Hunting, fishing compact with Oklahoma extended
Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Todd Enlow, Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Secretary of Natural Resources Chad Harsha gather as Hoskin signs the CN hunting and fishing compact extension with the State of Oklahoma on Dec. 10 in Tahlequah. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation Natural Resources Secretary Chad Harsha provided updates on the tribe’s hunting and fishing compact with the state, the tribal transit system and the landfill closure in the Dec. 14 Resources Committee meeting.
Harsha told tribal councilors the tribe has executed an extension with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office for an additional year for the hunting and fishing compact.
“That’s going to authorize the compact to extend in the same terms as the two previous extensions that we’ve had and along the same lines its inception in 2015,” Harsha said. “Right now, we’re coordinating with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to transmit data and get ready for our mail out of just under 130,000 licenses that should be hitting the mailboxes right at the first of the year.”
Under the compact, the CN issues free hunting and fishing licenses to CN citizens residing in Oklahoma. Licenses are recognized by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and provide CN citizens the same privileges of an Oklahoma hunting and fishing license, including a single universal deer tag and a single turkey tag per calendar year. The CN also agrees to buy up to 150,000 licenses for $2 a license.
The compact between the tribe and the state originally went into effect on Jan. 1, 2016 and expired on Dec. 31, 2018. A subsequent one-year extension was later signed, followed by a year-long extension signed in January 2020. The extension signed on Dec. 10 by Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Stitt is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2021.
Tribal Councilor Mike Shambaugh asked if the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling would give the CN leverage as far as what the tribe can do on its hunting and fishing compacts.
“I do think that it does give us some leverage because it reaffirms, not something new, but something that we already knew and that was we can issue fishing licenses or regulate hunting and fishing with Cherokee Nation citizens within our boundaries,” Harsha said.
He added that the compact could provide more opportunities for CN citizens and that permits for at-large citizens were included in the conversations.
“The arrangement that we have on the hunting and fishing compact not only creates certainty for Cherokee citizens but it also provides opportunities for citizens outside of the 14 counties and within Oklahoma and perhaps down the road even beyond that to have the opportunity to hunt and fish when they otherwise would have to pay for license fees,” he said.
Harsha also told councilors that Natural Resources will be handing over to the Roads Department two electric transit buses that will run routes in Stilwell and Tahlequah.
Harsha said two charging stations in both towns are in the works.
“We anticipate having that online maybe by the first of the year, which will complete that circuit of charging for the two transit buses,” he said. “Once we have that completed, we’ll send the buses to Tulsa to be inspected again and wrapped and placed in service to supplement our existing transit system.”
One bus is expected run a route from Stilwell to West Siloam Springs while the other from Tahlequah to near Catoosa.
“Our focus has been to connect the rural community the best we can with the Stilwell clinic to West Siloam Springs, being a pretty heavily traveled piece of our transit system based on the urban jobs that are located close by,” Harsha said. “Then from Tahlequah to near Catoosa area where it can tie in to some of the other transit systems the plug-in from the Tulsa area.”
The tribe is also purchasing an electric school bus to be used by Sequoyah Schools.
“It’ll be the first electric school bus in the state that will be used to supplement one of the existing routes at Sequoyah Schools,” he said. “This is phase one of a multiple phase program that we hope to get off the ground over the next couple of years.”
Harsha said that some councilors reached out to him regarding the tribe’s landfill and he provided an update on its closure operations.
He said the CN is working with an engineering firm to transmit data and have preliminary conversations about the landfill operations.
“We’ve done some work with them in the past, so they’re pretty familiar with our operations at our site,” Harsha said. “At this point they’re working to do modeling on various optimization strategies that we can implement into our operations and then also various closure control strategies, which will take place over many years. It’s a sliding scale based on money available and closure funds, how much money you want to assess for fees and a couple of other factors.”
He said he hopes to have a preliminary report in early 2021.