One State Senator thinks the State Wildlife Conservation Commission is on a “land grab” and his bill to stop it awaits a vote in the full Senate.
Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt is the principal author of the measure to prevent the Commission from buying more land than it sells each year.
“The Wildlife Commission is buying land in rural Oklahoma, but when land is owned by the state or U.S. government, there are no families living on it—their kids aren’t going to attend the local school. They aren’t spending their money in the local businesses in nearby towns. It’s an economic drag on rural Oklahoma,” Murdock said.
Murdock said under his legislation, the Wildlife Commission would still be able to lease land. He noted that lease money is paid to landowners who are farmers and ranchers who then spend that money in their local communities.
“Private landowners also pay property taxes that fund our schools, hospitals, county roads and bridges,” Murdock said. “These are dollars that go every day to support our local communities.”
Murdock said over the past 20 years, 1.5 million acres of agricultural land has been lost due to urban sprawl and government land grabs—about 175 acres a day. The Wildlife Commission currently owns 350,000 acres and leases 1.2 million acres. As the population grows farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma continue to feed and clothe the state, nation and the world on less and less land. He said the people he represents in Senate District 27 believe the government should not be in the business of owning property that should be in the hands of the private sector.
“When will it be enough? When do we say the state owns enough land? When do we stop? Nancy Pelosi said a few years ago the land and its resources should be owned by the people, not individuals. Well, I don’t agree with her and neither does my district,” Murdock said. “I would encourage the Commission to better utilize the Oklahoma Land Access Program and lease land around urban areas so that the urban residents can have easier access to publicly-leased lands.
SB 703 is supported by the American Farmers and Ranchers, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, members of Oklahoma Wildlife Management Association, the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association and farmers and ranchers across the state.