OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A bill at the State Capitol aims to make sure the Department of Wildlife has to wait six months before it can purchase land.
Currently, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife owns more than 350,000 acres and is leasing another 1.2 million they say hunters and anglers rely on.
“Plus on the flip side, it does provide continuous land for wildlife conservation that remains untouched, managed purely for wildlife purposes,” said Corey Jager with the Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife Conservation.
However, State Senator Casey Murdock (R), Felt, argues that’s too much.
“I don’t believe the government should be owning land,” Murdock said. “I believe land ownership, property ownership should be in the private citizens’ hands.”
Over the years, he’s tried to cap the amount of land the department can buy – without success.
Now, his amended Senate Bill 776, would require the department of Wildlife to wait six months before they can purchase land.
The department worries that will add too much time for the seller – and less land for many hunters.
“People aren’t willing to just let people come hunt on their property and so they do rely on our properties to have that access,” said Jager.
Murdock argues that there are landowners willing to lease – and sees it as a compromise.
“I think it’s fair and I’ll tell you why I think it’s fair,” he said. “Since I’ve been at the Capitol, if you are negotiating with two groups and both groups walk away mad, you’ve probably got the best deal.”
“I don’t know if it was compromise,” Jager said. “It wasn’t a request from our agency but it is better than other things that we’ve seen in terms of restrictions for public land.”
The bill passed in the Senate and is moving on to the House.
The Department of Wildlife says it is working with Murdock on amendments – clarifying that the six-month wait period only applies to purchases, not leases and donations.