Bill Threatens Oklahoma Hunting Traditions

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Quail hunters aren't the only ones who would be hurt by SB 1488, which promises to cut conservation funding and privatize public wildlife resources 

By Chad Love

Oklahomans know two sure things about Sooner State quail hunting:

One, that Oklahoma offers some of the finest upland opportunities to be found anywhere in the nation.

Two, that the cornerstone of that upland bounty is proper management of the resource by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, management that has long been based on the tenets of our unique North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.

But a bill now working its way through the Oklahoma Legislature threatens all of that. The bill, SB 1488, would essentially privatize Oklahoma’s publicly-owned wildlife and gut the very funding sources that nurture and protect Oklahoma’s hunting and fishing heritage.
 

THE DANGERS OF SB 1488 

SB 1488 does this by creating a special class of lifetime hunting and fishing licenses for wealthy landowners. Under the bill, landowners who own 500 acres or more could pay a one-time fee to the state - good for 40 years - and in return receive an allotment of deer and turkey tags and small game licenses, plus unlimited fishing licenses. A second class of lifetime licenses for landowners of 1,000 acres or more gives out even more of our wildlife to private interests.

Once this one-time fee is paid to the state, landowners would then be free to do whatever they wish with this unprecedented sell-off of our wildlife, including auctioning our wildlife and fish to the highest bidder. They can hand them out to anyone they see fit. 

The bill also allows non-resident landowners to purchase landowner licenses, and even worse, as currently written, the bill has no provision for restricting those free tags and licenses for use only on the landowner’s property. In essence, this bill gives wealthy landowners the power to unilaterally give out hunting and fishing licenses that can be used anywhere in the state.

To say this is bad idea is an understatement. Some would call it a reckless assault on the very core of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation that has worked so successfully and made the United States the envy of the world. It robs the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation of the funding streams necessary to do its job and robs the citizens of Oklahoma of a cherished public resource owned and enjoyed by all, not just the wealthy few.

Not only do the proposed lifetime landowner license fees paid to the state under SB 1488 constitute a net loss of revenue for ODWC, it will also negatively impact the wildlife department’s ability to receive federal grant funding. SB 1488 fundamentally threatens the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s ability to manage fish and wildlife resources for all Oklahomans.
 

ONE OPINION 

But beyond the funding numbers, which are bad enough, lies a larger philosophical question: Is this where we want to head as a society? 

Do we really want to abandon a long, wildly successful history of wildlife management for and by the people, and instead turn down the path of privatization and exclusivity, where hunting and fishing opportunity is dictated not by boundless opportunity, but strictly by how much you can afford?

I think not, and if you think likewise and live in Oklahoma you need to call your elected leaders and let them know how much Oklahoma’s public hunting and fishing heritage means to you.
 

ACT NOW

Contact your local legislators today and let them know you oppose SB 1488. Find your legislators here.

Find the most recent version of the bill here.