TAHLEQUAH -- In the Tribal Council's Resources Committee meeting on Jan. 11, Secretary of Natural Resources Chad Harsha gave updates on the Cherokee Nation's hunting and fishing license mailings and plans for thinning pine trees in Delaware County.

Mailings for the annual hunting and fishing licenses via the tribe's compact with the state began in early January. More than half of the 137,000 licenses have been mailed.

"My office has been really busy in the last month in preparing for our annual mail out of our hunting and fishing licenses," Harsha said. "This year we anticipated mailing out 137,000, which is by far the most that we've ever mailed out. We're waiting on one supplemental file from a third party vendor that coordinates this effort between us and the state. It's a pretty big effort and I commend the work of our mailroom. We do all of this in-house. It's quite a task to get 137,000 of these out."

He also addressed an issue regarding people who had not yet received the paper licenses wondering if they have active licenses.

"We've issued licenses this year to everyone who falls in the 16-to-63 age category based in the licenses that we issued last year," Harsha said. "If you received a license last year you should have an active license issued by the state even if you have not received the paper copy from us. You can always feel free to call or email or fax our wildlife group association here and we will get you any clarity on any information."

He said individuals can also download the "Oklahoma Outdoors" app on their smart phones and check on their license status.

Tribal Councilor Keith Austin asked if other tribes that have hunting and fishing compacts with the state also pay the same fees per license as the CN. The CN pays $2 per license issued.

"There are only two tribes that have the hunting and fishing compact that I'm aware of and that would be the Cherokee Nation and Choctaw Nation," Harsha said. "The $2 fee is based on a funding logarithm that the federal government has that once $2 is paid for a license then it triggers conservation dollars that come within the state. That number is set by the original compact, by which we negotiated, and that same number is used by the Choctaw Nation when issuing their licenses. There is some nuances and differences there in the sense that the Choctaw Nation paid a substantial up front lump sum cash payment to get increased privileges for their licenses."

Harsha also addressed the tribe's overgrowth of pine trees in Delaware County, updating legislators that his department is negotiating with the Bureau of Indian Affairs on how the tribe can move forward with a tree-thinning plan.

"The issue with the pines is that the system they (BIA) have in place is not conducive to pine-thinning operation that fits our particular needs," he said. "The reason being is that, as I understand, the conversations and analysis piece. This is not a profitable endeavor such that we could employ the normal timber cut-and-sell process. So what we've asked them to do, because we view these as a nuisance, and what we've been trying to get them to do is consider is to sell the timber at a loss under a permitting exception."

He said the loss would have a funding source through the Natural Resources Conservation Service should the application process be completed.

"So if we were able to go do it ourselves then we would lose a substantial amount of money and this helps ease that loss, which helps make this project possible. We've asked them to consider a permit exception and they said that they would," Harsha said.

Also discussed in the meeting was the Stilwell personal protective equipment project nearing completion as machines are being installed, and the Durbin Feeling Language Center is awaiting bids from contractors, which are due Jan. 29.