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.

EVENT: Crafting Conservation in our Community on Nov. 1

Posted in Advocacy, Events, News

This event is SOLD OUT.

For more information, contact Mary Waller at

Crafting Conservation in our Community - Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma Event - Nov 1

Join us for a special event celebrating the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma Foundation sponsored by Stanley
Featuring beer from Marshall Brewing Company, barbecue from RibCrib and music from Cody Brewer

Wednesday, November 1, 2017 • 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Marshall Brewing Company • 618 S. Wheeling Ave. • Tulsa, Oklahoma [map]

Can’t attend, but would still like to donate to support outdoor education for Oklahoma kids? Click here!

Online ticket sales are subject to a 3% processing fee. All ticket levels are tax-deductible. You’ll receive a receipt as proof of your donation via email once you’ve registered for the event.

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.

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.

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.