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The 89er Chapter of Trout Unlimited donated $5,000 for repairs to the Lost Creek Area of the Lower Mountain Fork River trout fishery in southeast Oklahoma. The area was once an empty streambed, but in 2006, after careful and methodical renovations, it was turned into a quarter mile of prime trout habitat. Spring flooding in 2009 caused damage to the area, and the donation will help complete repairs. The 89er Chapter also donated $1,000 worth of signage to educate anglers of Didymo infestations on the Lower Mountain Fork River and Lower Illinois River. “Didymo” is short for Didymosphenia geminata, also called “rock snot.” The invasive alga was confirmed recently in the Lower Mountain Fork River and, though it starts in small colonies, it can grow into dense, thick mats that cover large portions of cold flowing, low-nutrient streams that are rich in oxygen.
"When it forms extensive mats or produces large blooms, rock snot can outcompete native algae relied on by aquatic insects," said Curtis Tackett, aquatic nuisance biologist for the Wildlife Department. "That may not sound like a problem, except that those insects provide an important source of food for trout in the Lower Mountain Fork River."
Tackett said that in some cases, the reduction of available food sources for trout because of competition from invasive species like Didymo can result in smaller fish. Additionally, Didymo can clog water pipes and other flow structures as well as become quite a nuisance to anglers because of how easily it can be snagged by a fishhook.
"We've had a long history of cooperation with the Wildlife Department," said Don Longcrier, president of the 89er Chapter, adding that the donation is a continuation of support for the Wildlife Department in its effort to provide cold-water fisheries in Oklahoma.
Another donation of $5,000 came from the Indian Territory chapter of Quail Forever, with $2,500 to be dedicated to projects at the Spavinaw Wildlife Management Area and $2,500 to be dedicated to Shotgun Training Education Program (STEP) events in northeast Oklahoma. STEP is a program offered by the Wildlife Department to introduce youth to shooting sports through safe firearm handling education and shooting instruction.
The Indian Territory chapter of Quail Forever is focused on quail conservation through education, increasing habitat hunting. The northeast Oklahoma organization hosts youth days that have grown in attendance from 35 four years ago to about 220 at their most recent event. Youth day offers the organization a chance to introduce youth to the outdoors through bird dog demonstrations, fish fries, and shooting sports instruction from the Bow Council of Oklahoma and the Wildlife Department's STEP instructors.
"Anytime we can get kids back in the outdoors, it's a wonderful program," said Indian Territory chapter president Terry Free.
The Chapter has also donated money to the Inola school district to begin the Wildlife Department's Oklahoma Archery in Schools Program, which introduces youth to archery through classroom curriculum and shooting activities. The group also partners with the Grand River Dam Authority and its POWER program, which increases quail habitat by restoring high line right of ways with native grasses.
The chapter's donation to the Wildlife Department comes after other financial donations to the Wildlife Department for quail habitat support at Oologah WMA. Their October donation will help fund the purchase of prescribed burn equipment and other projects at Spavinaw WMA.
"We're happy to donate, and I think that we need to be conscious of our quail population in northeast Oklahoma and statewide," Free said.
For more information about the Indian Territory chapter, log on to indianterritoryquailforever.org.
The Oklahoma Wildlife Federation also donated $1,500 worth of Remington 870 shotguns to the Wildlife Department's STEP program.
"Our generation is the messenger for future wildlife conservation issues, and we must prevail in order to expand and get these kids away from the TV and the computers and things of that sort," said George Edwards with the Wildlife Federation.
The Oklahoma Wildlife Federation also has partnered with the Wildlife Department to help fund the Close to Home Fishing program, which provides fishing opportunities in urban locations, in addition to the Archery in the Schools Program, management efforts at Lexington WMA in central Oklahoma. The Wildlife Federation also made significant donations totaling $200,000 for the purchase of the Wildlife Department's Watts Unit of the Lower Illinois River Public Fishing and Hunting Area and the Drummond Flats WMA in northwest Oklahoma.
In other business, the Commission accepted sealed bids to lease the Wildlife Department's mineral interests on 369.31 net mineral acres in Ellis Co. to Chesapeake Energy and four net mineral acres in Beaver Co. to Wyoming-based Snyder Partners.
Wes Harden, owner of Sulphur Fish Hatchery in Sulphur, also addressed the Commission regarding the Wildlife Department's farm pond fish stocking program.
The Commission also recognized Rex Umber, senior wildlife biologist, for 35 years of service to the Wildlife Department. It also recognized Terry Swallow, game warden stationed in Woods Co., for 30 years of service; Jeff Headrick, game warden stationed in Washita Co., for 20 years; and Mark Reichenberger, game warden stationed in Woodward Co., for 20 years.
The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Wildlife 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 Senate. The next scheduled Commission meeting is set for 9 a.m. Nov. 2 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), located at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City.
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