Commissioners considered recommendations from Amanda Storck, Chief of Administration, Ken Cunningham, Chief of Fisheries, and Bill Dinkines, Chief of Wildlife, along with hundreds of pages of public comments, and visitors’ input at Monday’s meeting before deciding whether to approve rule changes. Among the new rules adopted are:
- Clarifying the definition of equipment used for bowfishing.
- Correcting the name of Grand River Dam to Pensacola Dam.
- Adding wording allowing controlled hunts and other hunting opportunities on certain state parks, and allowing expanded hunting opportunities on certain Wildlife Management Areas.
- Changing the Special Use Permit requirements and fees for private lands leased by ODWC.
- Closing prairie dog hunting on Cooper, Beaver River, and Sandy Sanders Wildlife Management Areas.
- Adding shotgun hulls and cartridge casings to the definition of littering on Wildlife Management Areas.
- Updating regulations for shooting ranges and archery ranges on Department-owned or Department-managed lands.
Commissioners tabled proposals to set an aggregate daily bag limit and modified possession limit on native, nongame fish species in bowfishing; to prohibit the shooting and immediate release of fish in bowfishing; to set size qualification for bait fishes; to provide additional guidance on proper disposal, of fish, fish remains, and fish carcasses; and to require visible tags to remain on an animal until harvested in a commercial hunting area.
Commissioners removed from consideration a proposal to create a lottery for velvet buck archery permits.
Also, Oklahoma Hunters and Anglers President Rick Nolan presented an award of appreciation to ODWC for collaborating with the group in holding the Oklahoma Deer Conference.
In other business, Commissioners:
- Heard a presentation by Amanda Storck, Chief of Administration, on Oklahoma’s legislative process.
- Received updates on various ODWC divisions from Interim Director Wade Free, including announcing this year’s Rack Madness scoring event showcasing the state’s management of white-tailed deer will be March 6.
- Recognized Data Analyst/Programmer Charles Cowell for 35 years of service.
The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The 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 Oklahoma Senate.
The next regular Wildlife Commission meeting is set for Feb. 5, 2024, at the John D. Groendyke Wildlife Conservation Building, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd. in Oklahoma City.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (“the Department”) has received inquiries regarding a severance agreement authorized by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission (“the Commission”), at the December 6, 2023 Commission meeting (“the Severance Agreement”). As confirmed by our attorney with the Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General, and at the discretion of the Commission, this document may be held as a confidential personnel record pursuant to 51 O.S. § 24A.7. Additionally, the Severance Agreement contains an express confidentiality provision, to the extent allowed under the Oklahoma Open Records Act, which was negotiated, drafted, and approved by counsel from the Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General. While the Department and Commission value transparency, they are bound by the terms of the Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General approved Severance Agreement to maintain its confidentiality. The Department and Commission will always comply with the Oklahoma Open Records Act, including the requirement that it release information pertaining to an employee’s “gross receipt of public funds”.
Consistent with this commitment, and pursuant to 74 O.S. § 840-2.27D(A) and 74 O.S. § 840-2.20, the Department’s former director, J.D. Strong, received payment in the amount of $169,341.00. This sum consists of payment for a health insurance premium payment, longevity payment, and reimbursement for a portion of accumulated sick leave. In addition, Mr. Strong received reimbursement for accrued annual leave. Reimbursement for accrued annual leave is not considered a severance payment.
Historically, ODWC receives no general state tax appropriations and is funded by sportsmen and women through their purchase of hunting and fishing licenses as well as from federal Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program grants that are a direct result of outdoor enthusiasts who purchase firearms, ammunition, fishing equipment and motorboat fuel.