During their regular January meeting, Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commissioners adopted a position statement in support of legislation that would provide the opportunity to the Commission to streamline and modernize the structure for hunting and fishing licenses in the state.
According to Corey Jager, Legislative Liaison for the Wildlife Department, the agency’s legislative focus for the 2022 session is to advance a major overhaul of the existing hunting and fishing license structure.
The Department’s overarching powers are defined by the Legislature, in Title 29 of the Oklahoma State Statutes. Legislators may create, modify or repeal laws, including laws within Title 29. Title 29 specifically houses ODWC’s licensing language — types of licenses, fees, exemptions, penalties, etc. Since license sales are the primary source of funding for ODWC, the agency must work with the Legislature to ensure licensing changes are not detrimental to hunter and angler participation and wildlife conservation funding.
“License statutes over time have become numerous and complicated as licenses have been added and altered. At the same time, few changes to the fees have been made, failing to allow ODWC to keep pace with the increasing costs of managing the state’s fish and wildlife resources,” Jager said.
After a rigorous review of ODWC’s current license structure including assistance of Southwick Associates, and a survey of licensed hunters and anglers, ODWC has developed a proposed new license and fee structure. Because any changes to licensing requires legislative approval, this proposal will be ODWC’s priority during the 2022 legislative session. The general proposed changes include:
- Transitioning to licenses that are valid for 365 days from the purchase date and eliminating calendar-year and fiscal-year licenses.
- Creating one inexpensive youth hunting license that covers all requirements for children younger than 18, or otherwise provides exemptions for species that will not require a license.
- Transitioning to season-based deer licenses that provide the whole bag limit for each season under one license and eliminating the license-per-deer concept currently in use.
- Consolidating all “fishing trip” licenses to one-day licenses.
- Creating nonresident pricing for the state waterfowl stamp, turkey license, and conservation passport.
“Actually getting these proposals approved and implemented will require a lengthy process. Rather than pursuing these consolidation and modernization proposals by changing many state statutes, ODWC is proposing to move all licensing language into the administrative rules process. This is the procedure whereby most hunting and fishing regulations are already made,” Jager said.
The administrative rules process allows the Wildlife Department to have more flexibility with changing or creating licenses, but importantly also ensures that hunters and anglers have direct input in the process with a 30-day public comment period on all rule change proposals. These changes would also go through the legislature for final approval as part of the regular rule making process. The earliest any licensing changes would take effect, if approved, would be November 2022.
In other business, the Commission:
- Received regular updates from ODWC Director J.D. Strong on activities in various divisions since the previous meeting.
- Approved budget revisions to support ongoing training and branding efforts, a boating access project for Collier’s Landing, and boundary surveys for Sans Bois/Atoka grant.
- Recognized Mike Plunkett, Northeast Region Wildlife Supervisor, for 40 years of service to the hunters and anglers in Oklahoma.
The next regular Commission meeting is set for 9 a.m. Feb. 7, 2022, at the John D. Groendyke Wildlife Conservation Building, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City.