Legislative Update 2017

Posted in Advocacy, News, SQ777

The legislative session for 2017 is over and on behalf of the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma (the Coalition) member organizations and board of directors, we are pleased to present the legislative update. 

Gwendolyn Caldwell with Caldwell and Associates did a great job representing our interests at the Capitol this session and we are glad to have her on board.

Thanks to the statewide network of organizations and individuals that came together in 2017 the Coalition was able to act on many different pieces of legislation.  Because of our victory on State Question 777, our presence at the Capitol has been enhanced and we have worked hard to maintain a responsible, thoughtful influence. 

Highlights from 2017 legislative session

SuccessHouse Bill 2132 was a major concern for the Coalition and we worked hard against it.  It would have established Prosperity Districts, where inside its boundaries, state laws, regulations, taxes, etc., would not apply unless they chose to adopt them.  It did not pass, but is still alive and we will watch it very closely in 2018. 

LossHB1537, creating the Water for 2060 Revolving Fund to promote efficient water use by municipalities.  It failed to pass but is still alive and we will work to support it in next session. 

Thanks to the Coalition member groups and individuals who supported and actively participated in the legislative session.   We had a great year and are looking forward to the future!


Conservation Coalition Legislative Successes

Bills the Coalition supported and were signed by Governor Mary Fallin:

SB0668Sen. Wayne Shaw, Grove and Rep. Josh West, Grove:  states the Legislature’s recognition that the primary purpose of the Scenic Rivers Act is to encourage the preservation of the areas designated as a scenic river area in their natural scenic state.

Bills the Conservation Coalition opposed and did not pass

HB1009Rep. Bobby Cleveland, Slaughterville: prohibits a game warden from entering private property for the purpose of enforcing the provisions of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Code based solely on the discharge of a firearm.  This hinders the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s (ODWC) ability to identify and apprehend poachers. 

HB1356Rep. Steve Kouplen, Beggs: prohibits the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) from disseminating rules or instituting regulations more stringent than those provided by the Environmental Protection Agency or by federal laws. The state of Oklahoma should be allowed to make stronger laws than the federal government in order to offer greater protections to our land and water.

HB1852Rep. Leslie Osborn, Mustang: provides guidelines and an outline that would allow the state to sell, lease, or transfer Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA).  The Scenic Rivers Commission (SRC) was moved to GRDA in 2016 so the sale of GRDA could potentially be harmful to ensuring the long term support and proper funding of the SRC. 

HB2001Rep. Rick West, Heavener and Sen. Mark Allen, Spiro: would allow anyone who holds a lifetime hunting license from being required to purchase attach a tag to a killed bear.  Oklahoma has a very small bear population and this would hinder the ability to manage the number of bears hunted each year.

HB2132Rep. Charles McCall, Atoka and Sen. Greg Treat, Oklahoma City: authorizes the governor to enter into prosperity compacts.  These are “no regulation” zones that would allow businesses to pollute the air and water in the zone.  Runoff from these areas could be devastating to the urban or rural areas adjacent to the zone impacting the water, air, wildlife habitat as well as the general health of neighboring individuals. 

HB2279Rep. Terry O’Donnell, Catoosa: This bill would have repealed language relating to a moratorium on the sale or exportation of water.

SB0634Sen. Josh Brecheen, Coalgate and Rep. JJ Humphrey, Lane: permits the Board of Agriculture to publicize rules and standards for the application, use, and sale of warfarin-based pesticides to be used for exterminating feral swine. Warfarin based products may have impacts on other, non-target species.  The state needs to call for more science before using this chemical for feral hog control.

Conservation Coalition Legislative Losses

HB1537Rep. Jason Dunnington, Oklahoma City and Sen. J.J. Dossett, Sperry: This bill would have created the Water for 2060 Revolving Fund for the Oklahoma Water Resources Board in the State Treasury for the purpose of promoting efficient water use by municipalities and residents of municipalities.  Water is our most precious natural resource and we must be take actions to conserve it for people and wildlife. 

HB1304Rep. Casey Murdock, Felt and Sen. Darcy Jech, Kingfisher: This bill allows a municipality to vote to remove the setback limitations on Oklahoma Swine Feeding Operations Act. This would allow a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) to exist inside a three mile radius of a city or town.  The bill does, however, offer a backstop – city/town councils must approve the close proximity. 

SB0147Sen. Mike Schulz, Altus and Rep. Casey Murdock, Felt: It allows a municipality to vote to remove the setback limitations on Oklahoma Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations Act.


Looking forward

Next year we will have the opportunity to push for HB1537.  Having an opportunity to get a proactive meaningful water conservation bill will take all hands on deck and may take multiple attempts.

Working against any type of similar bill to a prosperity district bill like HB2132 will be a top priority.  Often these bills take slightly changed form in following years and take a lot of effort to kill.

A special thanks to Trout Unlimited – without the engagement of this Coalition member group, Prosperity Districts might have been a reality.

How to Build a Pollinator Garden This Spring

Posted in conservation, Education, Fun Facts, Oklahoma Wildlife

Pollinator gardens and habitats in Oklahoma

As the temperatures warm and plants bloom, we welcome a variety of insects and animals back to Oklahoma, including a number of important pollinators, like bees and butterflies. May is Wildlife Month, so it’s the perfect time to get your backyard garden in shape to help these crucial creatures thrive throughout Oklahoma.

What are pollinators?

According to the National Wildlife Federation, pollinators are animals that move from plant to plant while searching for protein-rich pollen or high-energy nectar to eat. As they go, they are dusted by pollen and move it to the next flower, fertilizing the plant and allowing it to reproduce and form seeds, berries, fruits and other plant foods that form the foundation of the food chain for other species—including humans.

Pollinators are themselves important food sources for other wildlife. Countless birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians eat the protein and fat-rich eggs, larvae, or adult forms of pollinators, or feed them to their young. Pollinators play a critical role in the food supply for wildlife and people!

Key features of a pollinator habitat

In addition to providing a natural habitat into growing urban and suburban areas, pollinator habitats and gardens bring a wider variety of species of wildlife, encouraging growth and expansion of species at risk of becoming endangered.

When choosing types of plants for your yard, always use plants that are native to your area. Learn about which plants fit well into Oklahoma’s landscape with this guide from the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture by clicking here.

Here are some basic features to include in your habitat from the National Wildlife Federation:

Food: Native plants provide nectar, seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, foliage, pollen and insects eaten by an exciting variety of wildlife. Feeders can supplement natural food sources.

Water: All animals need water to survive and some need it for bathing or breeding as well.

Cover: Wildlife needs places to find shelter from bad weather and places to hide from predators or stalk prey.

Places to Raise Young: Wildlife needs resources to reproduce and keep their species going. Some species have totally different habitat needs in their juvenile phase than they do as adults.

Sustainable Practices: How you manage your garden can have an effect on the health of the soil, air, water and habitat for native wildlife as well as the human community.

Pollinator habitats across Oklahoma

In public spaces, such as the Tulsa and Oklahoma City Zoos, botanic gardens and city parks, you’ll find signs for monarch waystations or pollinator gardens, certifying they’ve met requirements to provide key elements to help pollinators grow, breed and thrive.

Take a tour of monarch waystations in Oklahoma by visiting MonarchWatch’s interactive Waystation Registry, which includes schools, public parks and private residences.

Certify your habitat

Thanks to our partners at the National Wildlife Federation, it’s easy to certify your habitat online. Visit their website and follow the checklist to ensure you’ve included everything to make your garden thrive for pollinators and wildlife. You’ll then receive a certificate and a sign, flag or plaque to signify your contribution to providing habitat for pollinators in your own backyard or property. May is Wildlife Month and through May 31, you can certify your habitat for 20% off!

MonarchWatch also offers a great resource for planning and registering your pollinator habitat. More than 15,000 waystations across the United States registered as of March 2017. Click here to certify your waystation and be added to the registry.

Pollinator Resources

Check out the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma’s top picks for pollinator garden resources:

House Bill 2132 Has Been Defeated

Posted in Advocacy, conservation, News, SQ777

House Bill 2132 Oklahoma

Last week, House Bill 2132 failed to receive a hearing in the Senate Rules Committee and is now considered dormant!

HB2132 was considered by the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma to be a bill that reflected the poor values of State Question 777, favoring large corporations over individual citizens, landowners and wildlife.

Had it passed, HB2132 would have created “prosperity districts” in which landowners could file a petition to create a district on their own land and in turn, create most of the rules of that so-called district.

According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, once a district has been filed, landowners would “negotiate a revenue covenant with the state instead of paying state and local taxes, and the district would be governed by a governing board.”

More from OKPolicy.org:

Once created, a Prosperity District could be used to get around the wishes of local government and voters. For example, a factory farm could create a Prosperity District that allows them to ignore state and local rules about waste disposal and food safety. The idea that Oklahoma should shackle its ability to regulate industrial agriculture was clearly rejected by voters last fall, when SQ 777, the so called “Right to Farm” State Question, was defeated at the polls.

We’re grateful to have supporters like you who contacted your legislative officials to encourage them to go against House Bill 2132 and protect our land, our water and our rights. From the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma board and staff, we thank you!

If you’d like more information on how to stay up to date on legislation that impacts you as a conservationist in our great state, join the Coalition as an individual or organizational member to receive updates direct from the Oklahoma State Capitol or donate today to support our programs and research to protect our natural resources.

Take Action! Stand Against Oklahoma HB2132 and “Prosperity Districts”

Posted in Advocacy, conservation, News, Oklahoma Wildlife

Take Action against Oklahoma HB2132 and the creation of "prosperity districts"

The Oklahoma legislature is considering a bill that reflects the poor values of State Question 777, favoring large corporations over individual citizens, landowners and wildlife.

HB2132 would create “prosperity districts” in which landowners could file a petition to create a district on their own land and in turn, create most of the rules of that so-called district.

According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, once a district has been filed, landowners would “negotiate a revenue covenant with the state instead of paying state and local taxes, and the district would be governed by a governing board.”

More from OKPolicy.org:

If county officials do not act to deny a petition to create or expand a “Prosperity District,” citing specific deficiencies within 20 days, it will automatically go into effect. That creates a lot of potential for powerful special interests to force through these Districts by overwhelming county officials with applications. Basically, this bill could allow corporations and other special interests to create their own governments – all they need is a bit of land.

Once created, a Prosperity District could be used to get around the wishes of local government and voters. For example, a factory farm could create a Prosperity District that allows them to ignore state and local rules about waste disposal and food safety. The idea that Oklahoma should shackle its ability to regulate industrial agriculture was clearly rejected by voters last fall, when SQ 777, the so called “Right to Farm” State Question, was defeated at the polls.

With Prosperity Districts, landowners could exempt themselves from the rules that apply to the rest of us. Besides the threat to neighbors of the district, Prosperity Districts could create even more complications for Oklahoma businesses.  Businesses inside the district could be given a big competitive advantage from being exempt from many state and local regulations, while other businesses would still be subject to all these rules.

Less than six months ago, the citizens of Oklahoma struck down a bill that would have allowed corporate agriculture and companies to function with few regulations, State Question 777. As citizens and advocates for our individual rights, we will not stand for similar legislation to move forward.

The board and members of the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma strongly oppose HB2132 and encourage our supporters to spread the word against this legislation.

Call, fax and email your senator and tell them we will stand up for the rights of our land, our water, our citizens and our wildlife.

How to contact your senator

  1. Call your senator at 405-524-0126
  2. Click here to fax your senator a letter instantly online
  3. Click here to email Senator Inhofe
  4. Click here to email Senator Lankford

How to spread the word

  1. Share this blog post via email with friends, family and colleagues
  2. Share on social media
    1. Right click here, save this image
    2. Upload image to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram
    3. Copy and paste this text:
      1. Twitter or Instagram: I support Oklahoma’s land, water and wildlife. I stand w/ @Conserve_OK against #HB2132 and “prosperity districts.” Tell senators to VOTE NO.
      2. Twitter or Instagram: Oklahomans voted NO on #SQ777. We refuse to let large corporations ignore rules and regulations again. I stand against #HB2132!
      3. Facebook: I stand with the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma against HB2132, which would allow large corporations to create “prosperity districts” and allow them to exempt themselves from the rules that apply to the rest of us. Let’s continue to protect our land, our water, our wildlife and our rights! Contact your senators today at 405-524-0126 and urge them to vote no on HB2132.

Use the email or fax template below

Highlight the text, right click, copy. Paste the text after visiting the link to fax or email your senator. Fill in text in brackets below as appropriate before sending.


Dear Senator [last name]:

The legislation I am addressing is HB2132, which would allow the creation of “prosperity districts” for landowners in Oklahoma. This issue directly impacts Oklahoman’s right to clean and safe land and water, the conservation of wildlife and their habitats and creating a fair playing field for businesses of all sizes.

I am primarily concerned about the development of prosperity districts because HB2132 would allow large corporations to ignore state and local rules about waste disposal and food safety.

Another aspect of this same issue that could affect Oklahoma’s individual citizens and small businesses is the fact that large businesses inside so-called prosperity districts could be given an advantage from being exempt from many state and local regulations, while other businesses would still be subject to existing rules.

I will look forward to your reply expressing your opinions, and your current stance on the issue.

Thank you for your consideration of my viewpoint on this matter. I believe it is an important issue, and would like to see the legislation fail to ensure the rights of our citizens and the safety and conservation of our land, water and wildlife.

Sincerely,

Your name,
Address
Phone Number
Email Address


Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on this issue and share our posts with friends, family and colleagues encouraging them to contact their senator to vote no on HB2132.

Our stance on Oklahoma Department of Tourism & Recreation budget cuts

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.