At their regular meeting Feb. 5, members of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission accepted a $25,000 grant-match donation from the NRA’s Public Range Fund.
Peter Churchbourne, Director of the Hunters’ Leadership Forum of the National Rifle Association, was on hand to present the donation, which will be used for a renovation at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s public shooting range at Optima Wildlife Management Area.
“Huge thanks to the NRA,” ODWC Interim Director Wade Free said. “We’ve been applying and receiving funds from the NRA Public Range Fund for about seven years, and we look forward to continuing to partner with them for many years to come while we build several new shooting ranges and renovate our existing ranges.”
By leveraging this donation with matching federal funds, a potential $100,000 will be available for shooting range improvements. Plans for Optima include reconditioning berms and backstops, adding metal shooting stations with benches, installing pipe fences, upgrading the parking lot, and ensuring ADA accessibility throughout the range.
Also, Bill Dinkines, Chief of Wildlife Division, introduced Laura McIver, Regional Representative for Quail Forever/Pheasants Forever, who presented three donations. Commissioners accepted the donations totaling $11,182 from state Quail Forever chapters. The Central Oklahoma 89ers Chapter and the Plainsmen Chapter combined for a $7,832 donation that is eligible for 3-to-1 matching with federal funds for prescribed fire equipment and a utility terrain vehicle. The Cherokee Strip Chapter donated $3,350 to ODWC’s Stars and Stripes License Project, which provides hunting and fishing licenses to military veterans and select survivors of veterans lost while serving our country.
In other business, the Commission:
- Received updates on various ODWC divisions from Interim Director Free, including notice that the Oklahoma Archery in the Schools state shoots involving thousands of youth archers are set for Feb. 13-14 in Oklahoma City and Feb. 21-22 in Tulsa.
- Heard a report from ODWC Legislative Liaison Catherine Appling-Pooler on the opening of the 2024 Oklahoma Legislature, where about 40 bills had been filed that could possibly impact the Wildlife Department if they become law.
- Applauded a $1,250 donation from the Oklahoma State Game Wardens Association to OKC Latina to help fund fishing clinics after the group lost grant funding.
- Met in executive session to discuss with counsel potential legal challenges relating to an open records request but took no action afterward.
The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department, and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate.
The next regular Wildlife Commission meeting is set for March 4, 2024, at the John D. Groendyke Wildlife Conservation Building, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd. in Oklahoma City.
A video of the Feb. 5 meeting is available on the Outdoor Oklahoma YouTube Channel at youtube.com/live/51h2TraUIAQ?si=qFIQxosvDla2m8dl&t=131.