New Officers Named To Wildlife Commission

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission nominated and approved at its June meeting new officers who will begin serving in their new capacities starting July 1.

The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and is responsible for establishing state hunting and fishing regulations, setting policy for the Wildlife Department and indirectly overseeing all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

District 6 Commissioner John P. Zelbst of Meers will serve as the new Commission chairman. Gov. Brad Henry appointed Zelbst to the Commission in 2010, and his term runs until 2018. District 6 includes Blaine, Kingfisher, Canadian, Caddo, Grady, Comanche, Stephens, Jefferson and Cotton counties.

Serving as the new Commission vice-chairman will be longtime District 8 Commissioner John D. Groendyke of Enid. He has served on the Commission since 1976, and was reappointed by Gov. Mary Fallin in 2012 to his current eight-year term. District 8 includes Cimarron, Texas, Beaver, Harper, Woodward, Woods, Major, Alfalfa, Grant, Garfield, Kay and Noble counties.

The new Commission secretary will be District 7 Commissioner Danny Robbins of Altus. Robbins was appointed by Gov. Mary Fallin in 2011. District 7 includes Ellis, Dewey, Roger Mills, Custer, Beckham, Washita, Kiowa, Greer, Jackson, Harmon and Tillman counties.

In other business, the Commission approved the Wildlife Department’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget of about $61 million. The budget increased slightly from last year due to anticipated capital expenditures related to creating more access and opportunities for hunters, anglers and wildlife enthusiasts. Among other projects, the budget includes funding for important conservation projects such as quail research, fish hatchery renovations, boating access projects, youth education programs and fuel conversion of the Department’s vehicle fleet to compressed natural gas.

The Commission also voted to accept a donation of $1,200 from the Blue River Fly Fishers to be used for conservation efforts at the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area.

Additionally, Wildlife Department Director Richard Hatcher recognized Tom Wyatt, wildlife biologist stationed at Cross Timbers, Hickory Creek and Love Valley wildlife Management areas, for 35 years of service to the Wildlife Department; and Colin Berg, information and education supervisor, for 20 years of service.

The next scheduled Commission meeting is set for 9 a.m. Aug. 5 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), located at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln in Oklahoma City.