Our stance on Oklahoma Department of Tourism & Recreation budget cuts

March 16, 2017 | Posted in Advocacy, News, Oklahoma Wildlife

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The following is a statement from the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma’s board chair, Ron Suttles, on the possible closing of 16 state parks in Oklahoma:

The Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma is very concerned about the “hypothetical” budget cuts to the Department of Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation. This negative ripple effect of closing 16 state parks is far worse than the budgetary savings potentially provided by such an action. 

These parks provide habitat for wildlife, a place for all Oklahoman’s to enjoy the great outdoors, jobs, and they feed the local economies of the towns near the parks. 

This decision should not be taken lightly by the legislature. If these parks are closed it will cost the state far more in the future to re-open them once the state finds itself in a better financial position. We encourage fiscal responsibility, but closing these parks would not be smart money management by the state of Oklahoma.

Dismantling BLM 2.0 Planning Rule Puts Wildlife and People at Risk

March 10, 2017 | Posted in Advocacy, conservation, News, Oklahoma Wildlife

Following a previous vote by the House, the Senate moved on March 7 to roll back the Bureau of Land Management Planning 2.0 initiative, undoing years of work to bring the agency’s planning into the 21st century, involve the public more and better balance the uses of our public lands.

The Senate used the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to undo recently approved rules and bars approval of new rules that are substantially the same. That means the BLM will be stuck with a planning process that hasn’t had a major overhaul in more than three decades even while demands and conditions on the landscape have dramatically changed.

Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma - Photo by Shane Bevel

Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s public lands policy director, said:

Using the CRA to roll back the BLM Planning 2.0 rule couldn’t be happening at a worse time for wildlife. The finalized rule modernized the process by making it more accessible and open to the public. The rule also permitted the BLM to take a big-picture look at the landscape so the impacts of development and other activities on waterways, wildlife migration routes as well as hunting and fishing opportunities could be more carefully considered.

“The senators’ vote against the BLM’s new planning rule is a vote against giving their constituents more say in how their public lands are managed. It’s also a vote against providing the BLM better tools to manage our public lands for the benefit of all Americans – hunters, anglers, bikers, wildlife watchers, ranchers, loggers and oil and gas operators” added Zimmerman. “Local elected officials, landowners and sportsmen have welcomed a more public process in communities where the BLM has used the Planning 2.0 principles to revise management plans.

“Now, the BLM and the public must revert to an outdated process that doesn’t adequately address the growing demands on our public lands or include provisions that aimed to address conflicts earlier and with more transparency.”

Read a letter by 21 National Wildlife Federation affiliates in support of BLM Planning 2.0.

Visit the National Wildlife Visit the National Wildlife Federation Media Center at NWF.org/News.

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The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization, uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly changing world. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Statement On 2018 Farm Bill For Senate Committee on Agriculture

February 23, 2017 | Posted in Advocacy, conservation, News, Partners

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Today, The National Wildlife Federation, along with the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma and other NWF affiliates, submitted a statement for the record for the Senate Committee on Agriculture’s Field Hearing on the upcoming Farm Bill. 

“By investing more in the Farm Bill’s conservation programs, Congress would be investing in Oklahoma’s communities and wildlife habitats,” said Ron Suttles, Board Chair for the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma. “These programs are extremely popular with our farming and ranching community and also provide long-term benefits to some of our favorite nesting species like quail, pheasants, and wild turkeys. If we can successfully increase funding and acreage for Farm Bill conservation initiatives such as the Conservation Reserve Program, that would be really beneficial to Oklahoma’s farming and ranching community, wildlife, and taxpayers at the same time.”

“We at the National Wildlife Federation are excited to get to work with Chairman Roberts, Ranking Member Stabenow, and the members of the committee on the 2018 Farm Bill,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “The Farm Bill’s voluntary conservation programs have a tremendous ability to conserve and restore vital wildlife habitats in cost-effective ways, while enjoying broad support with producers and engaging rural communities.”

“The next Farm Bill needs to increase the funding and capacity of popular programs like the Conservation Reserve Program and expand the “sodsaver” provision nationwide to help reduce the conversion of native grassland and wildlife habitat. The National Wildlife Federation is eager to work with Congress to find ways to increase funding for these programs so that producers can continue to improve soil health, restore water quality, and increase wildlife populations, all while strengthening rural economies.” 

Learn more about our partner, the National Wildlife Federation at www.nwf.org.

Important Public Input for Parks in Oklahoma

February 7, 2017 | Posted in Partners

The following is from our friends at Oklahoma State University and the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department:

Every five years the State of Oklahoma is required to develop a Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) to continue eligibility for certain federal grant programs. These grant programs and the statewide plan are directly beneficial to local communities and to Oklahoma through planning and development of infrastructure and economic development. Oklahoma State University has contracted with the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department to prepare the SCORP.

As a member of the public interested in parks and recreation, your responses to an online survey are important because you will be representing your community in this planning effort. Because of this, the information you provide will help us plan for future recreation needs and continue Oklahoma’s eligibility for several federal grant programs. 

Please click on the link (https://goo.gl/Q1czeQ) to complete the online survey. The survey will take about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Staff at OSU will be conducting the data analysis and preparing the report for the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. Your voice is extremely important in planning for the future!

If you have any questions about this project at any time, please contact Dr. Fatemeh (Tannaz) Soltani, Research Assistant Professor at OSU by phone at (405) 744-9166 or by email attannaz.soltani@okstate.edu.

Fatemeh (Tannaz) Soltani, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor
Department of Geography
Oklahoma State University

Lowell Caneday, Ph.D.
Regents Professor Emeritus
Oklahoma State University

Monarch Butterfly Designated Priority Species

January 29, 2017 | Posted in conservation, News, Oklahoma Wildlife

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In January, the monarch butterfly was designated by the Working Lands for Wildlife as a priority species in the United States. The species has seen a decline in population over the last two decades with a slight increase in population in recent years.

Plans to conserve the species and its habitat will take place in Oklahoma and nine other states in the midwest and Great Plains, which are in the monarch’s migration path and host breeding habitats.

The partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will provide financial assistance and instruction to landowners to create effective habitats for the pollinators with help from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, and Conservation Stewardship Program.

A focus for this initiative will be on planting and enhancing stands of milkweed and other high-value nectar plants for monarchs.

According to The Wildlife Society, “the monarch butterfly will join species whose habitat needs are representative of healthy, functioning ecosystems, and where conservation efforts benefit a wide variety of species.”

Conservation efforts will receive $20 million over five years  and includes an additional partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Wildlife Federation – of which the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma is an affiliate – and the Mexican and Canadian governments to leverage resources and investments to support and implement conservation actions across the continent.

“Producers can make simple and inexpensive tweaks on working lands that provide monumental benefits to monarch butterflies and a variety of other insects and wildlife,” said NRCS Chief Jason Weller. “By adding the monarch to Working Lands for Wildlife, we can accelerate conservation for the species at the heart of its migration corridor.”

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, producers interested in NRCS assistance should contact their local USDA service center to learn more. NRCS accepts landowner enrollment applications on a continuous basis. NRCS offers more than three dozen conservation practices that can provide benefits to monarchs as well as a variety of other pollinators.