Pro-Active Plan to Conserve All Wildlife
Oklahoma’s plan to conserve all native wildlife in the state is complete. The Wildlife Action Plan is the result of 16 months of work by scientists, sportsmen, conservationists, and other members of the community.
“This pro-active conservation plan will benefit wildlife and people by conserving wildlife before they become more rare and more costly to protect,” said Mark Howery, a biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
The health of wildlife is often an early indicator of disease and pollution that affect people, as well.
“We conserve wildlife by protecting natural places, which contribute to clean air and clean water – making both wildlife and people healthier,” Howery said. “Not only do these places contribute to the quality of life we’ve come to expect here in Oklahoma, they’re also important to many of our family traditions.”
Oklahoma’s Wildlife Action Plan is a massive document and not exactly afternoon reading material. It’s a comprehensive roadmap for conservation with an emphasis on rare and declining wildlife.
In addition to Oklahoma, the other 49 states and six U.S. territories developed action plans. Each one addresses wildlife issues unique to that area of the country. The plans collectively illustrate the current state of America’s wildlife.
Nationwide, these action plans show a need to conserve a wider range of wildlife than traditionally managed. To accomplish this, they focus on entire habitats rather than individual species. That’s a big strength as explained by Howery.
“Oklahoma has about 250 species that need conservation work today to keep their populations at healthy levels,” he said. “If you want to protect a species, protect the habitat.”
For every common species in the state, there is also a declining one. Of Oklahoma’s 800 vertebrate wildlife species, about 120 are currently actively managed.
“We’ll only be able to do the work in our plan if federal funding continues. These plans make a strong case for State Wildlife Grants funding,” Howery said.
State Wildlife Grants is a federal program that funds conservation for rare and declining wildlife at the state level. A bipartisan, majority vote by Congress created the program in 2001. The program is re-evaluated each year before new funding is approved.
“It’s cost-effective to focus efforts on declining species before their populations fall too low,” Howery said. “This Action Plan helps us identify and treat wildlife issues before they threaten wildlife and affect humans. We need to invest now.”
As required by federal statute, the action plan was submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and accepted. The document, also known as the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, may be viewed at wildlifedepartment.com/CWCS.htm.