Natural Resources secretary says CN awaits fishing/hunting compact response
TAHLEQUAH – As expiration looms, many Cherokee Nation citizens who enjoy the pursuit of fish and game are waiting to hear from the state about a possible extension of the fishing and hunting compact originally agreed to in 2015.
The compact has been extended each year since going into effect at the beginning of 2016. The CN has asked Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office about an extension, but he is also immersed in a debate with the tribes regarding the gaming compact.
Natural Resources Secretary Chad Harsha told the Tribal Council’s Resource Committee on Dec. 16 that the CN would like a longer-term deal, but would accept an extension under the circumstances.
“We’ve been engaging the state about negotiating a long-term hunting and fishing compact, as ours expires at the end of (December),” Harsha said. “We’ve been hopeful that we can get a proposal that can incorporate some additional expansion of the licenses and folks eligible for the licenses.”
The compact has received a 12-month extension at the end of each term, though the CN would like a deal with a longer fuse.
“We have submitted a proposal for the governor to review,” Harsha said. “We haven’t heard back from him, but we hope to hear something in a couple of weeks. We’re waiting to hear back with a potential extension of what we have. Maybe some modifications will be acceptable until we can work toward a long-term contract that extends beyond a year.”
Answering a question from Tribal Councilor Wes Nofire, Harsha said discussion of the revenue split on the hunting in fishing licenses was “part of the ask,” but not a hard demand.
“Given the current status of tribal-state relations in other areas, we are open to an extension like we did last year,” Harsha said. “It might be with an additional or more flexible tag, or even the same terms as we have it. Our long-term goal is working toward a multi-year compact. An extension is not what we’ve hoped for, but that is what we are looking to accept while we work toward something a little bit better. We’ve talked about having those meetings in good faith. I don’t have anything specifically to report on whether the governor is willing to accept what we have proposed.”
The hunting and fishing compact was first signed in 2015 by former Principal Chief Bill John Baker and former Gov. Mary Fallin. The compact gave statewide hunting and fishing rights to all CN citizens who are also Oklahoma residents. Each citizen is entitled to a deer tag and a spring turkey tag, regardless of whether it is actually used. Hence, the CN purchases and issues at least 150,000 licenses to its Oklahoma residents at a fee of $2 each, per the requirements of the compact.
The licenses also allow access to “reserve” areas, including the Sparrow Hawk trails northeast of Tahlequah.
In 2015, Baker said he was “proud the Cherokee Nation is the first tribe to compact with the state in proper recognition of our long-held treaty rights to hunt and fish the lands within not only our jurisdictional boundaries, but all 77 counties in Oklahoma.”
“No Cherokee will ever be fearful of arrest or prosecution for exercising their inherent rights to hunt and fish,” Baker said.