A specialized machine is used to remove lead fragments from the soil at the Lexington Wildlife Management Area's shooting range. All 12 ranges on Wildlife Department areas are scheduled to be renovated in the coming years.
Shooting Ranges Hit Mark With Commission
Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission members targeted their attention on shooting ranges during their regular April meeting held in Miami, Oklahoma. The "road trip" meeting allowed Commissioners to get a personal look at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Paddlefish Research Center in operation.
In 2015, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation began work on a long-term plan to renovate shooting ranges on the 12 wildlife management areas that have them.
The Department is committed to shooting ranges and shooting activities, whether conducted by hunters or not, because all people who participate in the shooting sports are part of the Department's core constituency, said Nels Rodefeld, chief of the Information and Education Division.
"A big portion of our money from the Wildlife Restoration grant program comes from firearms purchases and ammunition sales."
The Department's hunter education coordinator, Lance Meek, gave a progress report on the renovations. Improving safety and reducing maintenance requirements are among the goals in the five-year plan.
Meek said one of the first tasks in shooting range renovation is to remove existing lead waste, in the form of bullet fragments, at the site. He said lead removal has been completed at five of the 12 Department shooting ranges, and so far a total of almost 20 tons of lead has been removed.
The shooting ranges at Lexington and Cherokee WMAs are the first being renovated. Meek said engineering for those ranges has been done and construction of berms and shooting stations will begin soon. Renovations will continue with Beaver and Pushmataha WMAs in 2018; James Collins and Okmulgee WMAs in 2019; Fort Gibson and Canton WMAs in 2020; and Texoma-Washita Arm, Hickory Creek and Optima WMAs in 2021.
But some ambitious changes to the lead removal schedule and higher-than-expected construction costs have created a need for additional funding this fiscal year to keep the plan on schedule. Commissioners approved adding $200,000 to the current budget to keep shooting range renovations on schedule.
In a separate presentation, Dr. Tim Faltyn, president of Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell, briefed Commissioners on a major shooting sports project under way there. The university is building a shooting range that will serve students and also be open to the public. He is confident the range will become a competition host site for thousands of student shooting teams from five nearby states.
Commissioners approved a cooperative agreement with OPSU for planning and construction of the shooting range, and also approved an increase of about $162,000 in the Department's Information and Education Division budget for Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program planning grant expenses for the project.
This and other similar projects are funded with grants from the federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. Anglers, hunters and outdoors enthusiasts pay an excise tax when they buy goods related to outdoor activities. That tax revenue is distributed back to the individual states. So each time an Oklahoman buys a license or outdoors- related merchandise, he or she is supporting important conservation efforts such as installing boat ramps or increasing hunting access.
In other business, Commissioners:
- Received a legislative update from Director J.D. Strong summarizing issues of concern to the Wildlife Department at the federal and state levels.
- Authorized the Director to negotiate and sign an agreement renewable for up to three years to provide lease payment to Weyerhaeuser Co. to allow public hunting access to land in Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area.
- Recognized wildlife biologist John Rempe for 20 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 scheduled Commission meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Monday, May 1, 2017, at the Wildlife Department's temporary headquarters, 2145 NE 36th St. in Oklahoma City.