Darren Delong, senior field representative for the National Rifle Association (center) presents a $6,000 donation for Lexington WMA shooting range renovations to Wildlife Department Director J.D. Strong (left) and Information and Education Chief Nels Rodefeld during the June meeting of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission at Woolaroc near Bartlesville. (DON P. BROWN / ODWC)
NRA Donates to Shooting Range Project
A program to improve shooting ranges at several Wildlife Department management areas across the state received a welcomed boost this week from the National Rifle Association Foundation.
During June's regular meeting of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, NRA senior field representative Darren Delong presented a check for $6,000 toward renovations at Lexington Wildlife Management Area.
Commissioners met Monday at Woolaroc, the former ranch retreat of oilman Frank Phillips near Bartlesville.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is in the early stages of a five-year plan to improve shooting ranges at a dozen WMAs. Shooting ranges at Lexington and Cherokee WMAs will be the first to receive improvements.
Delong told commissioners the NRA Foundation's Friends of NRA is fund-raising for the future of the shooting sports. fits with the organization's mission to support shooting sports. Since 1992, Friends of NRA has raised more than $600 million for the NRA Foundation for projects such as range improvements, education and training, competitive shooting and general shooting programs.
He said Oklahoma's Friends of NRA program has given more than 1,300 grants totalling more than $5 million.
Also Monday, The commission agreed to participate financially in a Farm Bill Biologist Partnership overseen by the conservation group Quail Forever.
Chris McLeland, QF South Region director and coordinator of the Farm Bill biologist program, told commissioners that the program has been greatly successful in several states including Missouri, where about a half-dozen farm bill biologists are based throughout that state to work with landowners interested in upland game and other species such as butterflies that all benefit from better habitat.
The first farm bill biologist for Oklahoma will be based in Buffalo and serve several counties in that area of western Oklahoma, McLeland said.
In other business, Commissioners:
- Approved a 2018 operating budget of $68.4 million, which represents a 5.7 percent decrease from the previous year's budget. Included in the spending plan is most of the expenses for renovation of the Wildlife Department's headquarters building at 1801 N. Lincoln. The renovated headquarters is scheduled to open in September 2018. The Wildlife Department receives no general tax revenues; the bulk of the agency's income is generated from the sale of annual fishing and hunting licenses, along with federal Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program grants.
- Accepted donations from the Beaver Homesteaders Chapter and Woodward Covey Rise Chapter of Quail Forever to buy a mobile burn skid unit, and from the Central Oklahoma 89er Chapter for habitat conservation at Ouachita WMA.
- Authorized policy manual changes to update the Wildlife Department's Reserve Game Warden Program.
- Recognized senior wildlife biologist Jack Waymire for 25 years of service. He is based at Pushmataha WMA.
- Approved nominations for new officers. Commissioner John D. Groendyke of Enid will serve as chairman; Commissioner Bill Brewster of Marietta will serve as vice chairman; and Commissioner Leigh Gaddis of Ada will serve as secretary.
- Received an update on state and federal legislative action. Wildlife Department Director J.D. Strong said one measure returns the tax form check-off for the Wildlife Diversity Program's tax check-off to the state income tax filing form. Another measure allows the Wildlife Conservation Commission more flexibility in setting meeting dates.
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 scheduled Commission meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday, July 6, 2017, at the Wildlife Department's interim headquarters, 2145 NE 36 St. in Oklahoma City.
Laura McIver, Oklahoma and Texas regional representative for Quail Forever, presents a check representing donations from three QF chapters to Wildlife Department Director J.D. Strong (left), and Wildlife Division Chief Alan Peoples for equipment and upland game conservation activities at two WMAs. [DON P. BROWN / ODWC]