Oklahoma is over 96% privately owned land, ranking 45th out of the 50 states for the smallest percent of land mass dedicated as public land. The challenges hunters and anglers face here go well beyond the typical challenges faced in other states that hold more public access. Even with all these challenges, there are some clear highlights for sportsmen and women. Oklahoma is one of a few states that are consistently showing strong hunter recruitment numbers. Sales of hunting and fishing licenses are increasing every year, which directly benefits our state's conservation programs and widlife management agencies.
We also enjoy a very BHA-friendly Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). The ODWC shares many of our same values of protecting the small amount of resources we currently have and taking advantage of every opportunity to grow that footprint. The ODWC receives no state appropriations but instead relies on revenue from hunting and fishing license sales and other revenue sources like donations and agricultural and oil leases.
Recently, the ODWC was able to purchase a new piece of property 7,602 acres in size from a willing seller and secure it as a public use area. This piece of property sits in southeast Haskell County in the Sans Bois mountains. Incredible deer, turkey, quail, hog, and bear habitat cover this unique region.
In June of 2019, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted unanimously to approve emergency rules that unlock access to this WMA for the 2019-2020 hunting season. At this time, public access to the area is extremely limited. Developing user access will be one of the main priorities moving forward. The commission has approved two brand new positions for the WMA: a biologist and a technician. Though things are in already in motion with budgeting, planning, and brand new equipment for operations/maintenance on the way, activities will accelerate once the new personnel in place. Being a brand new area, there are many things that need to be done including signage, planning and developing roads and firebreaks, building a shop to house dedicated equipment, and of course, putting the new equipment to work. The Oklahoma Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers works side by side with the ODWC to help provide increased access and opportunity to current and future generations, and we look forward to getting our hands dirty to help in any way that we can.