Outdoor traditions strong in Oklahoma At its regular October meeting, held Oct. 2 in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission discussed keeping hunting and fishing heritages alive with a key national advocate for outdoor recreation.
Rick Storey, vice-president of the Wildlife Legislative Fund of America (WLFA) said that Oklahoma is blessed with people who have outdoor backgrounds and support fish and wildlife management and recreation.
Sportsmen in many other parts of the country are not as lucky, he said, as evidenced by the growing wave of legislation and ballot initiatives that seek to reduce hunting and trapping activities. According to Storey, the three keys to successfully defending hunting and fishing activities are raising money, recruiting volunteers to mount political campaigns and developing a message the public can understand. All three depend heavily on cohesive, active grass-roots sportsmen's organizations. The WLFA, which was formed in 1978 as a national advocacy group for hunting, fishing and professional fish and wildlife management, will be looking to build grass-roots coalitions throughout the country, including Oklahoma.
Several awards presentations were made at the October meeting. In the first presentation, Andy Phillips of Shikar Safari recognized Game Warden Max Crocker, stationed in Texas County, as the 2000 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. Phillips also received an award from the Wildlife Department's Executive Director Greg Duffy thanking Shikar Safari for its role in recognizing outstanding game wardens in Oklahoma, and throughout the world.
Duffy also recognized three other Department employees as part of the agency's annual Employee Recognition Program. Selected for their outstanding service, dedication and commitment were: Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor; Brent Gordon, fisheries biologist; and Johnny Hill, property assistant. Shaw, who received the Resource Achievement Award, has worked for the Department for 21 years and supervises many of the agency's wildlife programs. He also is recognized as the state's leading deer biologist. Hill, a 4-year veteran, maintains the building and grounds at the Department's headquarters in Oklahoma City and was selected as the 2000 Service Achievement Award recipient. Gordon, who was selected for the Conservation Achievement Award, was also chosen as the Department's Employee Of The Year. A 12-year veteran, Gordon was originally nominated for the awards while he was a fisheries technician in the northeast region. He was recently promoted to fisheries biologist in the northeast region.
Also recognized at the meeting were individuals and organizations involved with the annual Norman Hunter Education Clinic, held each August in Norman.
The clinic is the hall-mark event for the Department's Hunter Education Program, having certified more than 16,000 people since its inception in 1974. Those recognized for continued support and commitment to various aspects of the clinic were the Oklahoma Wildlife Federation, the Tri-City Gun Club, the City of Norman and the Oklahoma Publishing Company. David Warren, Information and Education chief for the Department, told the Commission that over the past three decades hunting accident rates have fallen from an average of 22 accidents with 12 fatalities per year in 1972 to only 12 accidents with 1 fatality, on average, in recent years. There were no fatal hunting accidents in 1999, and according to Warren, this trend is due in large part to the hard work and dedication of concerned individuals such as those who help teach hunter education at the Norman Clinic and elsewhere.
In new business, Commissioners discussed the extreme fire danger across the state, a situation they pledged to monitor with the approach of several significant hunting seasons, including the primitive firearms season.
Hunters are often the first line of defense in reporting problems like wildfires in rural areas, but without significant rainfall, consideration may be given to adjusting the season.
Also under new business, Commission members discussed the process for allowing public comment on items being considered by the Commission. The topic will be addressed further at the Commission's November meeting, which will be held Monday, Nov. 6, at 9 a.m. at the Wildlife Department's headquarters in Oklahoma City.