Our new governor’s first veto is a ruling in favor of sportsmen and women throughout Oklahoma, and that decision has me believing he has our best interests at heart.

There was no doubt it was going to be a big decision. Laid before newly elected Gov. Kevin Stitt was a bill proposing to open Oklahoma’s public lands to hunting guides. It was set to change the landscape of how we view our public lands if those places were opened for commercial use.

Stitt’s decision to veto the bill can best be describes as decisive. His thoughts were cemented when he was quoted in a release to The Oklahoman saying, “I vetoed SB 566 because the use of ODWC lands for private monetary gain violates the Oklahoma Constitution. The veto is the result of a large constituent base that voiced their concerns against the bill.”

I wasn’t sure what to think about how Gov. Stitt would handle wildlife related legislation. I have no interest in getting into politics but there really was no guarantee how he would see things. Now we have a reference point to start from and it looks positive.

Additionally, in the Governor’s veto statement he noted, “…significant portions of Department managed lands are not Department owned and are subject to specific terms of the applicable agreements between the Department and the landowners. Senate Bill 566’s mandate to allow private commercial hunting guides on Department lands may force the Department to violate these agreements, which could result in the elimination of an unknown amount of acreage available currently to Oklahoman’s.”

I’m applauding because public land is something we all need to fight for and I feel that the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is fully capable of making wildlife related decisions.

There a few pieces of proposed legislation that still have a chance to make it to the Governor’s desk. The most absurd is the proposal to enact legislation creating a 23-day deer gun season on private lands only. The change would increase the deer gun season by seven days and take the unprecedented step of establishing hunting seasons by statute instead of by the ODWC.

Gov. Stitt has also recently approved a few measures related to wildlife. He signed SB 923, creating a 3-day special use permit for landowners with 200 cares or more to host veterans and charitable events. The license allows residents and non-residents to hunt a fish on the specified land with exemptions from hunting or fishing licenses or permit requirements. The department is able to assess a fee of up to $500 for the permit.

Also signed was SB 551, a bill opposed by the wildlife department that would exclude the department from having authority over cervid imports from Canadian provinces with Chronic Wasting Disease. It seems like bad timing with the recently confirmed case of CWD a few weeks ago in our state, and a good topic for another day.

Gov. Stitt’s veto of SB 566 is a good sign for those who value hunting and public land in our state. Here’s hoping this is a sign of good things to come.

Jon Kocan is the Stillwater News Press outdoors writer and a longtime hunter. He can be reached at jkocan@stwnewspress.com.

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