Oklahoma and Texas Sportsmen’s Caucuses Converge for Policy Forum on Aquatic Invasive Species

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

Highlights

  • On October 29, members of the Oklahoma and Texas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucuses met to tour the Durant State Fish Hatchery and discuss the impacts of aquatic invasive species.
  • This forum provided an opportunity for staff from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to update the legislators on current, ongoing projects in both Oklahoma and Texas.
  • Aquatic invasive species, ranging from zebra mussels to Asian carp, represent potentially devastating threats to aquatic ecosystems and the ability of sportsmen and women to enjoy angling opportunities.

Why it Matters: One of the primary goals of the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses is to facilitate the exchange of information between state and federal fish and wildlife management agencies, the sporting-conservation community, and our elected officials who serve as members of their respective Sportsmen’s Caucuses. Forums such as those that occurred in Durant, OK on October 29 are critical to this objective as they provide an opportunity for candid conversations between legislators and those charged with the management of our public trust resources. In this case, legislators had an opportunity to learn about aquatic invasive species, their threat to native ecosystems and opportunities for sportsmen and women, and things that these management agencies are doing to prevent their spread.

On October 29, members of the Oklahoma and Texas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucuses converged on Durant State Fish Hatchery and the town of Durant, Oklahoma for a reception and policy forum. This unique opportunity provided elected officials with a chance to tour the Durant State Fish Hatchery and join state and federal fish and wildlife management officials in a discussion about aquatic invasive species.

During the tour of the Durant State Fish Hatchery, which is owned and operated by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, legislators were able to see firsthand how agency staff work to support Oklahoma’s aquatic ecosystems while providing quality opportunities for sportsmen and women throughout the state. This tour also provided an excellent opportunity to discuss the importance of the American System of Conservation Funding, the “user pays – public benefits” mechanism by which the Durant State Fish Hatchery’s efforts and many state fish and wildlife management agencies are funded.

Following the tour, legislators, sponsors, and partners met for a policy forum and reception during which staff from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided information on the latest aquatic invasive species threats for the two states - zebra mussels and invasive carp. These aquatic invasive species represent a significant threat to the overall health of aquatic ecosystems and threaten the populations of fish species that we, as anglers, enjoy pursuing. Agency officials also discussed steps being taken in Oklahoma, Texas, and around the country to limit the spread of these invasive species to new areas. This includes regulations requiring boaters to drain their hulls before departing certain bodies of water known to contain zebra mussels, as well as limitations on the transportation of live bait. Given the close resemblance between species of invasive Asian carp and several common bait species, extra precautions are often needed to ensure that well-meaning anglers do not accidentally contribute to the introduction of invasive carp to new areas.

CSF thanks staff from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their assistance, as well as the Title Sponsors: Altria and the Choctaw Nation and Co-Host Sponsors: Charter Communications, North Texas Municipal Water District, and Oklahoma Rural Water Association.

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