Conservation Organizations Support Habitat Work on Public Hunting Areas

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Habitat management on public lands recently got a big boost thanks to a trio of conservation organizations.

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission recently approved matching federal funds to be used for habitat management projects on nine wildlife management areas around the state as well as an elk research project near the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. About $150,000 of federal Wildlife Restoration Funds will be matched with the donations from the National Wild Turkey Federation ($34,921), the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation ($13,333), and the One-Shot Antelope Foundation ($4,023).

Following is a short summary of the habitat projects:

Atoka Wildlife Management Area. Aerial application of granular herbicide will be used to set back woody succession and encourage grasses and forbs. The National Wild Turkey Federation will be donating $4,000 to the project.

Beaver River Wildlife Management Area. A water well will be drilled, along with a solar water pump, to provide water for wildlife in this often arid region. The One Shot Antelope Foundation will be donating $4,023 to the project.

Cherokee Wildlife Management Area. Small openings in dense forest will be created for use by turkeys, deer and other animals. Additionally, several wildlife watering areas will be created on the area. The National Wild Turkey Federation will be donating $5,250 to the project.

Oologah Wildlife Management Area. Fireguards will be constructed on the WMA to allow for prescribed burning. The National Wild Turkey Federation will be donating $4,000 to the project.

Love Valley Wildlife Management Area. Fireguards will be created for prescribed burning. The National Wild Turkey Federation will be donating $3,000 to the project.

Packsaddle and Ellis County wildlife management areas. Cedars will be removed along riparian zones to increase quality turkey roosting habitat and to slow the spread of Eastern red cedars. The National Wild Turkey Federation will be donating $5,000 to the project.

Pushmataha Wildlife Management Area. Aerial application of herbicides will be used to set back brush along road right-of-ways to promote grasses, forbs and legumes. The National Wild Turkey Federation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will each be donating $4,800 to the project.

Spavinaw Wildlife Management Area. This project creates additional fireguards and provides funds for the purchase of prescribed burning equipment. The National Wild Turkey Federation will be donating $4,000 to the project.

Southwest Oklahoma Elk Research. This ongoing project is studying the population characteristics of elk outside of the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge. Researchers will continue to place radio collars on cow elk to learn more about how elk use different habitat types during different times of the year. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will be donating $8,333 to the project.

Wildlife Department’s Southeast Region. A special aerial ignition device will be purchased for use in prescribed burns in the area. The National Wild Turkey Federation will be donating $4,871 to the project.

All totaled, these groups donated $52,078 and thanks to hunters this amount will be matched and increased three-fold to more than $200,000. This matching money comes from the Wildlife Restoration Program. Firearms, as well as bows and arrows and other outdoor-related equipment are subject to excise taxes, which help fund conservation efforts around the country. The Wildlife Restoration programs are tremendous examples of true partnerships between private industries, state governments, the federal government and hunters. The federal government collects these taxes from manufacturers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers and distributes the funds to the state fish and wildlife agencies. Hunters and shooters ultimately pay these taxes through the purchase of products. These same people benefit from the funds as states must spend the money on wildlife habitat restoration/development, population management, user access and facilities and education.

A similar program is in place for anglers and boaters called the Sportfish Restoration Program. Together, these two programs supply funds that are used by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for a wide range of important activities, including the purchase and maintenance of wildlife management areas, construction of fish hatcheries, research laboratories and user facilities, surveying and managing fish and wildlife populations, training volunteer instructors and educating young hunters and anglers in safe firearms handling, water safety, fish and wildlife resources and ethics afield. Other uses for the funds development of fish and wildlife habitat and the creation of boating and fishing access facilities.