Presenting the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative's 2017 Fire Bird Conservation Award for Oklahoma are, from left, James Dietsch of Central Oklahoma 89er Chapter of Quail Forever; Wildlife Department Assistant Director Wade Free; Department Director J.D. Strong; honoree Laura McIver, regional representative, Oklahoma and Texas Quail Forever; Derek Wiley, Department upland game biologist; Wildlife Division Chief Alan Peoples; and Wildlife Division Assistant Chief Bill Dinkines. (Don P. Brown/ODWC)
Commission Applauds Oklahoma Fire Bird Honoree for Quail Efforts
For years of tireless effort to restore bobwhite populations in Oklahoma, Laura McIver of Pheasants/Quail Forever received the 2017 National Fire Bird Conservation Award for Oklahoma during the regular September meeting of theOklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission on Wednesday in Oklahoma City.
The award is presented by the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, a 25-state strategic organization devoted to bobwhite restoration. Derek Wiley, upland game biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, presented the award to McIver.
In his introduction, Wiley told Commissioners that McIver always goes above and beyond in supporting bobwhite conservation. “She does a fantastic job,” Wiley said, noting McIver’s work and guidance that has resulted in more than $200,000 in donations to Wildlife Department quail habitat projects.
In accepting the award, McIver said quail restoration is a team effort. “You guys are fantastic to work with,” she told the Commission.
According to NBCI, The award’s name symbolizes the historic reliance of bobwhites on fire in much of its range to maintain the landscape in an early successional stage, that is, in the native grasses, wildflowers and weeds that provide bobwhites with suitable habitat.
Wildfires and prescribed burning to clear farm fields and woodlots historically resulted in abundant habitat for bobwhites and numerous other wildlife species. The term “fire bird” in relation to bobwhites was first coined by naturalist Herbert Stoddard, who researched bobwhites and worked to restore bobwhite habitat in the early 20th century.
Today, prescribed fire under controlled conditions by trained professionals has become an increasingly important tool for bobwhite habitat creation and management.
Also, Commissioners voted to support a recommendation that the U.S. Congress redirect up to $1.3 billion annually from existing energy and mineral proceeds from federal lands and waters to fish and wildlife conservation. Wildlife Department Director J.D. Strong said the action aligns Oklahoma with dozens of other state conservation agencies that have approved similar resolutions.
The recommendation was made by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources, which was formed to examine the current system of conservation funding and suggest a new mechanism that will conserve all fish and wildlife. If Congress approves, the funding would provide states with the resources needed to implement State Wildlife Action Plans, which are designed to conserve more than 12,000 species of Greatest Conservation Need across the country, including the 311 such species found in Oklahoma.
Strong said Oklahoma stands to receive about $18 million for wildlife conservation if Congress agrees to the recommendation.
In other business, Commissioners:
Approved an amendment to Title 800 sport fishing rules pertaining to snagging. The amendment sets snagging hours from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the reservoir tailwaters at Fort Gibson.
Recognized Ron Smith, senior wildlife biologist at Sandy Sanders and Altus Lugert wildlife management areas, for 20 years of service to the Department.
Approved amendments to Title 800 wildlife rules and Department managed lands rules for Arbuckle Springs WMA.
Approved the Department legislative liaison as a permanent position.
Authorized the Director to proceed with negotiations for the possible purchase of property in Haskell and Johnson counties, after discussing the matters in executive session.
Heard a reminder from Commission Chairman John Groendyke that the Wildlife Department’s annual Wildlife Expo will be held Sept. 23-24 at the Lazy E Arena near Guthrie, and he urged all Commissioners to make a visit there. He said the Expo does an excellent job showing the public many great things being done by the Wildlife Department and giving them a taste of the outdoor activities available in Oklahoma.
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, Oct. 2, 2017, at the Wildlife Department's interim headquarters, 2145 NE 36 St. in Oklahoma City.
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