Oklahoma Approves Permits for Non-Hunters on State Game Land

Everyone knows that most state-owned wildlife management areas are purchased and maintained with hunting and angling dollars, but utilized for free by other recreational groups. That's coming to an end in Oklahoma...

From this story on KGYN radio:

_The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will soon offer a new avenue for wildlife enthusiasts to support wildlife conservation. At its June meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission established a special use permit that will be required of persons using certain Department-owned lands who do not hold a valid hunting or fishing license. The permit has been designated the conservation passport and will be available in the form of a license that will be sold online at wildlifedepartment.com or anywhere hunting and fishing licenses are sold.

__House Bill 2862, by Representative Phil Richardson and Paul Roan and Senator Ron Justice, authorized the Wildlife Conservation Commission to establish the passport on lands owned by the Wildlife Department. The passport was already required at the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area in southcentral Oklahoma. Many other WMAs offer shooting ranges, camping, hiking, horseback riding, nature trails, wildlife watching and other activities as a result of sportsmen's dollars used to purchase, enhance and develop those areas primarily used for hunting and fishing.

"We had a number of conservation groups that wanted to have a permit that could help support these public use areas," said Jim Edwards, assistant director of the Wildlife Department. "And since these properties are bought or managed by sportsmen's dollars, people that use those properties ought to also pay at least a corresponding amount for upkeep and maintenance." The new requirement will go into effect Jan. 1, 2011, at all Wildlife Department owned areas except Blue River, where the passport is already required. The price for the conservation passport is set at $26, which is $1 more than a hunting or fishing license. In addition to saving money on the purchase price, those who opt for a hunting or fishing license will also see their dollars go further in conserving wildlife because of matching federal dollars from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that apply to hunting and fishing license sales but not to conservation passport sales._

Good idea or just another way to chisel taxpayers?