Recovering America’s Wildlife Act: Helping Wildlife, Business

Posted in Advocacy, conservation, Education, News, Oklahoma Wildlife, Partners

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act Offers Exceptional Opportunity To Help Wildlife and Business in Oklahoma

With fish and wildlife populations under increasing pressure in Oklahoma and throughout the country, Oklahomans are excited for a new opportunity to reverse this trend. House Resolution 4647, known as the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, would provide $1.3 billion annually from existing federal revenues for state-led projects to improve and restore fish and wildlife habitats, without any increase in taxes. Fox

This Congressional legislation represents a once in a generation opportunity to modernize conservation funding, provide more regulatory certainty for businesses and industries, repair the nation’s ecological infrastructure, and change the course of history for thousands of at-risk fish and wildlife species.

U.S. Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) introduced the bipartisan legislation on Thursday, December 14 with nationwide support from conservationists, hunters, anglers, businesspeople, oil and gas company representatives, and the outdoor recreation industry.  Oklahoma’s share of the funding is estimated at more than $20 million per year.

“Over 12,000 species of fish and wildlife have been identified as at risk of becoming endangered,” said Ron Suttles, Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma board chair.  “Oklahoma is home to over 300 of those species.  The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would bring much-needed funding to Oklahoma for projects designed to keep those species off the endangered species list without raising or creating new taxes.”

Businesses, industries, and government agencies often face delays and added costs when developing projects in areas with endangered species. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act focuses on at-risk species with the express goal of avoiding listing those species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Passage of H.R. 4647 would direct a portion of existing royalties from energy and mineral production on federal lands and waters to the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program, established in 2000. State wildlife agencies will distribute the money to projects for habitat restoration, scientific research, protecting land, establishing conservation easements, and other initiatives listed in each state’s Wildlife Action Plan. 

insect-bee-pollen-indiana-mark-brinegar“The future of Oklahoma’s wildlife depends on dedicated funding. This is our best opportunity to manage and conserve our valuable natural resources for the public,” said J.D. Strong, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “With this money, Oklahoma could protect, improve and manage habitat that would benefit all species in the state and keep up the economic engine that is fueled by healthy ecosystems and thriving wildlife populations. Wildlife and wild places are appreciated by all Oklahomans and this bill would ensure that we are able to pass on these resources on to the next generations.”

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act follows the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources. This panel, comprised of national business and conservation leaders, was convened in 2015 to identify a sustainable funding mechanism for fish and wildlife conservation. In March 2016, the Panel recommended that $1.3 billion in existing fees from energy and mineral production on federal lands and waters be used to support the implementation of State Wildlife Action Plans in every state.

The Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma is a coalition of conservation organization and businesses that: serve as the collective voice for conservation; advance sound conservation policy; and develop tomorrow’s conservationists.

 Click here to make your voice heard and sign the letter in support of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act!

View the full text of the bill here.

Selman Bat Cave Experience

Posted in conservation, Education, Events, Fun Facts, Oklahoma Wildlife

Each summer in northern Oklahoma, many visitors are lucky enough to experience the Selman Bat Watch, where hundreds of thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats soar through the dusk skies in search of insects.

The Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma’s board chair, Ron Suttles, joined one of the groups on a Friday night this July. The following are images, video and commentary he collected during his visit.

Around April, 500,000 – 1,000,000 pregnant female Mexican Free Tail bats migrate north to Selman.  They give birth to one pup and generally around September, the juvenile and female bats migrate south for the winter.  

Selman Bat Cave - Adult Female Bats

The first bats to emerge are the adult female bats (above).  They are much larger and are more controlled flyers than the pups that emerge later.  

Selman Bat Cave - Mexican Free-Tailed Bats in Oklahoma

The emergence of the adult female bats normally takes 45 minutes to one hour.  Since they had a short feeding the previous night, they came out early and in more concentrated numbers.  It only took about 20 minutes for the bats to emerge.  

The pups took much longer to emerge, flew more erratically, and in lighter concentrations.

The area around the Selman Bat Cave is an excellent example of short/mixed grass prairie.  The area burned a couple of years ago and there has been extensive clearing of salt cedar along the small stream that runs through the property.  The combination has transformed the Selman area to a historically accurate condition.

Selman Bat Cave - Mexican Free-Tailed Bats in Oklahoma. Photo by Ron Suttles, Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation project manager for this area, Melinda Hickman, has done an amazing job of guiding the restoration, developing and overseeing the Selman Bat Cave project from its inception and shepherding the army of volunteers needed to conduct these viewings.

If you are lucky enough to be selected for a Selman Bat viewing, you will experience the premier wildlife and outdoor opportunity offered anywhere in Oklahoma. 

Selman visitors should definitely come early the day of their viewing date so they can go through Alabaster Caverns. It’s cool in the caverns and well worth adding it to the day’s experience. 

The tours happen every Friday and Saturday in July and each group is limited to 75 people. Keep an eye out in Spring 2018 for registration to open through the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Registration forms must be submitted between May 31st and June 9, 2018.

For more information about the Selman Bat Watch, visit the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s website.

New Attempt to Muddy Clean Water Protections

Posted in Advocacy, conservation, News, Partners

The following is from our partners at the National Wildlife Federation on the Clean Water Rule:

The Trump Administration has just begun a two-step plan to remove protections from waters that have been safeguarded by the Clean Water Act for more than 40 years. In a process set in motion by an executive order earlier this year, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has taken the first step to repeal the widely-supported Clean Water Rule. The second step is replacing it with a new rule that dramatically rolls back the historic scope of the Clean Water Act.

This hasty process threatens critical fish and wildlife habitat as well as the drinking water sources for 1 in 3 Americans.

The 2015 Clean Water Rule restores protections to small streams and wetlands that flow downstream into our nation’s larger, iconic waters like Chesapeake Bay, Mississippi River, and the Great Lakes. These headwaters, rain-fed, and seasonal streams serve as spawning grounds, trout streams, and nesting habitat for the majority of North American waterfowl. These same waters are the source of drinking water of 117 million Americans.

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers developed the Clean Water Rule after years of extensive public engagement and used the best available science and law to inform the final rule-making. During a seven month comment period, the EPA met with more than 400 stakeholders and received more than one million public comments on the rule, 87% of which were supportive. A wide range of stakeholders supported the rule – including 83% of hunters and anglers.

And now we have to do it all over again.

This time though, the Administration’s process intentionally provides very little opportunity for the many clean water stakeholders and affected communities to voice their support for a strong Clean Water Act to safeguard our drinking water and outdoor heritage. The public only has 30 days to provide input on this repeal.

February’s executive order directs the agencies to “consider” Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in a Supreme Court case when rewriting a rule that defines which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act. The majority of the Supreme Court – along with the Bush and Obama administrations and every federal court of appeals to consider it since – rejected this opinion as inconsistent with the Clean Water Act.

This process contradicts the law and science that is the basis for the Clean Water Act successes of the past four decades, crippling state and federal clean water initiatives.

Small streams and headwaters serve as salmon spawning grounds which are important for everyone who loves to fish – including brown bears. Photo by Kandace Heimerr.

Rolling back the Clean Water Act in this manner could mean the loss of protections for nearly 60% of streams in the lower 48 states that don’t flow year-round. It could threaten protections for the majority of the 110 million acres of wetlands in the continental United States. It could make things worse for low income communities and communities of color that already disproportionally lack access to clean drinking water. It could expose wetlands that many communities rely on for flood protection to the threat of destruction.

If these waters lose the protection afforded them by the Clean Water Act, it would have devastating impacts on fish, wildlife, and our robust outdoor recreation economy – not to mention the water quality of the streams that provide our drinking water.

Whether for drinking, swimming, fishing, boating, or brewing, we all need clean water. And for clean water, we need strong federal Clean Water Act safeguards, not haphazard rules that disregard the science, contradict the law, and ignore public input. We need to move forward, not be set back four decades.

Take ActionAdd your voice today. Tell the EPA that you oppose any action to repeal the Clean Water Rule and efforts to diminish the common-sense protections that have safeguarded our nation’s waters for decades.

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.”

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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.