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Hunting and fishing compacts extended for two Oklahoma tribes

The Choctaw and Cherokee Nations have reached agreements with the governor's office to extend their hunting and fishing compacts with the state another year, officials announced Tuesday.

Confirmation of the agreements came just one day after the Choctaw Nation sent out a news release complaining that negotiations on that tribe's hunting and fishing agreement had "come to a standstill."

The Choctaw Nation warned that the state was at risk of losing more than $4.8 million in revenue from the tribe and federal government if its hunting and fishing compact had been allowed to expire Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the governor's office said Gov. Kevin Stitt was surprised by the Choctaw Nation's news release Monday. It was Stitt's understanding that the compacts were on track to be renewed all along, said spokeswoman Donelle Harder.

Renewals of tribal hunting and fishing compacts should not be confused with proposed renewals of tribal casino gaming compacts, which have been the subject of heated disagreement.

Renewals of the hunting and fishing compacts prompted positive remarks from Choctaw and Cherokee tribal leaders Tuesday.

"I am very confident this will continue the opportunity for our tribal members to hunt and fish in the State of Oklahoma in the upcoming year," said Gary Batton, chief of the Choctaw Nation. "This allows us the time to explore possibilities to exercise our tribal sovereignty for a longer-term solution."

Cherokee Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the compact extension his tribe agreed to with the state "reaffirms our sovereignty and reminds us of our inherent rights as Cherokees to hunt and fish on our lands, much like our ancestors have done throughout history."

The Cherokee Nation said the state wildlife department is expected to receive more than $6.9 million in federal funding as a result of its compact being extended. The federal government pays the state based on the total number of hunting and fishing licenses it has issued. The funds are used to aid fish and wildlife management throughout the state.

The Cherokee Nation compact calls for the tribe to purchase at least 150,000 compact licenses from the state for its citizens who are 16 to 65 years old at a cost of $2 per license. The Choctaw Nation’s compact calls for it to purchase at least 50,000 licenses for its Oklahoma citizens of the same age group at the same price.

The Choctaw Nation compact calls for it to pay extra money to the state in the form of a lump sum payment of $200,000 to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Because the Choctaw Nation pays this extra money, its members get extra privileges, including the right to have up to 6 deer tags and four turkey tags a year as long as they follow all Oklahoma hunting regulations and restrictions.

The Cherokee compact grants tribal license holders one deer tag and one turkey tag. Cherokee citizens can purchase extra deer and turkey tags, but must pay the same rate as other Oklahomans for any additional tags.

The Cherokee and Choctaw Nations are the only two tribes in the state with hunting and fishing compacts. The first Cherokee hunting and fishing compact became effective Jan. 1, 2016, while the first Choctaw hunting and fishing compact became effective one year later.

While Gov. Stitt’s administration did not negotiate the original compacts, a spokeswoman for his office said the Cherokee and Choctaw compacts apparently differ because leaders of the tribes made different requests based on their priorities.

Randy Ellis

For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two... Read more ›

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