sooner State’s license structure.

For a state with such a strong outdoor heritage, and an agency that is almost entirely funded through the American System of Conservation Funding, this is critical as ODWC seeks to balance the needs of its primary customer base (sportsmen and women) and the increased costs associated with wildlife conservation in the United States. HB 2214 and SB 774 also set the stage for a 365-day license, a popular option in other states.

CSF and partners have worked closely with ODWC and members of the Oklahoma Legislature to push HB 2214 and SB 774 through the process. Ahead of SB 774’s first hearing in the Oklahoma Senate’s Agriculture and Wildlife Committee, CSF and several mission partners submitted a letter of support. Though some amendments have been added that will require further deliberation before these bills cross the finish line, CSF will continue to advocate for HB 2214 and SB 774 on behalf of the Sooner State’s sportsmen and women.

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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