MARCH 2012

 


 

Angler lands new Oklahoma state record largemouth bass (March 23, 2012)

            A new Oklahoma state record largemouth bass was caught Friday, March 23, at Cedar Lake in southeast Oklahoma. The fish weighed 14 lbs. 12.3 oz. and was caught by Poteau angler Benny Williams, Jr. while on a camping trip at the 78-acre LeFlore Co. lake.

            Williams caught the bass at 11 a.m. on a ¼ oz. Striker King jig. This fish measured 26 inches in length and 22 3/8 inches in girth.

            Williams' fish breaks a state record held since 1999 when William Cross caught a 14-lb. 11.52-oz. bass from Broken Bow Lake.

            "Catching the state record largemouth bass in Oklahoma is a big deal and catching a fish this large is a big deal," said Barry Bolton, chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "It speaks to the quality of fishing we have in Oklahoma and also to the anglers who get out there and fish for them. We congratulate him on his great catch."

            The last two state record largemouth bass as well as several from the state's Top 20 Largemouth Bass List have been caught in the southern and southeast regions of the state. Fish are cold-blooded, so their metabolisms work faster in warmer conditions and they grow more rapidly. Lakes in the southeast region of the state tend to warm up earlier and cool off later in the year than in other regions, which affords these fish a longer growing season.

            According to Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department, Cedar Lake has been known to produce big largemouth bass for anglers in recent years - not only because of its southeastern location, but also because it has a history of receiving Florida strain largemouth bass through the state's stocking program.

            "They grow pretty fast down in that part of the state," Gilliland said. "Cedar Lake has produced several double-digit fish in the last five years."

            Anglers who believe they may have hooked a record fish must weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale, and a Wildlife Department employee must verify the weight. For a complete list of record fish and the procedures for certifying a state record, consult the current "Oklahoma Fishing Guide" or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

 

 

Benny Williams, Jr. of Poteau landed the new state record largemouth bass March 23 at Cedar Lake. The fish weighed 14 lbs. 12.3 oz.

 

 

 

 

 

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Genetic analysis from "Minco mountain lion" confirms ties to South Dakota (March 23, 2012)

            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recently confirmed origins of the mountain lion struck and killed by a motorist in November 2011 near Minco.

            According to Erik Bartholomew, furbearer biologist for the Wildlife Department, the 130-lb. male mountain lion that was found dead along HWY 81 north of Minco is closely tied genetically to populations in the Black Hills of South Dakota. DNA analyses performed on tissue collected from the cat also confirm it was a wild mountain lion and not an escaped domestic animal.

            "The cat's DNA shows a very close genetic relationship to wild populations in South Dakota," Bartholomew said. "We can say with a high level of confidence that this male was born in the Black Hills region. Another clue that this animal was wild is the fact that it had porcupine quills in its stomach. Apparently mountain lions consider them to be good eating, or maybe they are easy to catch, but many times western states report mountain lions with porcupine quills in their front legs and digestive tract."

            A small tooth from the mountain lion's upper jaw also was sent to a lab for aging. Much like the rings on a tree, the root portion of the tooth has rings that can be used by experts to age the animal. The tooth from the "Minco mountain lion" showed that the animal was at least three years old.

            "We have no idea of the path he used to get to Oklahoma," Bartholomew said. "However, with him being killed near the South Canadian, he likely was following the river where their primary prey - white-tailed deer - would be in high abundance. Males tend to have very large home ranges at or over 200 square miles. The Black Hills is a small island of habitat, and many times adult males will get in territorial disputes with young males and the loser leaves in search of new territory."

            This mountain lion represents a unique research opportunity for the Department since the animals are secretive and because biologists have had few other opportunities to study them up close in Oklahoma.

            Other wild mountain lions documented in Oklahoma also have tested positive for Black Hills origins, such as the female captured in the city limits of Tulsa last year and another believed to have been killed by a train in 2004 near Red Rock. A male mountain lion that was shot in 2010 in the Panhandle by a Department of Agriculture employee while depredating livestock tested positive for genetic ties to populations in eastern Colorado, and another confiscated by the Department's law enforcement division in southeast Oklahoma was genetically tied to populations in the Pine Ridge region of northwest Nebraska. Additionally, several other sightings have been documented, including a young radio-collared male from Colorado that traveled through the Panhandle's Texas County in 2010 and is now living in New Mexico, and trail camera pictures from the fall of 2009 that show mountain lions in Tillman and Atoka counties.

            Also called "panthers," "cougars" and "pumas," mountain lions are native to Oklahoma and historically would have been found statewide. Bartholomew said it is a common misconception that the Wildlife Department has released mountain lions in Oklahoma.

            Officials with the Wildlife Department rely on the public to report verifiable sightings, photos and reports of mountain lions to help document the species in Oklahoma.

            To submit photographs and report sightings of mountain lions in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com and report your sighting online or call Bartholomew at (405) 385-1791.

 

 

mountain lion from Minco area 2011

 

 

DNA analysis of the mountain lion that made headlines in November after being struck and killed by a vehicle near Minco has confirmed that the cat was a wild animal with genetic ties to populations in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. In this photo, Erik Bartholomew, furbearer biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, takes the rare opportunity to conduct research on the mountain lion, which was hit on HWY 81 north of Minco. 

 

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Youth spring turkey season offers first shot to young hunters (March 23, 2012)

            Youth turkey hunters have the annual opportunity to head to the woods a few days earlier than other hunters during the youth turkey season, slated this year for March 31-April 1 in most of the state and April 21-22 in the southeast region.

            The youth spring turkey seasons are offered to youth under 18 years of age who are accompanied by an adult 18 years old or older. The adult may not hunt or possess archery or firearms equipment. While eligible youth can hunt during both youth seasons, the limit for both youth seasons combined is one tom turkey. Turkeys taken by youth turkey hunters during the spring youth turkey seasons are included in the youth hunters' county and regular spring season limits.

            Youth who participate in the youth spring turkey season not only get an early opportunity to hunt, but those youth who do not harvest a turkey during the youth season may use their unfilled turkey licenses during the regular spring season, which runs April 6 - May 6 in most of the state and April 23 - May 6 in the southeast region, which includes Atoka, Choctaw, Coal, Latimer, LeFlore, McCurtain, Pittsburg and Pushmataha counties.

            To hunt during the youth spring turkey season, resident youth under 16 and non-residents under 14 are not required to have a hunting license, but they are required to have a turkey license or proof of exemption. Resident youth ages 16 and 17 and non-resident youth ages 14-17 must possess an appropriate hunting license and turkey license for each bird hunted or proof of exemption.

            Youth who have not completed a hunter education course through the Wildlife Department can still hunt turkeys during the youth spring season, but they must purchase an apprentice-designated hunting license and turkey permit as required. Additionally, the adult who accompanies an apprentice-designated turkey license holder must be a licensed hunter and hunter education certified or otherwise exempt from license and hunter education requirements. See the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide" for details.

            Seasons on public lands may vary from statewide season dates. Consult the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide" for full details and regulations as well as a listing of counties with one-tom limits and two-tom limits.

 

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Youth archers gearing up for state shoot (March 23, 2012)

            The National Oklahoma Archery in the Schools Program is heating up as nearly 1,200 students from across the state prepare to compete March 28 at the annual OKNASP state shoot at the State Fair Park in Oklahoma City.

            The students qualified for the state shoot by competing in regional archery events held in February, in which more than 2,400 students participated.

            About 310 schools across Oklahoma participate in the Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools Program (OKNASP), and about 70 of those will bring students to compete in the state shoot after a season of practice and competition in their respective schools.

            "Coaches have told me time and again that this program has helped every child see success. From the typical athletic student to the child that does not usually excel in most other sports, archery is allowing all students to compete on a level playing field," said Justin Marschall, OKNASP coordinator for the Wildlife Department.

            The number of students at the state and regional shoots reflects the growth of the OKNASP program during its seven years of existence.

            "Due to the continued growth of the program we have held regional qualifiers across the state the last two years to help make the number of shooters at the state shoot more manageable and provide closer opportunities for schools throughout the state to compete," Marschall said.

            Coordinated by the Wildlife Department, OKNASP is part of the National Archery in the Schools Program. The program partners state wildlife agencies, schools and the nation's archery industry to introduce students to the sport of archery. The Archery in the Schools curriculum is designed for 4th-12th graders and covers archery history, safety, techniques, equipment, mental concentration and self-improvement.

            Medals and prizes will be awarded to top shooters in all categories. In addition, students and teams participating in the state shoot have a chance to quality for the national tournament to be held May11-12 in Louisville, Ky.

            For more information about Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools or the Wildlife Department, log on to wildlifedepartment.com or find the program on Facebook at facebook.com/OKNASP.

 

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U.S. Postal Service offering option for bird enthusiasts (March 21, 2012)

            The U.S. Postal Service is now offering a purple martin stamped envelope and a "Birds of Prey" stamp collection.

            The purple martin envelopes are being issued as Forever® stamped envelopes - meaning the value of the postage is always equal to the value of the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate. They feature beautiful purple martins in flight and perching on a branch in full color.

            Purple martins are unique birds that arrive in Oklahoma every spring after migrating from South America. You can attract them to your yard, and now is the time to prepare for their arrival.

            According to Mark Howery, wildlife diversity biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, purple martins readily take to nesting in manmade structures and do so almost exclusively.

            Place a purple martin house on a fence or pole that can be easily accessed for proper maintenance.

            "Regular inspection and maintenance of purple martin houses is important to keep unwanted, non-native species such as house sparrows and European starlings out of the nesting compartments where they may compete with or harass martins," Howery said. "Repeated removal of their nests is usually the best method to discourage these species."

            The "Birds of Prey" stamp collection features the northern goshawk, peregrine falcon, golden eagle, osprey and northern harrier. The self-adhesive falcon stamps are sold in sheets of 20 for $17 per sheet. Each stamp features a full-colored bird of prey against a white background. All five of the featured birds are found in Oklahoma. Birds of prey live in diverse habitats; however, an osprey or golden eagle will typically be near one of Oklahoma's large bodies of water.

            Both stamp illustrations can be ordered online at usps.com or by phone at (800) 782-6724. Visit beyondtheperf.com to view the illustrations. For more information on birds in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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Identify springtime wildlife with field book from the Wildlife Department (March 20, 2012)

            As the weather continues to warm up, you may get a chance to see one of Oklahoma's unique frogs, snakes, turtles or salamanders on your outdoor adventures. the third edition of A Field Guide to Oklahoma's Amphibians and Reptiles can help you identify them.

            "Kids get a rush of excitement when they see critters outside and are able to identify them," said Rachel Bradley, wildlife diversity information specialist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "The Wildlife Department strives to get kids and families connected with nature and this book is an excellent excuse to get outdoors."

            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation originally published the book in 2005. The Department has since published updated editions including range maps, new photos and additional information.

            "Oklahoma has a unique mixture of amphibians and reptiles because of its diverse habitats ranging from coastal plains to high mesas, as well as its central location in the United States," said Greg Seivert, co-author of A Field Guide to Oklahoma's Amphibians and Reptiles.

            The third edition highlights this unique mixture and is sure to provide some family fun under the sun. It is available for $25 by calling the Wildlife Department license section at (405) 521-3852 or downloading and completing the Outdoor Store order form on wildlifedepartment.com and mailing it to the Wildlife Department, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, 73152. Each purchase of the field guide comes with a one-year subscription to Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.

            A Field Guide to Oklahoma's Amphibians and Reptiles is a project of the Wildlife Department's Wildlife Diversity Program. The Wildlife Diversity Program is committed to species of conservation concern that are not hunted or fished. Money from book sales goes to help fund the program.

 

 

Big fish is sign of the times (March 15, 2012)

            The arrival of spring often brings warmer weather, blooming trees and, at least in Oklahoma, a big lake record fish. On March 3, Royce Harlan of Kingston hauled in a 12.4-lb. largemouth bass from the waters of Lake Texoma, nabbing that lake record spot and setting the stage for a great fishing season. 

            Harlan caught the 24-inch bass in the Washita arm using a soft plastic bait. The fish is a new record bass for Texoma in the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's lake record fish program.

            "It's always a thrill to catch a big fish," Harlan said. "Everybody always hopes for that one big bite. I got it, and I'm thankful for it."

            Harlan released the fish.

            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's lake record fish program was initiated in 2008 to recognize big fish from certain lakes and the anglers who catch them.

            The program has grown from about a dozen lakes at its inception to more than 40 lakes today. So while anglers all over the state can go fishing just for leisure, they also have a chance of putting their name in a record book.

            Other lake records nabbed by anglers recently include a 2.6-lb. crappie caught March 7 at Hudson Lake by Big Cabin angler Roger Moseley and a 5.8-lb. saugeye caught at Shawnee Twin Lake #1 by Jed Davidson of McLoud.

            Lake record fish can be viewed on the Wildlife Department's website at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/fishing/records.htm. The user-friendly search feature allows those interested to view a wealth of lake record fish information, ranging from the size of record fish caught to what kind of bait or rod and reel was used to catch them.

            Species eligible for spots in the lake records book include blue, channel and flathead catfish and largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass in addition to crappie, paddlefish, striped bass, striped bass hybrids, sunfish (combined) walleye/saugeye and white bass. Minimum weights are set for each species and are detailed on the Wildlife Department's website at wildlifedepartment.com.

            Anglers who catch a potential record from a participating lake should contact the lake record keeper for the lake - usually a business located near the lake. A listing of official lake record keepers is available on wildlifedepartment.com.

            Once it has been determined that an angler has landed a record fish, the media is notified and the public will be able to view information about the catch on wildlifedepartment.com.

            All past and current state record fish are registered in the lake record fish program as records for their respective lakes.

            For more information about the lake record fish program, or for more on fishing in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com. Fishing in Oklahoma also is covered in depth in the current issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, the official magazine of the Wildlife Department. The issue features the Wildlife Department's annual "Anglers' Guide," featuring a range of useful information on catching the state's most popular fish. Issues are available from the Wildlife Department's central office for $3 ($4 if mailed). Subscriptions also are available for $10 a year, $18 for two years or $25 for three years. More information and subscription details are available online at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/outdoor_oklahoma.htm or by calling 1-800-777-0019.

 

 

Royce Harlan of Kingston landed this new lake record largemouth bass at Texoma Lake. The fish, which Harlan released, tipped the scales at more than 12 pounds. 

Royce Harlan of Kingston landed this new lake record largemouth bass at Texoma Lake. The fish, which Harlan released, tipped the scales at more than 12 pounds.

 

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Illinois River Fly Fishing School opens additional course this month (March 13, 2012)

            After overwhelming attendance at two fly fishing sessions already held this year, the experts at the Illinois River Fly Fishing School are hosting a third course March 30-31 at Tenkiller State Park.

            The course was first offered in late February, which quickly filled up and prompted a second course.

            "We've just had so much interest that we filled up a second and now we are going to do a third," said long-time instructor Mark Patton.

            The clinic will feature instructional sessions as well as hands-on practice on the banks of the Illinois River. Space is limited.

            According to Patton, the clinic lays a good foundation for both amateur and experienced anglers. While he "starts from the ground up," Patton said even those familiar with fly fishing can benefit from the instruction.

            The clinic will offer in depth information on equipment, tackle assembly, knots, flies, casting, and tactics and will include on-stream fishing instruction. Patton said participants will leave with a better understanding of fly fishing by learning how the equipment works and why it performs the way it does when operated properly. While an angler may be proficient with bait-casting and spinning reel motions, converting that knowledge to fly fishing "just doesn't work." Upon completion of the Illinois River Fly Fishing School, Patton said participants will be ready to begin fishing by themselves.

            "A guide right now in some places is $400 a day," Patton said. "I try to get people to where they don't need a guide."

            The clinic costs $150 and includes instruction on Friday and Saturday, and anglers are encouraged to stay and fish Sunday. Spots are limited, and registration is required by calling (405) 340-1992. Meals for the event are available for $30, or participants can provide their own. Participants are responsible for their lodging and can book a stay at the state park directly by calling (918) 489-5643.

            Fly rods will be available for loan on Saturday, and participants who own their own gear are encouraged to bring it with them to the clinic. Participants should dress for outdoor conditions and bring a hat, sunglasses, coat, rain gear, alarm clock and flashlight. The "welcome session" begins at 8 p.m., Friday, March 30, after cabin check-in, and all indoor sessions and meals will be held in the community center located immediately north of the Tenkiller office.

            For more information or to register, call Patton at (405) 340-1992.

 

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Slate of hunting and fishing regulation changes approved for 2012 (March 9, 2012)
            The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission considered and voted on a slate of more than 30 proposed hunting, fishing and wildlife-related rule changes at its March meeting at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters in Oklahoma City.
 
Wildlife and hunting-related rule changes
            A number of the approved changes will benefit hunters, such as increasing youth deer hunting opportunities and expanding the state’s black bear season to allow hunters more time to hunt. There were also changes to rules pertaining to the use of bait on Department lands and the use of ATVs on Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area in southeast Oklahoma.
            “The Wildlife Department is trying to simplify our hunting regulations and improve opportunities for sportsmen, so there are a number of changes this year that will help us do that,” said Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Wildlife Department.
            Youth hunters participating in the youth deer gun season will be allowed to harvest two deer, which may include no more than one buck. This allows them the option to harvest two does, whereas in previous years the season limit for the youth deer gun season was one antlered and one antlerless deer.
            The Commission also voted to change the black bear archery season to Oct. 1 through the third Sunday in October with no quota. A bear muzzleloader season with a quota of 20 bears also was guaranteed, set to run concurrent with the deer muzzleloader season. Two of the three black bear seasons that have been held in Oklahoma since its inauguration in 2009 have closed within 48 hours due to quotas being met early.
            Effective in July, the use of bait will be unlawful on all lands owned or managed by the Wildlife Department. What is considered baiting was clarified as the placing, depositing, exposing, distributing or scattering of shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grain or other feed.
            The use of ATVs on Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area in southeast Oklahoma will be changed to reflect rules requested by the landowners of the area. Full details will be printed in the “2012-13 Oklahoma Hunting Guide,” available this summer.
            The Commission also clarified responsibilities for enrollees in the Department’s Deer Management Assistance Program as well the Department responsibilities for operating the program. Another proposal to increase the minimum required acreage for enrollment in the DMAP program from 1,000 to 2,500 acres was discussed at length but not approved.
            Also discussed but not approved was a proposal to change several regulations pertaining to the daily and season bag limits on certain furbearers, such as eliminating daily bag limits on raccoon, gray fox and red fox as well as increasing the season limits on gray fox, red fox and river otter. No changes were made to the furbearer season regulations.
            Other wildlife-related rule changes that were approved by the Commission will accomplish the following:

 

            The Commission also was informed of a change to spring turkey season harvest limits in central and northeast regions of the state that will go into effect for the 2013 spring season. In order to address low reproductive success of wild turkeys in recent years, the harvest limit is being changed from a two-tom limit to a one-tom limit in Osage, Kay, Grant, Pawnee, Creek, Payne, Logan, Canadian, Lincoln, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Hughes, Seminole, Pottawatomie, McClain, Grady, Pontotoc, Garvin, Johnston, Murray, Carter, Love, Washington, Nowata, Craig, Wagoner, Cherokee, Adair, Muskogee, McIntosh, Sequoyah and Haskell counties. The change will not affect the 2012 spring turkey season.
            “While we cannot control the weather and nesting success of our state’s wild turkeys, this is one measure we can use to help the birds recover from a few years that were not ideal for nesting success,” Peoples said. “Wild turkey populations in these regions have declined somewhat, and we want to do what we can to ensure they continue to thrive. Many of our sportsmen feel the same way.”
 
Fishing-related rule changes effective January 1, 2013.
            Fishing-related proposals affecting anglers that were considered and approved by the Commission will accomplish the following:


 
            The Commission also approved a proposal to change the price of the Wildlife Department’s Cy Curtis book and include a subscription to Outdoor Oklahoma magazine with every sale of the book.
            Additionally, the Commission approved an emergency rule to authorize WMA biologists to approve groups of up to 25 horseback riders on WMAs during periods closed to horseback riding provided the activity doesn’t conflict with hunting activity. Written approval from area managers or biologists is required.
            As the governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Commission considers and votes on proposed rule changes annually after the proposals are passed through the Department’s internal regulatory review committee and then presented to the public for feedback at public hearings and online. Once approved by the Commission, rule changes must pass through the legislative process and be signed by the governor. Complete details of all changes will be outlined in the next “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” and “Oklahoma Fishing Guide.”
 
Other business
            In other business, the Commission approved a memorandum of agreement with Chermac Energy Corporation to benefit the lesser prairie chicken in northwest Oklahoma. Chermac is considering construction of a high voltage electric transmission line extending from a substation south of Woodward to a location north of Buffalo and has voluntarily agreed to help offset the line’s impact to prairie chicken habitat. The agreement calls for a payment of $2.5 million—to be paid upon the start of construction — that will be used to help leverage additional matching funds from private and federal entities for preservation, enhancement and acquisition of lesser prairie chicken habitat. The transmission line, scheduled for construction in 2013-14, will ultimately carry enough energy to serve over 250,000 households and allow for substantial wind energy development in Harper County.
            “This agreement shows that the ODWC is working with industries in our state for a balance between sound environmental policies and economic development for our state,” said Richard Hatcher, director of the Wildlife Department. “This agreement is important in recognizing the need to protect certain species and their habitat in Oklahoma while allowing energy and jobs to flourish.”
            The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Wildlife 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.
            The next scheduled Commission meeting is set for 9 a.m. April 2, at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), located at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City.
 
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Wildlife Department offers a new summer internship opportunity (March 8, 2012)

            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is looking for an intern to work directly on projects committed to species of greatest conservation need that are not hunted or fished in the state.

            The position is part of the Wildlife Department's Wildlife Diversity program and will allow students to work in fisheries, information and education and wildlife divisions and gain an understanding of how the Wildlife Department operates. It will provide a well-rounded experience over eight weeks, as students will assist in a variety of office and field projects.

            "This is an ideal opportunity for students to showcase their skills, get connected with the Wildlife Department and enhance their knowledge base through hands-on activities," said Rachel Bradley, wildlife diversity information specialist for the Wildlife Department. "Students will work on various projects such as mussel sampling, fish kill investigations, vertebrate surveys, write species profiles, monitor least tern nesting colonies and other various projects that may come about."

            The program is open to juniors and seniors currently enrolled at a college or university. Applications are available for pick-up at the Oklahoma City headquarters office at 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd or may also be downloaded online at wildlifedepartment.com. The deadline for all applications is 4:30 p.m. March 30. Emailed applications and resumes without the Department's application form will not be accepted. Indicate interest by writing "Wildlife Diversity Internship" in the "Position Applying For" section of the Department's application form. Initial background checks will be conducted on successful candidates. Please contact Rachel Bradley for further information at (405) 522-3087.

 

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Chermac Energy Corporation and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation enter into agreement concerning Lesser Prairie Chicken (March 6, 2012)

            OKLAHOMA CITY - Chermac Energy Corporation and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) entered into a Memorandum of Agreement to voluntarily partially offset potential habitat loss for the Lesser Prairie Chicken ("LEPC"). The MOA covers voluntary payments for possible affects to LEPC and their habitat caused by a planned 55 mile high voltage transmission line from near the Kansas State Line to the OG&E Woodward EHV substation that will be used to carry up to 900 MW of wind energy from Harper County to the rest of Oklahoma and beyond.

            "This is a great day for Oklahoma business and the environment," stated Jaime McAlpine, President of Chermac. "It has taken over two years of continuous negotiations and discussions with the ODWC to reach an agreement that will bring resolution to a vital piece needed for wind energy development in northwest Oklahoma. I want to thank Secretary of Environment Gary Sherrer, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission and ODWC staff for working with the wind industry to help allow development of new wind farms in Oklahoma including necessary transmission. Hopefully this will be used as a model for other energy developers to work with the ODWC in protecting our state's environmental attributes while responsibly developing the abundant energy resources of Oklahoma."

            The transmission line, scheduled for construction in 2013-2014, will ultimately carry enough energy to serve over 250,000 households and allow for substantial wind energy development in Harper County. The landowners, Harper County government, and affected school districts will all stand to receive substantial financial benefit from the agreement and wind farm opportunities it will create.

            Director Richard Hatcher of the ODWC said, "This agreement shows that the ODWC is working with industries in our state for a balance between sound environmental policies and economic development for our state.  This agreement is important in recognizing the need to protect certain species and their habitat in Oklahoma while allowing energy and jobs to flourish."

            "These types of voluntary agreements continue to illustrate that the wind industry wants to work with our state in developing good business practices that provide significant financial benefits to all Oklahomans while recognizing the environmental needs of those same Oklahomans and the U.S.," Secretary of Environment Gary Sherrer said. "We hope that others in the energy industries, private environmental groups and US Fish and Wildlife Service will take note of what Oklahomans are doing voluntarily for preservation of the Lesser Prairie Chicken."

            The agreement calls for the payment of a total of $2.5 million with the money being used to help leverage additional matching funds from private and Federal entities for preservation, enhancement and acquisition of LEPC habitat.   

 

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