Sunday, May 22, 2016

Oklahoma Governor weighs in on Feral Hogs with Veto Pen and Executive Order

Wild pig (Sus scrofa) stop near the Kennedy Sp...

Governor Mary Fallin issued an executive order directing the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) to streamline the issuance of permits to exterminate feral hogs on private land.
    She said her order will allow safe and responsible feral hog eradication in Oklahoma.
    The governor also vetoed a measure that would have allowed the eradication of feral hogs on public land with spotlights at night without game warden notification or a hunting license, citing potential safety issues.
    Fallin said Senate Bill 1142 contained several provisions -- such as eliminating the permitting requirement for those who want to exclusively shoot feral hogs, authorizing nighttime removal and allowing the use of certain technology to eradicate feral hogs -- that would endanger people on public hunting lands.
    "We must be willing to employ every available method of elimination if we want to eradicate this destructive nuisance," Fallin said. "While research and experience have demonstrated that trapping feral swine proves to be the most effective method of eradication, private property owners should have at their disposal every tool available. As a result, I believe adjustments to current eradication practices should be made."
    Fallin's Executive Order 2016-16 directs the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to develop rules that include:
Authorizing landowners on private property to remove or attempt to remove feral swine at night, with the use of night-vision equipment, off-road vehicles to pursue or follow feral swine, as well as handheld or vehicle-mounted headlights or other powerful lights to pursue or follow feral swine. At no time, however, will pursuing feral hogs on public roadways or discharging firearms from a public roadway be allowed.
Requiring private landowners to agree to provide advance notification to a game warden assigned to the county in which extermination efforts will occur before each attempt to remove feral hogs.
Explaining how users may obtain information on feral hog eradication, such as a link to the agency's website.
    The rules are to take effect Nov. 1.
    There are an estimated 1.6 million feral hogs in Oklahoma. They are present in every county and are estimated to cause more than $1 billion in damage each year.
    "Feral swine is an invasive species that inflicts significant damage on Oklahoma ranch and farmland, and can hurt or even kill domestic livestock and other wildlife," the governor wrote in her veto message. "Although I support the intent of this bill, which is to make it easier to remove or attempt to remove feral swine, the bill's real-world application to public property like state parks and Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) would create an unreasonable public safety threat and a conservation crisis."
    Fallin's actions were met with widespread support.
    "American Farmers & Ranchers applauds Governor Fallin for her veto of SB 1142 and subsequent executive actions to responsibly address the feral hog problem in our state," said Terry Detrick, president of American Farmers & Ranchers. "We look forward to working with the Department of Wildlife Conservation in the development of a process that is beneficial for Oklahoma landowners."
    Michael Kelsey, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association, said, "Control of invasive feral swine will take a long-term, cooperative approach with aggressive and effective strategies. We appreciate the governor recognizing the challenges of this issue and issuing an order that offers opportunities to continue working toward solutions."
    Tony Clark, president of the Oklahoma State Game Warden Association, said, "We commend Governor Fallin for vetoing this bill and appreciate her careful consideration and commitment to protecting everyone who enjoys wildlife now and for future generations."
    Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese and Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague said the governor's veto and executive order expand the options available to the state as it seeks to exterminate feral hogs.
    "We will continue to pursue avenues to expand that effort. At the same time, we are protecting public safety and maintaining the ability to enforce illegal poaching of deer during gun season," Reese said.
    "While trapping remains the best way to eradicate this invasive species, the Governor's actions today will allow private property owners another tool to protect Oklahoma's natural resources. I look forward to working with stakeholders and ODWC to streamline the depredation process," Teague said.