Tahlequah Daily Press

February 21, 2014

Licensing helps pay the bills


TAHLEQUAH — Licensing helps pay the bills

Editor, Daily Press:

There have been several letters to the editor on the cost of a “user fee” at the Sparrowhawk Primitive area. What I do know – contrary to some of the responses I have read – is that until the user fees were implemented, if you did not hunt or fish or buy a license, you did not contribute to the Oklahoma Wildlife Department.

I started fishing about 15 years ago when I married an avid sportsman. I loved to spend time with him on the lake in our boat, and even though I have the best guide in the state, I am still not very good at it. One thing I learned from the beginning – and our children know – is that we are not going to fish without a fishing license. My husband has a lifetime fishing and hunting license. We have been checked on the ramp and on the water to make sure we are compliant, and we always are.

I truly feel people are upset because a requirement is now being enforced at Sparrowhawk for the people who want to get out and enjoy the land they feel belongs to them as Oklahoma taxpayers. This is just not the case. The land was not purchased with tax money, but rather belongs to a state agency that does not receive funds from taxpayers for the upkeep. The user fees and state licenses are what the agency relies on to keep the area there for our enjoyment. This is no different than a fishing or hunting license, or even a launch fee at the lake.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is the only state agency that does not receive appropriated taxpayer dollars. It is completely funded by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, which includes a not-so-new user fee.

If you have a current hunting or fishing license, or you are legally exempt, you are free to use Sparrowhawk and many other wildlife management areas that are open for non-hunting activities. If you don’t hunt or fish, you must have a Conservation Passport, just like the sign reads – the sign so many have hiked right on by illegally for the past five years. The only difference is, this is being enforced on site, and people are not prepared for this enforcement.

Some years I may not wet a hook more than once or twice. Even though I may seldom use it, I buy it because I understand how important it is to help our wildlife department. I can personally say that through their good stewardship, they have provided more opportunities and memories than our family photo album can hold. More importantly, I follow the law and support the game wardens who have apparently been so patient to educate the non-hunting hikers and bikers at Sparrowhawk.  

I have been buying fishing licenses for a while, and know they have not gone up in many years. So apparently, the wildlife department has been managing sportsmen’s dollars very well.

Patti Harlow Morton