The Wildlife Department has also used State Wildlife Grant funding to buy six parcels of land, totaling more than 18,000 acres. Two of the larger properties became Wildlife Management Areas, Cimmaron Bluff and Cross Timbers, while the other purchases added inholdings and adjacent lands to the existing Beaver River, Cimmaron Hills, and Cookson WMAs. Each property is managed for wildlife, while also offering hunting or fishing opportunities.
“Land acquisitions have the potential to benefit a lot of species – in some cases, entire communities – at one time,” Howery said. “And the Wildlife Department makes these purchases in perpetuity, which can protect the land from any kind of future conversion.
“It comes with a lot of responsibility on our part and sets the platform for future work.”
That future work will be driven by the same passion to conserve Oklahoma’s species of greatest conservation need that has fueled the state’s nongame conservation work for the past two decades. And it will depend on the extensive network of conservation partners that has been instrumental in the funding program’s first 20 years.
“Something like 75 percent of our projects are coordinated with outside partners,” Kuklinski said. “Research partners have come from major universities like Oklahoma State University or the University of Oklahoma, but the expertise needed for some projects has also been found at smaller regional universities.
“The depth of our partnerships – at least 17 grant partners over the course of 20 years – tells me the Wildlife Department is open to ideas coming from a variety of sources.”
Howery said, “The State Wildlife Grant Program and our many partnerships have really helped the Wildlife Department expand nongame conservation in the state. We know there’s a lot of work left to do. Still, we know considerably more about our species of greatest conservation need than we did 20 years ago.”
Find final reports of surveys and research funded by the State Wildlife Grants Program at wildlifedepartment.com. Project updates are also regularly shared in the monthly Wild Side e-newsletter. Subscribe here.