Vaughan appointed to House Wildlife Committee Chairmanship

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Representative Steve Vaughan, House District 37, has been appointed by House leadership to be chairman of the newly formed House Wildlife Committee. Vaughan had previously been vice chair of the Agriculture and Wildlife Committee. He has developed a close working relationship with the Oklahoma Wildlife Department over the 4 years that he has served.

“Our recent hearing concerning the fish kills and groundwater contamination along the Salt Fork River have fostered a surprising new partnership. The Corporation Commission was quick to adopt our suggestion that they use Wildlife Department and Environmental Quality Dept. field staff to help them locate and solve problems with oil production,” said Rep. Steve Vaughan. “Whenever you can get 3 state departments to coordinate a problem, that’s a big win, and it didn’t take any additional laws. Now maybe we can get the water and the river back to normal.”

Reasons for the bifurcation of the Agriculture and Wildlife Committee into separate functions are the increased number of issues with wildlife, conservation, and the environment with greater economic impact of wildlife recreation. Most issues concerning environmental impact and conservation are diligently advocated by those within the wildlife industry, hence the need for a new committee.

Agriculture remains Oklahoma’s number one industry with about $36 billion economic impact per year. Agriculture and energy represent about 2/3 of Oklahoma’s economy. But wildlife is a rapidly growing $1.8B industry generating over $100 M in state and local tax, fee, and permit revenues. The Wildlife Dept. estimates that 16.5 million days a year are spent in Oklahoma by anglers, hunters, and wildlife watchers. This represents about 9 days and $900 spent per person, by over half the state’s adult population and another 200,000 visitors each year. It has a highly local economic impact in small towns and rural areas. The Department of Wildlife has an annual budget of $50.1 million generated from fees and permits.