Commission Briefed on New License System Due in 2019

Beginning in early 2019, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will unveil a new cutting edge, user-friendly license management system to better serve all citizens in their interactions with the Department.

Melinda Streich, Assistant Director of Administration and Finance for the Department, introduced the new system at the regular meeting of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission on June 4.

This technological leap forward will make it much easier and more convenient for the public to get hunting and fishing licenses, to learn what the law requires for various activities, to keep track of hunter education requirements, to apply for controlled hunts, to check in game harvests, to buy items from the Outdoor Store, and to receive noteworthy communications from the Department.

The new customer-based system will replace the current license online sales process and permit sales. It will be a “one-stop shop” approach that improves the constituent’s experience with the Wildlife Department.

Some of the features that constituents will be able to use include the ability to receive notices to renew expiring licenses, online harvest reporting, auto-renewal options and optional plastic card licenses. A mobile application will be available to provide in-the-field information for sportsmen and women such as sunrise-sunset tables, personal license confirmations and offline e-check.

Another benefit is that the Wildlife Department will incur no up-front costs to acquire the new system, and will not raise license or permit fees on sportsmen and women to pay for the system. Instead, the current online sales convenience fee will fund the system and its operation.

In early 2019, hunters, anglers and others who interact with the Wildlife Department online will see the new licensing-customer management system in action. Until then, license sales both online and through vendors statewide will remain the same as they have been.

The new system was a culmination of more than a year of effort by a committee of Department employees to develop desired features then evaluate and select the winning system provider, Brandt Information Services. Brandt already works with the fish and wildlife agencies in Florida, Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee in providing license management systems.

Also, Commissioners heard from representatives of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission about how that state handled the discovery there of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in early 2016 from a wildlife management standpoint and the public education perspective.

To address the CWD threat to Oklahoma, the Wildlife Department has been updating its action plan to respond to chronic wasting disease in cervids. Although CWD has never been confirmed in a free-ranging animal in Oklahoma, the disease has been documented in every state bordering Oklahoma.

Oklahoma had found CWD in a captive elk herd in the late 1990s, and the Wildlife Department ramped up monitoring efforts as a result. CWD was not detected in laboratory testing of tissue samples from more than 10,000 wild deer and elk from throughout Oklahoma.

Arkansas’ response included commissioners’ approval of an updated CWD management plan in an emergency meeting; creating buffer zones around the discovery areas, extensive sampling of deer and elk in those zones; extensive media and public education outreach; and public meetings near the CWD zones.

Commissioners also learned about the role that public land plays in offering opportunities for outdoor activities. Alan Peoples, Chief of the Wildlife Division, said only 4.9 percent of Oklahoma’s 44.77 million acres is publicly owned. Of that, the Wildlife Department owns about 340,000 acres, and it manages or leases an additional 1.05 million acres of publicly owned lands in the state.

Peoples shared survey results showing that 36 percent of hunters used public land for hunting in 2017. Of those, eight out of 10 said that public land is very important to them for their hunting. Also, the survey showed that three out of four hunters supported the Wildlife Department’s buying land to either expand or create wildlife management areas.

In other business, Commissioners:

  • Approved the Department’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2019.
  • Learned about Department employees’ participation in the Oklahoma State Employee Charitable Campaign.
  • Visited with Anne Brown, executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, about her organization’s efforts to support the Texas Department’s activities. Commissioners have expressed interest in initiating a similar foundation in Oklahoma.
  • Approved a change in the investment guidelines for the lifetime license trust fund.
  • Agreed to retain the same officers for the coming year.
  • Recognized Colin Berg, Information and Education Supervisor, for 25 years of service, and David Banta, Wildlife Technician, 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 10 a.m. Monday, July 9, 2018, at the Wildlife Department’s interim headquarters, 2145 NE 36 St. in Oklahoma City.