Oklahoma Senate Bill could limit purchase of public wildlife lands

ARDMORE, Okla. (KXII) - An Oklahoma Senate bill could keep the state wildlife department from buying more public land, used for fishing, hunting and other outdoor activities.

Oklahoma Senate Bill 703 would limit how much land the Wildlife Conservation Commission can purchase.

Sen. Casey Murdock, representing district 27 in northwest Oklahoma, wrote the bill which would prevent the Commission from buying more land than it sells each year.

In a statement to News 12 on Tuesday, Murdock said this bill would protect land for potential residents in rural Oklahoma.

"The Wildlife Commission is buying land in rural Oklahoma, but when land is owned by the state or U.S. government, there are no families living on it," Murdock said. "Their kids aren't going to attend the local school. They aren't spending their money in the local businesses in nearby towns. It's an economic drag on rural Oklahoma."

If the bill passes, the Wildlife Commission would still be able to lease land from landowners.

Officials with Department of Wildlife Conservation said the department owns 345,000 acres and leases more than 1 million from landowners

Land the department purchases is at market price.

Micah Holmes with the Wildlife Department said this public land brings in outdoorsmen from all over the nation and their money.

"So we think it's important that we keep that option open to purchase additional land in the future if the opportunity becomes available and the funds are available, of course," Holmes said.

Holmes said hunting and fishing are important to the state, generating nearly $2 billion in economic benefit.

"We want to keep that going," Holmes said. "We encourage everybody to stay engaged in the process, to stay informed and take action if they think that's the right thing to do."

The state senate has until the Thurs. March 14 deadline to make a decision on this bill or it becomes dormant for the session.

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