OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill changing the requirement for bear tags cleared the House of Representatives Wednesday with a vote of 59 to 31.
House Bill 2001 by Rep. Rick West prohibits lifetime hunting and fishing license holders from having to purchase individual tags for bear hunting. People exempt from the hunting license fee will also be exempt from attaching a tag to a killed bear or from purchasing a tag for a bear.
“This bill was one where I really wanted to represent my district,” said West, R-Heavener. “In House District 3, a promise made is a promise kept. I know some folks in other parts of the state may be afraid we’re trying to knock out the bear population, but that’s not the case. This bill is about staying true to one’s word and ensuring folks who were told they would be exempt won’t have to purchase bear tags.”
Bear hunting only occurs Latimer, Le Flore, McCurtain and Pushmataha counties in Oklahoma.
Rep. John Bennett co-authored the bill and debated in favor of its passage on the House floor.
“We ran into a lot of resistance in the process of bringing this bill to the House floor, but we stood for our constituents by pressing forward to get this passed,” said Bennett, R-Sallisaw. “I have had many hunters in my district ask why they have to pay for a bear tag even though they were promised when they bought their lifetime hunting and fishing license that they would never have to purchase another license or tag. I know it is hard to believe in the world of politics, but myself and Rep. West wanted to make sure that the promise made by the state and the Wildlife Department was kept.”
“I’m thankful many of my colleagues saw the value of this legislation,” said West. “I’d like to encourage the Senate to recognize the importance of a bill like this as they weigh its merits. At its core, it’s a bill that ensures the government is acting honestly on its word.”
HB 2001 now moves to the state Senate, where Sen. Mark Allen, R-Spiro, is the author.
West represents House District 3, which includes portions of LeFlore County.