Oklahoma’s Wildlife Conservation Commission was recognized as the Wildlife Commission of the Year for 2023 at the summer meeting of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA). The honor is presented each year to the commission or board that made a significant contribution to the management, protection or enhancement of fish and wildlife resources within the past five years. It is meant to show appreciation for the work that commissioners do day in and day out to support the conservation mission of the wildlife agencies they oversee.
Oklahoma’s Wildlife Conservation Commission Chairman Leigh Gaddis of Ada and Vice Chairman James V. Barwick of Edmond accepted the award at the event in Santa Fe, N.M.
“It’s truly an honor for Oklahoma’s Wildlife Commission to be recognized, and it serves as a testament for all the hard work our eight commissioners put in all year long,” Gaddis said. “Serving as commissioners and working with such an outstanding state agency for the benefit of our wildlife and our sportsmen and sportswomen is actually a labor of love.”
Some of the Commission’s accomplishments cited in the award recognition included:
- Beginning an aggressive campaign to bring public target shooting ranges to nearly 20 wildlife management areas statewide.
- Helping to create the Oklahoma Land Access Program to open private leased land for hunting and fishing access.
- Acquiring three new management areas, opening thousands of acres for public use.
- Supported formation of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Foundation as a private, nonprofit, fundraising organization.
- Overseeing a complete renovation of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's headquarters building in Oklahoma City.
- Approving a re-branding campaign to solidify ODWC's values and image (which included a new logo).
- Supporting the implementation of new, modern, customer-focused license sales system and mobile app.
The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The 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 Oklahoma Senate.
Serving with Gaddis and Barwick on the Wildlife Conservation Commission are Secretary Rick Holder of Creta, Tim Diehl of McAlester, D. Chad Dillingham of Enid, Jess Kane of Bartlesville, Mark Mabrey of Okmulgee, and John P. Zelbst of Meers.
Created in 1922, WAFWA now represents 24 states and Canadian provinces, an area covering nearly 3.7 million square miles of some of North America’s most wild and scenic country, inhabited by over 1,500 wildlife species. WAFWA’s goal has been to support sound resource management and build partnerships to conserve wildlife for the use and benefit of all citizens, now and in the future.