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Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma once again seeks to compact hunting, fishing rights

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma has requested a meeting with the governor to discuss a potential new compact involving hunting and fishing licenses. A spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin says a meeting is expected to be held after the legislative session ends.
by Andrew Knittle Published: April 21, 2012

“It's more important to work together,” Henry told the paper. “If every tribe has its own hunting and fishing rights and water rights, it creates a problem for creating business opportunities.”

Four months after that story appeared in the Cherokee Phoenix, Henry's spokesman at the time, Paul Sund, told The Oklahoman something a little different.

“Governor Henry is very protective of the hunting, fishing and property rights of Oklahomans, and the preservation of those rights will certainly be his priority in any compact discussions,” Sund said at the time. “Federal law requires state leaders to enter into discussions about tribal compact proposals, but it does not require them to approve the compacts without regard for the details.”

Alex Weintz, a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin's office, confirmed the tribe's “desire to discuss a compact affecting hunting and fishing licenses.”

“We have indicated that our administration is happy to listen, and we expect a meeting to take place after the legislative session,” Weintz said.

Weintz declined to say how such a compact would affect state agencies that rely on hunting and fishing licenses for funding.

Potential impact

The state Wildlife Conservation Department draws roughly a third of its funding — about $15 million a year — from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, spokesman Nels Rodefeld said.

Rodefeld says the agency receives no general tax revenues from the Legislature and employs more than 300 across the state.

In addition to licensing, he says the agency also receives funding from oil and gas sales on lands owned by the state and through a federal tax on hunting and fishing equipment.

Rodefeld declined to speculate on how a hunting and fishing compact with the Cherokee Nation — or all of the state's federally recognized tribes — would affect the wildlife agency.

“We have a lot of great hunting all over the state, which has a lot of different ecosystems,” he said. “We also feel like we've done a good job of maintaining what we have, which has lead to that great hunting.”

CONTRIBUTING: Staff Writer Ed Godfrey

by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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