Years of exemplary land management practices at Trophy Ranch in Ellis County earned its owner a "trophy" as the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's 2016 Landowner of the Year. The award was a highlight of Monday's regular September meeting of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission in Oklahoma City.
Dave Smith was nominated for the successful conservation practices on his 1,428-acre ranch by Alva Gregory, habitat coordinator for the Wildlife Department
Smith's goals for the ranch included improving overall habitat for various wildlife species, providing hunting and fishing opportunities for family and friends, and passing along the hunting and fishing heritage to future generations. He sees the long-term payoff.
"When you invest in it, you're not being generous, you're being smart," he said.
Gregory said some of the things Smith has done to improve his land include removing redcedars, prescribed burning, participating in the Wildlife Department's Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP
) for more than 10 years, participating in the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Habitat Conservation Program for five years, promoting wildlife foods and strip mowing, reducing cattle stocking rates, and enhancing water availability.
Smith, owner of Midwest Trophy in Midwest City, said he hosts about 50 youngsters at the ranch during the year to let them experience something wildlife-related.
"People know me more for the wildlife than the trophies," said.
Also, Commissioners were updated on progress being made in the Oklahoma Land Access Program (OLAP). The program, announced a year ago, was made possible by a federal Farm Bill grant totaling $2.26 million.
Biologist Jeff Tibbits, OLAP coordinator, said procedures for leasing private land and structuring public access are ongoing. OLAP is aimed at increasing walk-in public access for hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing, with an emphasis on areas near major metro areas. Development of OLAP was delayed several months as grant details were worked out.
Tibbits said OLAP should be ready to open Sept. 1, 2017.
Also during Monday's meeting, Commissioners:
- Authorized changes and additions in the Nuisance Wildlife Control Program pertaining to feral swine night shooting exemptions. These additions were created in response to Gov. Mary Fallin's executive order in May instructing the Wildlife Department to streamline the process to allow nighttime shooting of feral swine on private property.
- Approved the Department's participation in a lease proposal from Ducks Unlimited, outlined by DU wetlands coordinator Alan Stacey, involving 125 acres adjacent to Drummond Flats Wildlife Management Area. The two tracts involved are the final areas needed to acquire the entire Drummond Flats basin that is commonly flooded.
- Authorized Director Richard Hatcher to sign an interlocal agreement with Cleveland County Rural Water District allowing construction of water wells on Lexington Wildlife Management Area and the sale of water from those wells.
- Welcomed Thomas Moorman, Ph.D., southern region director for Ducks Unlimited, who presented Hatcher with a Charles Jobes decoy in appreciation of the partnership between DU and the Wildlife Department during Hatcher's career as director.
- Returned after an executive session and authorized continued negotiations for the purchase of property in Adair County.
- Heard concerns from local trapper Mike Hull about new trapping regulations in place at Kaw Wildlife Management Area.
- Recognized Bill Dinkines, assistant chief of Wildlife, for 25 years of service; Brett Gantt, wildlife technician at McGee Creek Wildlife Management Area, for 25 years of service; and Johnny Hill, property manager, for 20 years of service.
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 scheduled Commission meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Sept 21, 2016
, at the Wildlife Department's temporary headquarters
, 2145 NE 36th St. in Oklahoma City. Chairman John Zelbst canceled the Oct. 3, 2016
, meeting because a quorum will not be available.