Kim Hatfield, OIPA board member and Regulatory Committee chairman, said the surveys to locate areas where lesser prairie-chickens are found not only benefit the efforts of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, but make it easier for the oil and gas industry to remain in compliance with the conservation rules.
Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Department, characterized the contribution as a “big deal” and said Oklahoma is at the forefront in cooperation from the energy industry on lesser prairie-chicken conservation.
Commissioners also heard an update from Allan Janus, research supervisor for the Wildlife Department, on the survey efforts that have been conducted this year both on the ground and using helicopters. The surveys aim to pinpoint the leks that are used by lesser prairie-chickens for their breeding activities. Conservation measures are put into place in areas where leks are present.
Also, Commissioners heard from John Weir, board president, and Russell Stevens, board vice president, of the Oklahoma Prescribed Burn Association. They reported on the number of prescribed burns that have been completed this spring in the state (53), and how the OPBA is helping landowners to use prescribed burns in their management plans. They also spoke of the many benefits offered to landowners through OPBA, including liability insurance for prescribed burns.
The Wildlife Department supports prescribed fire as an effective way to manage land for wildlife habitat. This year, the Department has used prescribed fire on 120,000 acres in its wildlife management areas, which is a record, Peoples said.
Also during Monday’s meeting, the Commission:
Approved a Fiscal Year 2016 Wildlife Department budget of $63.2 million, a 2.7 percent increase over last year’s budget. Melinda Streich, assistant director of administration and finance for the Department, said most of the budget increase is for capital expenditures.
Learned about a new Marketing Analysis Tool, which has been developed by the Department’s Information and Education Division to assess the effectiveness of potential projects to further engage the state’s sportsmen and sportswomen. Michael Bergin, senior I&E specialist, shared results from a recent MAT effort showing success in creating more interest in the Department’s controlled hunts
program this year. The number of hunters applying for controlled hunts was at a record low last year, but rose to a 10-year high this year.
Thanked Commissioner Mike Bloodworth of Hugo for his eight years of service. Bloodworth said he could not have asked for a more congenial group of commissioners to work with, and that they truly have the best interests of Oklahoma’s sportsmen and sportswomen in their hearts. Beginning July 1, Bill Brewster of Marietta will begin serving as Wildlife Conservation Commissioner from District Three.
Witnessed as Kaden Kraft, 13, and his grandfather, Phil Kraft, presented a certificate of appreciation to Brian Meskimen, game warden based in McClain County. The teen thanked Meskimen for an orientation field visit and told Commissioners that it is his dream to become a game warden in the future.
Recognized Ian Campbell for 30 years of service to the Department. He is a technician in the Fisheries Division’s East Central Region.
The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Wildlife Conservation Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.
Because of an expected lack of a quorum, Commissioners voted to cancel their July meeting. The next scheduled Commission meeting will be 9 a.m. Aug. 3, 2015, in Woodward.
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The mission of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is the management of Oklahoma’s wildlife resources and habitat to provide scientific, educational, aesthetic, economic and recreational benefits for present and future generations of hunters, anglers and others who appreciate wildlife.
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